How to get the best start - What to do to help a new Inn book well?

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Joined:
05/07/2014

Dear Innmates, my handsome hubby and I are wannabees and we have been talking to some folks who own a very charming small bed and breakfast. They are new. We are new. It is small, four bedroom. (Room to expand to seven eventually) Small town. The place is not yet open, but soon will be. There is tons of talent, enthusiasm, and camaraderie in the mix. Buttkiss in actual innkeeping experience. If we take this leap with them, what can we do to insure that the Inn has the best chance possible in it's first year?

1. How can we up the chances for success? My current list would be:

Great website with online reservation capabilities.

Pleasant and prompt phone response to those who call.

The best experience possible for those who come in the door.

Polite requests for positive TA reviews from those who are vocal about how much they liked their stay.

Clean rooms and yummy breakfast.

What else do you think should be on this list?

 

2. What can we do to make the first year, better, easier, more profitable? How do we best work both hard and smart?

 

 

 

 

egoodell's picture
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06/01/2008

Hi there,

We support ourselves (2 of us) on a four room B&B. We also do wine tasting tours which is $250 per couple so the income is more like a 6-8 room B&B except the wine tours have no overhead other than our time, gas and a cheese plate and bottled water.

We support ourselves because we did not use any outside help for the first 8 years, and DH can fix anything that breaks.

This means health insurance, mortgage, taxes etc. which our business pays. We have no outside income.

You have to sit down and add up all your living costs including insurance for health as well as for the business.

Are you in an area where people flock to to holiday? If not it won't support you.

How many are you and do you have any retirement funds?

One B&B can support one couple, for sure but you have to be able to start it all on your own (we now have a lady that comes ond day to flip rooms on Sunday and one day to help in the garden) but I don't know about more unless you have something as well as the rooms like wine tours, or weddings (if you want to deal with crazy people) or such.

__________________

Riki Goodell
Arcady Vineyard Bed & Breakfast
Arcady Vineyard Wine Tours
www.arcadyvineyard.com
Come! Let us show you the beautiful Monticello Appellation!

 

Offline
Joined:
06/24/2008

My heart feels for you.  You are wanting this badly.  But as EmptyNest said: remove those Rose colored glasses and look at the facts. 

Read what all the others have said here.  I don't need to add my 2 cents, they are SPOT ON. 

Keep looking, your dream will come true at some point, this is not the one! heart

Breakfast Diva's picture
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05/26/2009

ALL 6 OF YOU NEED TO TAKE AN ASPIRING INNKEEPERS COURSE!!

Ok, now that I'm done shouting, I'll explain why. It seems like no one has the information needed for this project. The owners are doing it as an investment? So, the only way they will ever see any of their money back is when they sell. How long do they think that will take? Do they know they will be in the red at least 3 years if not more? If they are actually going to pay you a salary, I can't imagine how many years it will take before they have to stop bleeding money.

Do they/you know what kind of occupancy is needed to pay just the utilities, insurance, website, internet marketing, insurance, food, supplies, licenses, etc. The list really goes on and on. THEN you add innkeeper salaries on top of that?

Has anyone done a business plan?

Unless you are in an upscale area with other hotels/motels that have high occupancy rates and can charge upwards of $200-$300 per night, I just can't see this working. I know that's hard for you to hear, but it's reality. Yes, even without a mortgage, the expenses of running a small b&b are far more than most would ever guess.

Go in with open eyes.

happykeeper's picture
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12/11/2008

From what I can tell, you have done some thinking and a little looking into what would make an inn a good experience for guests with the idea that this is a way to hit the ground running and have enough guests from the early days to allow you an opportunity to build the business. True?

All of your ideas in that regard are solid. I think what you are hearing from us is that you may have the cart before the horse. These RED FLAGS are no-brainers for most here because we have been there.

One glimmer of hope is... IF the investors are silent partners and IF they understand that you WILL need capital to start and IF they have deep enough pockets to lose money on the business for THREE years minimum and IF they understand that this loss will include a living wage for you and IF they understand that your salary should increase equitably as you grow the business and IF they know that only a few small inns ever become an asset that can be sold as business concern and if they are prepared to break even until you eventually have enough business to maintain 7 rooms......plus a lot of the stuff others will mention.... and if you don't mind losing them as friends and interacting with them as business partners..... .....you are in area that you say NEEDS a bed and breakfast.

Whew! I'm worn out and I think I didn't even get to anything relevant to your questions. 

__________________

Take a leap.... and a net will appear

 

Offline
Joined:
05/07/2014

Your comments were helpful. We, personally, could do one year on a lean salary to help build the business, but not three. From ya'lls feedback it is wishful thinking to expect enough growth in the first year to support a more reasonable salary in the second year if that salary is based partially on Inn occupancy or profitability.

I appreciate everyone's honesty and candor.

happykeeper's picture
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12/11/2008

I just have to thank you for taking the time to HEAR what we are writing. It's not easy when it goes against what you really want. So many come along and ask and then want to argue with reality.

MIND you, MANY MANY people thought we were crazy for taking on "the dream project", so it's not like it can't happen and the perfect opportunity might come along, but as others have said, "either you have the volume or you have rate or you have to count on losing money until you do."

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10/07/2008

Greenhouse Gal wrote:

Your comments were helpful. We, personally, could do one year on a lean salary to help build the business, but not three. From ya'lls feedback it is wishful thinking to expect enough growth in the first year to support a more reasonable salary in the second year if that salary is based partially on Inn occupancy or profitability.

I appreciate everyone's honesty and candor.

Greenhouse Gal, thank you for coming back and reading the comments. We really mean well and didn't want to scare you off...I wish someone had scared me off before starting this venture sometimes. All the best in whatever you decide to do! smiley

__________________

Gluten free is never free. - Joey Bloggs

 

Innkeep's picture
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06/04/2008

I opened my 4-room B&B as a start up seven years ago.  It is in a town of 60,000 with a university of 18,000 but it is a non-tourist place in a flyover state.  My results will be quite different than yours, especially if your "small town" is at or near a tourist destination.  In spite of having a list similar to yours in place, Chamber of Commerce membership, multiple types of marketing including personal visits bearing cookies to college department secretaries (who make reservations for visiting firemen), I had a very slow start.  Granted, the economy was at the bottom then and it's somewhat better now, but I can say that I am just now as busy as I want to be.  In spite of lots of marketing dollars, I've come to the conclusion that longevity is probably the true reason I'm now busier.

The B&B supports itself.  It does not pay me a salary.  I am happy to have depreciation on my building offset some of my investment income, and the rewards of being my own boss and not having employees to deal with keeps me happy.  The greatest majority of profitable B&B's are ones that have been in existence for several years, are in upscale towns that attract tourists who are willing to pay upscale prices, and most start out with more than 4 rooms.  I do not believe that the income generated would be sufficient to fund a construction project, pay you a living wage and return a profit for your owner-investors.

You really need to know what motivates the owners.  If it's profit, I would run away as fast as possible.

Madeleine's picture
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09/29/2011

The places I know making a profit to the point they have multiple employees, including overnight innkeeping staff, have more than 7 rooms, are in major tourist destinations and are charging around $250+/night.

And it doesn't hurt to have an owner who is looking at the long term and has deep pockets for renovations.

It's the same owner with multiple properties, multiple innkeepers. One of the properties sold to a boutique hotel group.

Otherwise, smaller properties are not profit centers. It's a good way to live in a nice house in a place you might not be able to afford if you weren't taking in guests.

I guess I am curious why the OP is responsible for marketing, etc, when it's not her property.

This is a case that we've seen many times here... An innkeeper with ideas working for a boss with either no ideas or completely different ideas.

What does the boss want? That's the question.

__________________

Everyday, for good or ill, we intersect with some else's story and become a part of it.

 

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Joined:
05/07/2014

The owners are responsible. I'm a pretty proactive person and that darn graphic design degree does tend to kick in. In deciding whether to take the risk, we are trying to look at things big picture. Part of why I asked for ya'lls opinions, was to get some perspective from those who are more experienced. And I must admit to some rosy glasses. We have talked with them, but we haven't taken the plunge. The mutual inexperience, and the numbers when I look at them have given me pause. Ya'lls comments have added to the pause. These are super nice folks. I really hope they have success. It's a lovely place and lovely people.

Thank you all for your comments. You have given us a lot to think about.

gillumhouse's picture
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05/22/2008

I am in perhaps the smallest town here that does not have a "draw" such as a lake or other tourist draw. The pop of my City is about 2250.

I have worked my buns of (well one would have thought so from the effort expended but they somehow still hang in there) to make my City a destination. It is starting to get there. EVERYTHING goes back in to the business because there is always something that needs done. A B & B is like a child - it ALWAYS is in need of something. We upgraded the electrical feed (60 amp to 200) and rewired the house, installed new windows, put in a new furnace and downstairs central air. Then after 10 yeas and lot of other piecemeal upgrades, remodeled the old bathroom as we created a new one. Oh, also put siding on the house. Then there are the 2 cars we had to purchase (in the 18 year period) because I ran the wheels off of them with my involvement with the B & B Assoc & Rails-to-Trails) and the roof I had to put on since the old one leaked. We started with no mortgage - and when we started Internet was in its babyhood - it was the world of Guide Books.

I have never taken a salary and fortunately live in a State where taxes are low (although that is proportionate to the income level). Every few years my tax person shows a small profit to show I am trying. Last year I believe I had a profit of $250!! I get that because although I claim every penny of income, I am not required to claim every penny of expense. Support one couple and have profit for two others? Are you in Colorado?

We survive because MY SS check pays the loan payment, my pension pays his supplemental Med. insurance, and I have a tiny salary as City Clerk. We live on DH's SS which is not huge, but we do not drink, smoke, nor gamble and he is too old and decrepit to run around (I am just too tired to). I have 3 rooms and if there is anything in a 60 mile radius of me worth marketing, I have marketed it or partnered with it. Think again, Folks. It will not do what you think it will - and I am one who says "If you build it, they will come IF you tell them it is there!" I have gotten specific to show without doubt I am not blowing smoke. The 2 trips I have been able to take were only possible because a relative sent a plane ticket and popped for most of what we did for one trip and the other trip was shared expenses with 3 other innmates with the generosity of all we visited.

I also feel my City NEEDS a B & B but my exit plan is to sell the B & B AS a B & B for the price of the house. The business is a bonus because I do not want them so mired in debt just buying it that they cannot survive as a B & B. They will not be willing to walk through whatever to keep it going just to be able ti flip off the naysayers. Although at the rate things are going - I will be lucky to be breathing by the time I am ABLE to put it on the market.

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Joined:
10/07/2008

B&B's are only worthwhile as an expense to deduct to the couple who live IN IT, and own it themselves. Most of us have a partner working outside of the B&B to make ends meet.

An inn is not an investment for three couples, it is something you put money into, as many who have sold here recently can tell you, they survived off the income/revenue stream, meanwhile doing the usual upkeep, renovations and maintenance and working themselves to death, and sold it for less than they paid.

Sorry to not sound ecstatic about the situation. A prompt answer to a phone call and a yummy breakfast won't overflow the books with big bucks. 

PS Most here do not make a salary at all. 

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Joined:
05/22/2008

JB is correct. We ran our small 3 bedroom place for 6 years. No mortgage and thankfully a great pension and health benefits for us. We NEVER made a profit. Everything went into the business so that by the end of the 6 years, I was so tired of doing everything, we just closed and live here.

Sorry to rain on your parade but you have on the rose color glasses. Take them off and look at the cold hard facts.

If they are willing to pay you a salary to run the place, not based on income from the inn, and you have no skin in the game, give it a shot but they won't be making any money.

TheBeachHouse's picture
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Joined:
06/24/2013

Four bedrooms likely won't support itself and three couples.  Get the finances in place with a lawyer.   Make sure there is a salary involved unless you are able to live without cashflow for awhile.

__________________

TBH

 

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Joined:
05/22/2008

If you are saying you want to go into business with this couple on a 4 bedroom B & B? They are total strangers??? FORGET IT!  There is nothing to be gained from it.

Investment???HA HA...there is no way a 4 bedroom B & B is going to turn profits for 3 couples.  Sorry...but them is the facts!devil

Small town? what will bring people to you then? So many unanswered questions, I think you are getting in way over your head. 

IF they want to HIRE you to run the place for them and pay you a salary, then consider it but other than that you are just asking for trouble.

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Joined:
05/07/2014

We are talking about a salary. The numbers would be low the first year, and then increase.

The hope is the property would support a salary for innkeepers and cover costs at four bedrooms. Utilities, supplies, etc. No mortgage to cover, but of course taxes and insurance.

TheBeachHouse's picture
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Joined:
06/24/2013

Greenhouse Gal wrote:

Dear Innmates, my handsome hubby and I are wannabees and we have been talking to some folks who own a very charming small bed and breakfast. They are new. We are new. It is small, four bedroom. (Room to expand to seven eventually) Small town. The place is not yet open, but soon will be. There is tons of talent, enthusiasm, and camaraderie in the mix. Buttkiss in actual innkeeping experience. If we take this leap with them, what can we do to insure that the Inn has the best chance possible in it's first year?

1. How can we up the chances for success? My current list would be:

Great website with online reservation capabilities.

Pleasant and prompt phone response to those who call.

The best experience possible for those who come in the door.

Polite requests for positive TA reviews from those who are vocal about how much they liked their stay.

Clean rooms and yummy breakfast.

What else do you think should be on this list?

 

2. What can we do to make the first year, better, easier, more profitable? How do we best work both hard and smart?

 

 

 

 

 

Participate in the community.  Join the chamber of commerce.   Sponsor fund raisers, auctions, 5ks.   Have ads in the tourist guides.   Send out press releases to the local papers.  Tell your frineds! Good luck!!!!

Madeleine's picture
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Joined:
09/29/2011

Ate you saying 2 couples are going to own and operate a 4 room b&b? Trying to get clear if there are 2 b&b's or 1.

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Joined:
05/07/2014

Two couples own the one B and B. They do not want to do the day to day running of the business. We would be the third couple and Inn Keepers. They are looking at the Inn as an investment, and something that the town they love needs. My fear is how much money can come in from a small place, and how we can get it to support paying for innkeepers as soon as possible? I love the idea of building and helping grow the inn, first as a four bedroom and then into the more profitable seven bedroom property. If we take on this challenge, I want to limit the amount of loss the owners experience until it is established and hopefully flourishing.

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