Running a Bed and Breakfast For Dummies
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To run a bed and breakfast (B&B) inn, you need to take care of business issues first, then go about the business of caring for your guests.

To make sure guests get the best impression of your B&B, train everyone who answers the phone, get rooms ready the right way, and do the prep work for the "breakfast" part of the service. You also need to keep important phone numbers handy for those unexpected but inevitable problems.

Business to take care of before you open your bed and breakfast

Your bed and breakfast is a business, so you need to get your ducks in a row and necessary forms filled out and filed before you open your doors to guests.

Use the following list (and the help of your accountant, lawyer, consultant, and/or broker) to ensure you have the accounts and paperwork you need before opening day (then mark renewal dates on your calendar). These include:

  • Conditional use and sign permits (if required)

  • Business license

  • Business name and/or DBA registration

  • Certificate of occupancy

  • Account for transient/lodging taxes

  • Sales tax account (seller’s permit)

  • Federal and State Tax ID

  • Business checking credit accounts

  • Merchant account (to process credit cards)

  • ServSafe food certification (if required)

  • Health Department inspection

  • Fire Department inspection

  • Liquor license, if applicable

  • Insurance (business, liability, property, and liquor liability if applicable)

  • Property management/reservation and accounting software

Readying guest rooms

You want to give your guests the best possible experience in your B&B inn. Use the following checklist to make sure your guest rooms make a good first impression:

  • Clean guest bedroom: dust; vacuum; change sheets; make bed; empty trash cans; check under beds, in drawers, and behind curtains for anything left by previous guests; note anything broken; reset thermostat

  • Check guest bedroom amenities: fresh glassware and beverage coasters, TV and DVD remotes on night stand, guest welcome letter, and so on

  • Stock guest bedroom closet: fresh robes hanging and arranged properly with belts tied, luggage rack open, wooden hangers (10 men’s/10 women’s), extra pillows and blankets

  • Add the finishing guest bedroom touches: check clock radio to be sure the time is set correctly and the alarm is turned off, adjust all blinds to the same level, display current magazines, add fresh candy to a dish, stage guest book with pen, and so on

  • Clean guest bathroom: dust; vacuum; mop; clean shower, toilet, mirrors, and vanity; empty trash cans

  • Check guest bathroom amenities: replace bath, hand, and face towels; replace bathmat; stock basics such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, toilet paper, tissue, and fresh glassware

  • Add the finishing guest bathroom touches: add bath gel, mouthwash, makeup remover pads, hair dryer, deodorizer, and so on

How to take complete reservations

You need to gather essential information when taking guest reservations for your bed & breakfast by phone, and you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget the basics. To cover all the bases, begin by taking down the following information:

  • Date reservation taken and who took the reservation

  • Guest name(s), address, telephone (day, evening, cell), and e-mail

  • Arrival and departure dates (confirm number of nights)

  • Room selected and special add-ons

  • Reason for visiting the area and whether this is a special occasion

  • Referral source (how they originally found you)

  • Credit card number, expiration, 3 digits on back (4 digits on front of AMEX)

Wrap things up by

  • Confirming the rate plus tax and any additional charges

  • Reviewing policies (especially deposit and cancellation policies) and check-in time (ask for approximate arrival time)

  • Noting any dietary restrictions or allergies

  • Offering to make reservations for dining, events, tours, and so on

  • * Telling guest the next step such as a follow-up confirmation by e-mail

Important phone numbers to keep handy

Even the best-run bed & breakfast suffers an occasional crisis, and the time to search for a drain-cleaning service is not when you have guests waiting for breakfast. Record telephone numbers for the following services and keep the list on hand for quick fixes to ensure your guests’ comfort, enjoyment, and safety:

  • Plumbing & drain cleaning service

  • Heat/AC equipment person

  • Electrician

  • Carpenter/Contractor

  • Roofer

  • Septic tank info

  • Propane gas supplier

  • Cable provider

  • Internet provider

  • Power company

  • Phone service provider

  • Hot tub repair

  • Appliance repair

  • Snow removal service

  • Landscaper/tree removal service

Breakfast prep to do before bedtime

Mornings at a bed and breakfast are a scramble, and not just of eggs. Breakfast at a B&B is part of the attraction, so although you’ll get used to serving it, you may want to use the following checklist to have breakfast practically ready before you go to bed.

  • Review menu choices

  • Check guest register for dietary restrictions and guest allergies

  • Check for all ingredients; decide on quick substitutions if necessary

  • Set out all cooking utensils by recipe

  • Set out serving dishes and utensils

  • Measure all dry and nonperishable ingredients

  • Take frozen items out of the freezer to defrost

  • Set breakfast table(s)

  • Set up early departure “to go” bags

  • Set up early morning coffee and tea service

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Mary White is the go-to source in the bed and breakfast industry for opinions and advice. A noted expert on B&B travel, she has been involved in promoting and marketing B&Bs on the web for more than a decade and has appeared in dozens of media outlets. Her site,, is hailed by professionals and consumers alike as the most informative B&B site.

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