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How to run a B&B

How to run a B&B

The doors of The Cross at Croscombe B&B have been open since 2014 and it has been enormously satisfying running my own B&B. It seems that I know how to run a B&B as both my bank manager and accountant are still speaking to me!

how to run a b&b

Despite having spent my entire working life in the hospitality industry, this venture has been a bit of a learning curve. I guess that if it was as easy as just buying a comfy mattress or two and cooking fabulous fry-ups, far more people would be running a bed and breakfast. If you are considering running a B&B, I hope that these tips (and the pitfalls to avoid) will help.

So, you have a lovely property, it’s in a great location, what more could you need?

my top tips on running a small b&b

  1. A good website

We live in an age where people are used to being able to access all that they need online. This means your B&B has to be visible on the world wide web.  You don’t need to spend a fortune on a website these days, but functionality is important. One of the key decisions I had to make was whether to have the facility to enable guests to book and pay for a room on my website. I’m glad that I did. Remember, online travel agents have the potential to get your B&B in front of millions of people, but you will pay them a commission on every piece of business that they generate. If you end up running a successful B&B why not keep more of the profits for yourself?!

There are quite a few online booking systems out there. Be sure to select one which allows payments to be made by credit and debit card. It also makes good sense from an administrative point of view to choose a booking system that automatically updates availability on third party sites. 

Another top tip is to invest in good photography. People buy with their eyes, so the images on your website need to portray your establishment in the best possible light (literally). It is also worth regularly updating the pictures on your website to reflect changes to your decor.

If you do book a professional photographer, be organised. Decide on the rooms and areas that you wish to be photographed and style them. The more time that the photographer has to snap the better! So get the cushions and pillows plumped before the photographer arrives. It also helps to arrange the shoot after guest check-out and before check-in. Lighting and photographing a room takes skill. Make sure that the photographer has relevant experience. 

  1. Third party sites

Sticking with the theme of the internet, linking up with other partners can have significant benefits when it comes to promoting your bed and breakfast. Is there a local attraction or Tourist Information Centre that you can get your website linked to? Invariably these things can cost a bit of money, but an extra booking or two makes the investment pay for itself very quickly.

Review sites are also incredibly important. I think the digital marketing community refer to it as, ‘managing your online reputation’. Basically, you need to respond to any adverse comments in a calm and factual manner. Many people check sites such as TripAdvisor before committing to a booking. Listen and where possible take positive action on guest feedback.


It’s frustrating that the numerous bed and breakfast regulations in England that I have to adhere to aren’t applied to someone who regularly lets a room on a website such as Airbnb. These are battles that a bed and breakfast owner simply can’t win, so instead of raging against the injustice of it, try and use it to your advantage. There are times when I have used a site such as Airbnb to promote a room during a quiet period.

  1. Electrical Points

Right, let’s get away from the internet and deal with a commodity that the world wide web still needs – electricity – and more to the point…electrical points. Yes, with a bit of common sense we all know where the electrical points should be placed in bedrooms, but what about in public areas of your B&B? It’s December, the log fire is lit, but where do you plug in the Christmas lights on your gorgeous non-drop Norwegian Spruce?! Oh, and the DJ for the New Year’s Eve party would like to plug in his sound system…

How to run a B&B

Basically, you can’t have too many electrical points in public areas such as the lounge and dining room. (Guests need to charge their various portable devices.) Remember, even the best electrician will make a bit of a mess of your plastering work chasing cables into the wall. It’s a job that you only want to be undertaken once.

  1. Other technology

I thought I had covered all my guests needs when the major renovation and building works were taking place. Wifi – tick, smart TVs – yes, mobile phone booster – of course. State of the art in built music system – ahhh…

Think hard (and get your crystal ball out) to anticipate all your technological needs. I regularly upgrade my WiFi. You’ve got to move with the times!

  1. Carpets

Oh the really helpful sales assistant assures you that this carpet is easy to keep ‘stain-free’. Just wipe clean (or apply a little cleaning product) and ‘Bob’s your uncle’ – good as new. Sorry, but not in my experience. Far easier to keep carpeting to a minimum in apartments or ground floor areas. I love my flagstones (and they have done a great job for centuries) while the wooden flooring can be adorned with a replaceable rug.

How to run a B&B

My tip is to keep carpeting to a minimum in high use areas. A day in January is always set aside for steam cleaning the carpets in my B&B.

MORE TIPS ON how to run a B&B

  1. Lighting

You really need to consider this carefully. To dim or not to dim, spots or shades, the list goes on and on. Lighting makes such a difference to a room. Lots of people like to read in bed, so bedside lights are a must.

Take your time to get this right and remember electricity prices only ever seem to increase. Thank goodness for low energy bulbs.

  1. A Board

No, not just a board, but an ‘A Board’ (you know the ones, often seen outside phone and coffee shops promoting a special offer). Anyway, for a B&B with a very limited marketing budget these can be a useful tool. Get the message right and make sure it can be adapted to promote different offerings. Remember, chalk gets washed off and chalk pen doesn’t budge! Velcro and stick-on pads are the way to go.

How to run a B&B

I have also tried to stand out from the crowd by using a refurbished butcher’s bike. The basket can be filled with floral displays and I can chalk different messages on a board attached to the frame. It’s far more pleasing on the eye than an A board.

Another prop that I have used is ‘Norm’ the mannequin. He could be found outside my B&B dressed as someone topical. Among his notable impressions were; Harry Kane during the World Cup, an elf at Christmas and a soldier around Remembrance Day. He has also ‘worked’ as a waiter during one of my special food evenings. He attracted quite a local following before he ‘retired’.

How to run a B&B

Norm celebrating Somerset Art Weeks

  1. A special offering

Talking of standing out from the crowd, how are you going to make your guests feel extra welcome in your B&B? I offer guests tea, coffee and usually a warm scone on arrival. It seems like a small thing to do, but it really is appreciated. On a hot day I often have ice lollies available.

How to run a B&B

Guest can enjoy a Cream Tea on arrival

  1. Be creative

Sometimes you have to think a little laterally to get your business noticed. Can you put on an event that potentially benefits both guests and the local community? During the past few years, I have provided the yarn and a place to knit for the ‘Croscombe knitters’. The market cross outside my B&B has been adorned with red poppies for VE Day and red, white and blue roses for the Platinum Jubilee.

Local ladies knitting poppies to adorn the Market Cross in Croscombe

Can you work alongside other talented people to launch an offering that will put your B&B on the map?

The end result – The Market Cross covered in poppies

For a number of years, I have run a pop-up restaurant in my dining room. I regularly link up with local cook and food writer Mary Cadogan, to offer a 3 course supper. This is available to residents and non-residents and is very popular. Recent suppers have reflected the cuisine of a specific country. There have been Moroccan, French and Swedish themed evenings. 

How to run a b&b

During the summer months, I organise Platters & Prosecco evenings. Great fun and another good income stream.


  1. Sing your own praises
How to run a B&B

Winning ‘B&B and Guesthouse of the Year’ in the Bristol, Bath & Somerset Tourism Awards 2018/19

Don’t be frightened to tell people how good your B&B is. Enter awards. The forms can take a fair bit of time to complete but the free publicity that an award can generate for your bed and breakfast more than makes up for it.

How to run a B&B

On stage at the Bristol, Bath & Somerset Tourism Awards in 2022

The awards evenings are usually great fun. They provide a great networking opportunity and the chance to swap ideas with successful business people in other fields. 

The thrill of winning never seems to diminish!

How to run a B&B   How to run a B&B

  1. Good admin

Alongside employing a great accountant, B&B owners might also find it useful to keep a note of occupancy figures. This helps to separate fact from emotion. When you look back over a year you’ll be able to see any peaks and troughs in business and it will help you to plan marketing activity. It also comes in handy when completing award entry forms (see above).

  1. Quiet Times

Initially, I worried myself stupid when the B&B was quiet. Now I embrace and take full advantage of these rare but special times (often by looking out for awards that I can enter my B&B for or getting those occupancy figures up to date).

For regular midweek stays in months such as January and February you will probably be reliant on corporate stays. Is there a local business which is expanding or undertaking a major project which needs external manpower? Situations such as this could be an avenue for business. 

It is also beneficial to have a good relationship with local ‘competitors’. Other B&Bs and hotels can refer business to you when they are fully booked. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours…

How to run a b&b

Remember, even the largest hotel chains have empty rooms (and they spend millions on marketing). Don’t panic.

  1. Saucepans & Frying Pans

What can I say? It was a trade show and the salesman was very good at his job. Anyway, to cut a long story short I got over excited (I know, at a trade show, I must get out more often…) I knew I was going to cater for 14 people, so I purchased the biggest pans I could find. Sadly, my cooker stayed the same size and these are too big. I can’t get 2 pans on at the same time! Hopefully, you are going to be cooking a lot of breakfasts for your B&B guests, so buy the right equipment first time.

With pans, big isn’t always beautiful…

running a B&B

  1. Cereal Bowls

See Saucepans and Frying Pans. It’s easy to buy bowls which are too big and too deep. Big, deep bowls = huge amounts of space in the dishwasher.

Life is too short (and too busy when running a B&B) to spend it hand washing cereal bowls.

  1. Keep your B&B clutter free

You may love a knick-knack or two but your guests probably won’t appreciate that donkey from Torremolinos. (It is also an extra thing to dust.) Don’t keep buying bits and bobs and overfill your B&B. Pieces that tie in with the history of your premises or (hopefully) an award or two are beneficial. Just choose wisely. That being said, I do like a Buddha statue.

  1. 26 hour days would be good

I just need another 2 hours in the day (but then I’d probably need another 1/2 hour…). During a really busy period hiring an extra pair of hands to help make beds, cook breakfast, vacuum etc can really make sense. I always try to employ people from my village. Recently, I have taken on a lady from the Ukraine.

How to run a B&B

Running a successful B&B is emotionally and physically tiring – power naps are the way forward. Which leads me on nicely to…

  1. Beds

I’m so pleased that I invested in beds without footers. People do seem to be getting taller (or am I shrinking…) and guests over 6ft really appreciate being able to stretch out. My tallest guest to date was 6ft 7″ and he specifically asked for a bed without a footer.

How to run a b&b

A good mattress is a must


I have to say that the pros of running my own B&B massively outweigh the cons. There is a real pleasure in welcoming back familiar faces. Guests from as far afield as Alaska and New Zealand have stayed in my Somerset B&B (there’s the power of the internet and a good website for you).

Right, I’m off to wash up some enormous pots and pans. (One of the joys of running a B&B.) Good luck with your own venture and I hope that these tips on how to run a B&B will be of use.

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