Turning your home into a bed and breakfast is both simple and complex. On the one hand a small B&B won’t need the same sort of infrastructure a large hotel would but on the other you can’t simply open your doors to the paying public without making some changes.
From the legal requirements for starting a bed and breakfast to the things you don’t need to cover but really should, here is a short list of some of the changes you will need to make if you are setting up a bed and breakfast in your home.
An outbreak of food poisoning could be an end to your B&B dream, so hygiene in the kitchen is a priority. The Food Standards Agency will class your B&B as a fully-fledged ‘food business’ too.
Your local Environmental Health office should be your first port of call but the basic equipment you’ll need will include colour-coded chopping boards, a food hygiene diary and a qualification in food hygiene. The latter can be done simply and cheaply online, so don’t get too hung up on the need to study and sit an exam!
You’ll be inspected and given a star rating that must be displayed in your front window.
Fire regulations are mostly a matter of commonsense but a few of them still caught us out. As an example, we had to reinforce the bedroom doors to form a more resilient barrier and to help slow the spread of fire: your local fire officer will be able to help identify what needs doing in your home.
We also had to add locks that could be opened from the inside without having to use a key and a plan that shows our visitors what to do if they smell smoke, see a fire, or hear the fire alarm.
You’ll also need to do a fire risk assessment to work out what sort of fire extinguishers you’ll need and where you’ll need to put them. The same goes for the number and location of smoke and fire alarms and fire blankets.
Someone from your local fire brigade will then inspect your house and certify you for a period of time. We get inspected every two years and while I’m not saying it’s a pleasure, it is never as grim as we think it will be.
If, God forbid, you do have a fire then you might lose your electricity and hence your lighting. We found some clever torches that you leave plugged into the mains to keep them charged and if the power is lost they light up.
You might find another solution but you will need something. You’ll also probably need some way of showing them where the fire exits are. Again, your fire officer will be able to help you plan an escape route.
Playing by the rules
I know that this all sounds like a bit of a faff but it is important stuff and can’t be skipped or ignored. And yes, I know that many B&Bs don’t bother with any of this and get away with it but you’re better than that; please don’t skimp because someone’s life may depend on it.
You’ll need bedrooms, of course, and they need to be properly furnished with a wardrobe and some drawers, plus somewhere for your guests to sit in the evenings. A neutral palette works best so the sheets, pillowcases and duvet cover can be white but it’s nice to add a splash of colour with a throw and some cushions. Curtains need to be lined with blackout material and close-fitting enough to shut out all the light.
Bedside tables are a must, as are bedside lights for nighttime reading. A couple of books are a nice touch and will give people something to read if they’ve forgotten to bring something themselves.
A TV is virtually essential – although many people make a virtue of not having one – as are a radio and a kettle and some tea- and coffee-making facilities. A hairdryer will get used (which confounded our expectations) and half-a-dozen coat hangers per occupant will help with those people who’d rather not live out of a suitcase.
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En suite bathrooms
People expect an en suite bathroom these days so you might need to put up a stud wall or two and pay a plumber to fit a shower, washbasin and toilet. Of course, a separate bathroom will work for some people but you will be limiting your audience if that is all you can offer.
Again, white bath sheets and hand towels are fine and a lot of people expect to have a couple of flannels too. You can give them the sort of small, complimentary shampoo and body wash bottles you find in a hotel, or you can use larger bottles that you top up from time to time.
Oh, and hooks to hang clothes, towels and bathrobes from. You can never have too many hooks, apparently.
People also expect fast, free Wi-Fi, so you’ll need to find a way of providing it.
How to get a decent Internet connection in the middle of nowhere
Some B&Bs allow their guests to eat in the kitchen. Some guests won’t mind this but a lot will, so you really need to find somewhere for them to eat.
One large table that everyone shares will do at a pinch but no one has ever objected to having their own table if you have the space for individual ones.
An information folder will save you and your guests an awful lot of grief. Ours gives them some background on us and the house, as well as details of what to see and do in the local area.
It also lists places to eat and drink, and the address and phone numbers of the doctors, dentists and pharmacists. There is a copy of the breakfast and supper menus in there plus a feedback form so they have the chance to raise their concerns privately and quietly rather than thinking that TripAdvisor is the only way they can vent their frustration…
Next article: Ten tips on running a successful bed and breakfast >>>
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