Rob Sales and his wife Jane, when they purchased their first B&B Inn in 1997, only 5 % of the traveling population ever stayed in a Bed & Breakfast Inn. Up until COVID-19, this number saw virtually no change. Since COVID-19, Rob has not seen any new data, but his best guess is that the number is likely in the 6-7% range.
Of the 5% to 7% that stay at a Bed & Breakfast, Rob estimates that 50% say, "I would like to own / operate a Bed & Breakfast Inn". Of this, only 5-10% of these actually take another step to consider purchasing an Inn.
Thus, the potential market for B&B owners, is very small. Therefore, our challenge is to identify our market and focus on educating the people in this specific niche: bed and breakfast business.
Learn how to succeed as the owner of an inncredible bed and breakfast business!
Question: What attracts people to want to stay at bed and breakfast inns (vs. staying at other forms of lodging like hotel, AirBnB, camping, etc.)?
"Most folks do not stay at a Bed & Breakfast Inn. I have always said all the Bed & Breakfast Inns need to do is increase to 10% of the market, and the business would double. Covid gave us the answer. Bed & Breakfast Inn due to Covid capturing the folks who want to think small. Why small? Because it is small! It is safe, it is clean, the size / number of rooms is usually less than 15. Even an Inn with 25+ rooms is considered "small" as compared to a 100 room hotel."
"A large percentage of the traveling population will always want large capacity hotels, with dining all day for breakfast, lunch dinner, full service bar, etc. As a general rule, this is not what a Bed & Breakfast Inn offers. As far as AirBnB, camping, these folks want less, and the fact that they never see the owners or staff is not for them and they are requesting "Zero" service. Do not waste time trying to attract these folks. Let them grow up, and eventually they will mature to be our clientele."
Question: What motivates someone to want to be an innkeeper for their career?
"I believe the main reason for going into the bed & breakfast business is they want to be their own boss and decision maker. They want to be in charge! Also, it is not a business that requires a lot of previous knowledge and background. They realize it is hard work, but it is not rocket science."
Question: What are the most common backgrounds of innkeepers?
"School teachers & educators. People who travel. People who like people and like to be in charge. Folks who are tired of the corporate world and looking to be their own boss."
Question: What makes a B & B Owner & Innkeeper successful?
"Attention to detail. An absolute necessity. Someone who walks into a room and immediately sees the 'wilted flowers'. A stain on the carpet, a bedspread with a wrinkle. A person who 'remembers' when the reservation was made, the husband requested roses be on the bed. Details, details, details. The day in / day out type task can become boring, but must be done day in and day out. The tasks are also done with a smile."
Question: What enables some people to spend 20+ years as owners / innkeepers, while others get out in less than 5 years?
"People change. I do not think this is any different than the general population. People change jobs in the general population. Some folks even in the bed & breakfast business can get a divorce. As some people grow, they grow in different directions. Some folks just plain get bored! Some folks find they are not in charge, and either their employees and or gust are in charge, which was not the initial plan."
Question: What ongoing plans need to be put in place to run a successful bed & breakfast?
"First, establish a competitive price point. I find most Inn's rates per night too low. I normally recommend a rate increase on the day of the closing. Then every 3-4 months, take another rate increase. Continue with the rate increases until you see a decrease in reservations, then take action to ensure you maintain both occupancy and revenue."
"Most Inns serve breakfast only. You do not need 100+ items and breakfast items. 10 -15 different breakfast ideas should be sufficient. You can change the type of meals as you go forward. Remember, most of your guests will not be with you for more than 3-4 nights, so they will not be eating the same thing if you have 4-5 different breakfast menus! Use one color for your sheets and towels that are interchangeable."
Question: What are things that tend to increase occupancy rates?
"Consistent service! Yield management on your bookings. Your Inn needs to be run like an Airplane. Your rates change multiple times a day, depending upon occupancy, special days, etc. This service is not free, but should be used. Use (OTAs) charge 15-18 %, but 35-55% of the traveling population book through the OTAs. Offer rooms for people traveling with pets and children. If these folks do not stay with you, they will stay somewhere!"
Question: What are things that tend to decrease occupancy rates?
Failure to appear in Google Search or other online social media. If you do pay, then folks will not stay with you. Folks must find you online. Having great Online WiFi is an absolute must. WiFi connection is the #1 item for the traveling public.
Question: How can innkeepers consistently market their B & B properties to potential guests?
"They must have an online presence. If they do not have an online presence, they will not be found. A fantastic website is a number 1 issue. It is a must. If the Innkeeper is not tech savvy, they find someone who is, and this is where they must spend 15-20% of their funds to market their property. Once they have the web site, they must ensure they are involved with social media. They must also be involved with the local community. Outside the Inn and the local Hospitality community."
Question: What frustrations do innkeepers consistently experience?
"Not being in charge. They became an Innkeeper to be in charge and find out everyone else is in charge, and they end up being the dancing puppet rather than the Puppet Master!"
Question: What joys do innkeepers consistently experience?
"Seeing the pleasure of their guests is great, hopefully there will be profits. Reviews that are good can bring pleasure. Being successful is also a great plus!"
Question: How does the economy / gas prices etc. contribute to occupancy rates?
"I have heard from some inn owners, especially in the last 2-3 weeks, that they are feeling the negative impact of the gas prices. However, when you consider the 4 states we work in [NC, SC, GA, & FL], I am not sure there is an overall negative impact. Two thirds of the United States population is within 1,000 miles of our area. Thus, the price of fuel is negative, but I believe it is a gain, not a negative."
Question: Does the economy affect stays at bed and breakfast across all price points? Or does the wealth of B & B goers at high end luxury buffer the economic impact for those innkeepers?
"I believe it is a misconception to think B & B goers are high end travelers. B & B travelers cross all levels of spenders. B & B goers are looking for something special. Those looking for a price book at Short Term Vacation Rentals via AirBnB or VRBO."
What amenities are the most important for innkeepers to have for their guests?
"#1 for B & B market is "Great WiFi". In a recent study, this was the # 1. Clean and small also rank high. Covid 19 has done more to promote travel to the Bed & Breakfast market, which all marketing and advertising could not do. Naturally, all the normal things are also important!"
What message would attract a potential person to check out our listings?
"The number 1 thing is more listings. When folks contact us about a particular listing, we often direct them to another listing or a property that may not be listed but is for sale. I have several properties that I have the right to show that are not listed. Many current owners, due to demand for staff, do not want their employees and or their guests to know the property is for sale. May come back to this: all inns are for sale, it is just when they are for sale that changes."
Do your clients who sell their B & B property later return to you to help them buy another B&B property?
"Not normally. Most folks who sell and buy another property have this as part of their business plan, and we are aware of this information in advance. Normally, someone or anyone who sells an Inn and is out of the business will not return after 6 months or so out of the business. Not saying it can happen, but this is not a source of potential clients!"
What are the most important issues for your clients?
"The number 1 issue for my niche clients is NOI (Net Operating Income). # 2 is the gross revenue. #3 is updated financials (both P & Ls) and (Tax Returns), #4 is the potential once the property is purchased."