Advice and tips for Aspiring Innkeepers
Innkeeping is both challenging and rewarding. Owning and operating a bed and breakfast often means you are part travel guide, social director, advertising and marketing specialist, housekeeper, chef, accountant, public relations specialist, buildings and grounds keeper, and local historian all rolled into one. If, like the members of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Alaska, you are willing to work hard, are dedicated to creating comfortable accommodations for visitors, have a love of your area and a desire to share that passion with others, then you may want to consider owning and operating a bed and breakfast inn.
One B&B guest remarked, “Like many visitors to bed and breakfasts, my husband and I often wonder what it would be like to operate one. Our dream is to own a beautiful Victorian inn, welcoming guests from around the world. But making that dream come true is a gigantic undertaking.” In this feature, a number of current and former innkeepers share some advice for anyone considering a move to the hospitality industry.
Mount Dora Historic Inn in Mount Dora, Florida
"The best suggestion for an aspiring innkeeper is for one spouse to keep their day job until the inn gets going. Lack of income is the main cause of concern for new inns."
Bob and Sally Braem
Albany Guest House near Madison, Wisconsin
"The most important thing that an aspiring innkeeper should know is to make your paying guests feel at home."
Jim and Susan Hildebrand
Anderson House Inn, Heber Springs, Arkansas
"We have been Innkeepers for two and a half years. In our opinion, the single most important thing to be aware of and pay attention to is your own private time.
"It is too easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day requirements and put off your own time. This leads to burn-out and you cannot be your best with your guests. If you are not "up" when your guests arrive, then you may not ever see them again, and you surely will not see their friends who are so important to your success.
"Get out one day per week, enjoy yourself and make your guests happy!"
Frank and Karen Kovacik
Three-time inn owners/operators, from Florida to New York. Consultants with Commerce Team.
"The single most important piece of advice we can give aspiring innkeepers is to not buy with their hearts -- but rather their minds and an excellent advisor (or team of advisors). For many people, this will be the largest transaction in their lives. The single largest mistake is to overpay for the purchase of an inn, thereby chaining yourselves forever and ever to the bed and breakfast. Financial problems plague business and your marriage. It is the fastest route to divorce and bankruptcy court -- don't go there!"
Nadine and Carl Glassman, innkeepers since 1982
Wedgwood Inns in New Hope, Pennsylvania
"We suggest a few key concepts for the 'perspiring' innkeeper:
- Read a how-to book.
- Attend a how-to seminar or adult ed class.
- Apprentice and/or work part-time at an inn.
- 'Sleep around' at as many inns as possible.
- Three key words in real estate apply when considering a place to open or purchase: location, location, location."
Christof and Gabrielle Meyer, innkeepers for 18 years
The Waterside in Coffs Harbour, NSW, Australia
"Be prepared to work very long and unorthodox hours!"
Sandy Soule, writing about B&Bs since 1982
Contributor to BedandBreakfast.com
"Spend time traveling and staying at other inns, so you'll have an understanding of what guests want. Also: participate in a quality seminar for aspiring innkeepers, and work as an apprentice at another inn for at least a weekend.
"If you're attempting a startup, pay attention to the name of the inn:
1. Should not be your own name.
2. Should be easy to say, remember and hear over the phone.
3. Should be at the beginning of the alphabet."
Marc Haberman, innkeeper for 10 years
Natural Bed and Breakfast in Tucson, Arizona
"Follow up and pay attention to detail."
Patrick and Karma Ashton, innkeepers for less than 1 year
Ashton's Mechling Bed and Breakfast in New Orleans, Louisiana
"Make sure to check zoning and license restrictions on the house before considering the house's potential as a B&B. When we were looking for a property in New Orleans, we were amazed at how often properties were marketed as being "perfect for a B&B" with no regard for the fact that it would be nearly impossible to open one at that location (legally of course). If a buyer is really serious about buying a home and turning it into a B&B, they should predicate their offer on the ability to obtain a license (if one is necessary in your community)."
"Calamity" Jan Peterson
The Howdy Pardner Bed and Breakfast in Cheyenne / Laramie County, Wyoming
"You need to be very much a "people" person, a "morning" person, and have income other than what you would expect to receive from your B&B. You need to devote as much energy on marketing as you will on service and amenities."
Bea and Bruce Patterson, innkeepers for 1 year
B&B's Bed and Breakfast in Wheatley, Ontario, Canada
"It's the little things that count the most, like extra thick towels, or fresh flowers in the rooms, or a Hershey's Kiss on the pillow."
Virginia and Ed Tinkle, innkeepers for 12 years
Blumenthanl Farms B&B in Fredericksburg, Texas
"Show that you enjoy being a B&B host. If you're really enjoying yourself in the business, then you'll automatically cook good things, using good ingredients, and you'll automatically decorate well to please the guests. After that, running a B&B is just a little housekeeping."