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Hi,
I'm not an aspiring innkeeper, but an aspiring author. In the book I'm writing my main character inherits a large home on eastern Long Island. She's also the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. She decides to use the proceeds to turn the home into a Bed and Breakfast. I'd really like this to sound authentic and that's where I need your help. Would any of you mind answering a few questions for me?
1. How much money would it take to start a B&B? (I need to know how big to make her inheritance!) If you have knowledge of the LI market, great, if not how much did you need for your area?
2. How many people work at your B&B? What are some of the daily jobs that need to be done?
3. How hard is it to break even owning a B&B as your only source of income?
4. What are some things that have gone wrong with your B&B that you didn't expect?
5. Do you have any funny/interesting/unusual stories about the people who've stayed at your B&B that you could share? Have they done anything out of the ordinary?
6. Is there a fine line between a B&B and an Inn? In my story the B&B burns down and she decides to use the insurance to rebuild and expand to an Inn. What are some of the differences between the two?
7. Is there anything else I'd need to know to make this storyline authentic? (I'll be lurking around this site for the next few months while I write as well)
Thanks so much for taking the time to help me out!
 

seashanty

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hmmm ... i think a lot of innkeepers are writing their own adventures ....
just my opinion.
 

gillumhouse

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Not meaning to be mean, but I thought the first commandment of writing was to know what you are writing about. From your questions, you want us to write it for you.
Feel free to lurk, but quite frankly, although I am NOT one of those who will be writing their own book and am usually one who will "spill my guts to help" - won't!
 

YellowSocks

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1. How much money would it take to start a B&B? (I need to know how big to make her inheritance!) All of it. No matter how big it is.
If you have knowledge of the LI market, great, if not how much did you need for your area? All of it... the more you have, the fancier or larger the B&B, but whether it's small (as my inheritance was) or big she'll use it all. I did...
2. How many people work at your B&B? What are some of the daily jobs that need to be done? Me. On weekends and evenings my dh. Sometimes my 4 year olds help. We have four rooms. When we have a full house, and guests leaving and arriving the jobs include: get up between 5 and 6, set table, make breakfast, serve breakfast, clear breakfast, clean up kitchen, say bye bye to guests while making them feel like you have all day and that you wish they would stay forever, strip linens and towels from rooms, clean whirlpool tubs, make the beds (a king sized bed takes a LOT longer to make by yourself than a queen does!), scrub the bathroom sink, toilet, and floor, dust everywhere, dust and vacuum common areas, put away breakfast dishes, take reservations, run deposits, update online availability, figure out who's coming and into which rooms, fluff rooms where people aren't leaving (check their trash, fresh towels, tidy the bed, wipe down fixtures)... so anywhere from 2-4 hours of cleaning, could even be more if you have a lot of rooms. That takes you to mid-afternoon, at which point you get a 15 minute break which I usually spend online. In the afternoon you greet new guests. (The fun part! Unless they kept you waiting three hours, then you try not to bite their heads off...) Show them their room, give them a map for dinner, answer the same questions you answered every day for the past month. Plan breakfast, prep breakfast, crash into bed. Also on the list are: update website, keep directory listings up to date, create marketing pieces, pay collected bed taxes, pay collected sales taxes, track occupancy rates, fix innermurable things broken by guests... and, oh yes, don't forget LAUNDRY. Loads and loads of laundry which have to be sorted, run, dried, folded, stored, and delivered to the rooms. And shopping... fresh fruit only keeps so long, and the fridge can only hold so much, so every day or two someone has to get out to the store. Oh yeah, and the exterior needs kept pristine... lawn mowed, beds weeded and mulched, flowers planted and maintained, snow shoveled as it falls (not the next day like the rest of your neighbors). Oh, and the regular stuff that people do... shower, eat, sleep, spend time with other members of the family.
3. How hard is it to break even owning a B&B as your only source of income? Ranges from nigh impossible... to "it's been done." There are people here with no other income. Many B&B's have a spouse who works outside to provide health insurance. Loosely it takes 5 rooms to be profitable, but it depends on a million factors, not the least of which is the size of your mortgage, overhead, and style of living. No mortgage or debt, low cost of living, you can (theoretically) do it on four rooms. To really be "profitable" it's probably more like 6-8 rooms, at which point you're either hiring staff or working so hard you go bonkers.
4. What are some things that have gone wrong with your B&B that you didn't expect? If it can go wrong, it will.
5. Do you have any funny/interesting/unusual stories about the people who've stayed at your B&B that you could share? Have they done anything out of the ordinary? I'm new, so not so much, but there are dozens of stories in the archives... get reading and you'll find more than you can fit in one book. But even in the short time I've been in business (one year) I've had guests with short term memory loss, unique cars, vintage motorcycles, published poets, and a Native American flute player. All of my guests have been interesting, at least to me, regardless what they do. The textbook salesman was fascinating to me. I get to learn about all kinds of professions and meet all kinds of people. It's absolutely the best part of being an innkeeper.
6. Is there a fine line between a B&B and an Inn? In my story the B&B burns down and she decides to use the insurance to rebuild and expand to an Inn. What are some of the differences between the two? Generally a B&B is smaller than an inn. Some inns have restaurants. Having a B&B burn down is HUGE. I'm not sure I'd rebuild if mine burned down. Well, maybe. I guess some do. To enlarge she'd either have to have MORE inheritance floating around, or a pretty amazing insurance policy. My policy covers replacement (four rooms, en suite) not enlargement, and it's for a lot more than I've spent on buying and converting the house to a B&B.
7. Is there anything else I'd need to know to make this storyline authentic? (I'll be lurking around this site for the next few months while I write as well) Innkeepers work very, very hard. When guests are in the house it's long days and hard physical work. When guests are not in the house we worry about having enough income. We have this huge to do list we should do while the guests are not here and instead we sleep in (past 7!), lounge around in our jammies (sleep with the door open!), read the mail from the past two weeks, and take our kids to the park.
=)
Kk.
 

EmptyNest

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Check out the resources area, a fellow innkeeper has just written a book about their escapades. Oh, they have now sold their inn!
 
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1. How much money would it take to start a B&B? (I need to know how big to make her inheritance!) All of it. No matter how big it is.
If you have knowledge of the LI market, great, if not how much did you need for your area? All of it... the more you have, the fancier or larger the B&B, but whether it's small (as my inheritance was) or big she'll use it all. I did...
2. How many people work at your B&B? What are some of the daily jobs that need to be done? Me. On weekends and evenings my dh. Sometimes my 4 year olds help. We have four rooms. When we have a full house, and guests leaving and arriving the jobs include: get up between 5 and 6, set table, make breakfast, serve breakfast, clear breakfast, clean up kitchen, say bye bye to guests while making them feel like you have all day and that you wish they would stay forever, strip linens and towels from rooms, clean whirlpool tubs, make the beds (a king sized bed takes a LOT longer to make by yourself than a queen does!), scrub the bathroom sink, toilet, and floor, dust everywhere, dust and vacuum common areas, put away breakfast dishes, take reservations, run deposits, update online availability, figure out who's coming and into which rooms, fluff rooms where people aren't leaving (check their trash, fresh towels, tidy the bed, wipe down fixtures)... so anywhere from 2-4 hours of cleaning, could even be more if you have a lot of rooms. That takes you to mid-afternoon, at which point you get a 15 minute break which I usually spend online. In the afternoon you greet new guests. (The fun part! Unless they kept you waiting three hours, then you try not to bite their heads off...) Show them their room, give them a map for dinner, answer the same questions you answered every day for the past month. Plan breakfast, prep breakfast, crash into bed. Also on the list are: update website, keep directory listings up to date, create marketing pieces, pay collected bed taxes, pay collected sales taxes, track occupancy rates, fix innermurable things broken by guests... and, oh yes, don't forget LAUNDRY. Loads and loads of laundry which have to be sorted, run, dried, folded, stored, and delivered to the rooms. And shopping... fresh fruit only keeps so long, and the fridge can only hold so much, so every day or two someone has to get out to the store. Oh yeah, and the exterior needs kept pristine... lawn mowed, beds weeded and mulched, flowers planted and maintained, snow shoveled as it falls (not the next day like the rest of your neighbors). Oh, and the regular stuff that people do... shower, eat, sleep, spend time with other members of the family.
3. How hard is it to break even owning a B&B as your only source of income? Ranges from nigh impossible... to "it's been done." There are people here with no other income. Many B&B's have a spouse who works outside to provide health insurance. Loosely it takes 5 rooms to be profitable, but it depends on a million factors, not the least of which is the size of your mortgage, overhead, and style of living. No mortgage or debt, low cost of living, you can (theoretically) do it on four rooms. To really be "profitable" it's probably more like 6-8 rooms, at which point you're either hiring staff or working so hard you go bonkers.
4. What are some things that have gone wrong with your B&B that you didn't expect? If it can go wrong, it will.
5. Do you have any funny/interesting/unusual stories about the people who've stayed at your B&B that you could share? Have they done anything out of the ordinary? I'm new, so not so much, but there are dozens of stories in the archives... get reading and you'll find more than you can fit in one book. But even in the short time I've been in business (one year) I've had guests with short term memory loss, unique cars, vintage motorcycles, published poets, and a Native American flute player. All of my guests have been interesting, at least to me, regardless what they do. The textbook salesman was fascinating to me. I get to learn about all kinds of professions and meet all kinds of people. It's absolutely the best part of being an innkeeper.
6. Is there a fine line between a B&B and an Inn? In my story the B&B burns down and she decides to use the insurance to rebuild and expand to an Inn. What are some of the differences between the two? Generally a B&B is smaller than an inn. Some inns have restaurants. Having a B&B burn down is HUGE. I'm not sure I'd rebuild if mine burned down. Well, maybe. I guess some do. To enlarge she'd either have to have MORE inheritance floating around, or a pretty amazing insurance policy. My policy covers replacement (four rooms, en suite) not enlargement, and it's for a lot more than I've spent on buying and converting the house to a B&B.
7. Is there anything else I'd need to know to make this storyline authentic? (I'll be lurking around this site for the next few months while I write as well) Innkeepers work very, very hard. When guests are in the house it's long days and hard physical work. When guests are not in the house we worry about having enough income. We have this huge to do list we should do while the guests are not here and instead we sleep in (past 7!), lounge around in our jammies (sleep with the door open!), read the mail from the past two weeks, and take our kids to the park.
=)
Kk..
YellowSocks said:
1. How much money would it take to start a B&B? (I need to know how big to make her inheritance!) All of it. No matter how big it is.
If you have knowledge of the LI market, great, if not how much did you need for your area? All of it... the more you have, the fancier or larger the B&B, but whether it's small (as my inheritance was) or big she'll use it all. I did...
2. How many people work at your B&B? What are some of the daily jobs that need to be done? Me. On weekends and evenings my dh. Sometimes my 4 year olds help. We have four rooms. When we have a full house, and guests leaving and arriving the jobs include: get up between 5 and 6, set table, make breakfast, serve breakfast, clear breakfast, clean up kitchen, say bye bye to guests while making them feel like you have all day and that you wish they would stay forever, strip linens and towels from rooms, clean whirlpool tubs, make the beds (a king sized bed takes a LOT longer to make by yourself than a queen does!), scrub the bathroom sink, toilet, and floor, dust everywhere, dust and vacuum common areas, put away breakfast dishes, take reservations, run deposits, update online availability, figure out who's coming and into which rooms, fluff rooms where people aren't leaving (check their trash, fresh towels, tidy the bed, wipe down fixtures)... so anywhere from 2-4 hours of cleaning, could even be more if you have a lot of rooms. That takes you to mid-afternoon, at which point you get a 15 minute break which I usually spend online. In the afternoon you greet new guests. (The fun part! Unless they kept you waiting three hours, then you try not to bite their heads off...) Show them their room, give them a map for dinner, answer the same questions you answered every day for the past month. Plan breakfast, prep breakfast, crash into bed. Also on the list are: update website, keep directory listings up to date, create marketing pieces, pay collected bed taxes, pay collected sales taxes, track occupancy rates, fix innermurable things broken by guests... and, oh yes, don't forget LAUNDRY. Loads and loads of laundry which have to be sorted, run, dried, folded, stored, and delivered to the rooms. And shopping... fresh fruit only keeps so long, and the fridge can only hold so much, so every day or two someone has to get out to the store. Oh yeah, and the exterior needs kept pristine... lawn mowed, beds weeded and mulched, flowers planted and maintained, snow shoveled as it falls (not the next day like the rest of your neighbors). Oh, and the regular stuff that people do... shower, eat, sleep, spend time with other members of the family.
3. How hard is it to break even owning a B&B as your only source of income? Ranges from nigh impossible... to "it's been done." There are people here with no other income. Many B&B's have a spouse who works outside to provide health insurance. Loosely it takes 5 rooms to be profitable, but it depends on a million factors, not the least of which is the size of your mortgage, overhead, and style of living. No mortgage or debt, low cost of living, you can (theoretically) do it on four rooms. To really be "profitable" it's probably more like 6-8 rooms, at which point you're either hiring staff or working so hard you go bonkers.
4. What are some things that have gone wrong with your B&B that you didn't expect? If it can go wrong, it will.
5. Do you have any funny/interesting/unusual stories about the people who've stayed at your B&B that you could share? Have they done anything out of the ordinary? I'm new, so not so much, but there are dozens of stories in the archives... get reading and you'll find more than you can fit in one book. But even in the short time I've been in business (one year) I've had guests with short term memory loss, unique cars, vintage motorcycles, published poets, and a Native American flute player. All of my guests have been interesting, at least to me, regardless what they do. The textbook salesman was fascinating to me. I get to learn about all kinds of professions and meet all kinds of people. It's absolutely the best part of being an innkeeper.
6. Is there a fine line between a B&B and an Inn? In my story the B&B burns down and she decides to use the insurance to rebuild and expand to an Inn. What are some of the differences between the two? Generally a B&B is smaller than an inn. Some inns have restaurants. Having a B&B burn down is HUGE. I'm not sure I'd rebuild if mine burned down. Well, maybe. I guess some do. To enlarge she'd either have to have MORE inheritance floating around, or a pretty amazing insurance policy. My policy covers replacement (four rooms, en suite) not enlargement, and it's for a lot more than I've spent on buying and converting the house to a B&B.
7. Is there anything else I'd need to know to make this storyline authentic? (I'll be lurking around this site for the next few months while I write as well) Innkeepers work very, very hard. When guests are in the house it's long days and hard physical work. When guests are not in the house we worry about having enough income. We have this huge to do list we should do while the guests are not here and instead we sleep in (past 7!), lounge around in our jammies (sleep with the door open!), read the mail from the past two weeks, and take our kids to the park.
=)
Kk.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Your post is so helpful! I will rethink the plot line of having the B&B burn down if it sounds unlikely that she'd rebuild after seeing her life's work go up in flames.
Telling me how many rooms that one needs (in general) to be successful was really helpful too. For question number 2, that seems like way more work for one person to handle! I can see you're a busy person. Do you think if you had more than 4 rooms, you'd need to hire help? Or would you continue to try to do it yourself? Do people who have 6-8 rooms usually do it by themselves as well?
 
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Here is my advice - stay at B&B's and you can come up with your material, or even better try this: Vocation Vacations.
Thanks, I plan on visiting a few on LI. Hopefully, the owners will agree to an interview while I'm there, so I can understand what's it's like to be the owner, not just a guest.
However, I am truly at the beginning of my research stage for this, and somehow I don't even think I know the right questions to ask yet. That's what brought me here. I'd like to have a little background before I sit down with someone face to face.
The B&B will not be the center or focus of my novel, but it is the backdrop, part of the setting. I don't want people familiar with the industry to write and complain that I wasn't authentic!
 

JunieBJones (JBJ)

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There is a B&B in Georgia who had a fire (he used to be on our forum) and had loss of life. A guest ran back in to get her handbag and her husband chased after her and she died and he was burned up 3/4 of his body.
Old houses are tinder boxes, a candle or a smoker on the porch tossing a stray cig butt can kill. I am not sure if those innkeepers (young couple who worked for years restoring this old home) ever recovered from this devastation (not the B&B, the death)
 

gillumhouse

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As an innkeeper, the absolute LAST thing I would want to see in a book is a fire in a B & B. Talk about a guest turn-off (and frightener for all...)
 

Morticia

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On the Eastern end of LI? You want to read books like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada to get an idea of who your clientele will be.
 
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On the Eastern end of LI? You want to read books like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada to get an idea of who your clientele will be..
Yup, I actually grew up there. I was a "townie" in a summer vacation destination. I worked as a waitress, and a nanny, so I do kind of have an idea about the type of clientele.
 

YellowSocks

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The vocation vacation is a very, very good idea. I read this forum (and its predecessor) and was as prepared as a newbie could be. But the first time a guest was significantly later than when I expected them, and I had hoped to take my kids hiking, and I had to wait around the house for them... ARGHHHH!!!!!! No amount of reading about it can replicate the angst.
=)
Kk.
 

Samster

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On the Eastern end of LI? You want to read books like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada to get an idea of who your clientele will be..
Yup, I actually grew up there. I was a "townie" in a summer vacation destination. I worked as a waitress, and a nanny, so I do kind of have an idea about the type of clientele.
.
Best of luck! However, my dh has advised me to save any material or info for a book of my own.
The stories about the Frick & Frack repairman and contractors while we were renovating alone should make for a best seller. haha! Welcome to the forum!
 

Samster

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JunieBJones (JBJ)

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Former Marshallite mixes crochet, murder in novel
Marshall News Messenger - Marshall,TX,USA
The murder takes place during a crochet convention in Marshall and Mrs. Carter uses the T&P Depot, the public library and Roseville Bed and Breakfast as ...

INN the news 08.18.08
.
A crochet convention....whoa, that could be serious with those needles!!
.
Samster said:
A crochet convention....whoa, that could be serious with those needles!!
You probably thought I made all that up! Can you picture all the mad crocheters!
 

IvyLee

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On the Eastern end of LI? You want to read books like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada to get an idea of who your clientele will be..
Haha. Even the 'Devil Wears Prada' can't hold a candle to the shenanigans that go in the Hamptons.
Aspiring Author: You should read 'Note's From an Innkeepers Journal', by Dick Matthews. It's an interesting, fun and very well written account of becoming an innkeeper by a newspaperman turned innkeeper. I really enjoyed it myself.
 

EmptyNest

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On the Eastern end of LI? You want to read books like The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada to get an idea of who your clientele will be..
Haha. Even the 'Devil Wears Prada' can't hold a candle to the shenanigans that go in the Hamptons.
Aspiring Author: You should read 'Note's From an Innkeepers Journal', by Dick Matthews. It's an interesting, fun and very well written account of becoming an innkeeper by a newspaperman turned innkeeper. I really enjoyed it myself.
.
Yep! that's the one I told her to look at under resources. Happily they have now finally sold their inn:)
 

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