Setting Up a B&B – Update From Bridget Green of the Old Kiln House in Shipston-On-Stour
Bridget attended the Two Day Course in 2013. She has very kindly written an update on how she is getting on to share her experience with potential B&B owners. If you scroll through to the bottom, you’ll also find some before and after pictures showing what a tremendous job she has done in transforming the house into a fabulous B&B.
Setting Up a B&B – Update From A Past Course Attendee – The Old Kiln House
I attended Bed and Breakfast Academy in 2013 and went on to open The Old Kiln House Luxury B&B in Shipston-On-Stour in July 2014.
Although I was fortunate enough to also be aided by advice from a good friend who has a successful Luxury B&B, I can honestly say that Karen and Bed and Breakfast Academy helped me enormously.
I had originally looked at purchasing an existing B&B and viewed a few of which were on the market. The most promising one which I saw was on the edge of Dartmouth Moor but was eventually advised against this one on the basis that it was too remote. None of the others felt right to me.
I then started searching for a suitable property within a radius of 10 miles of Broadway, the famous, tourist Cotswolds town. Broadway is surrounded by beautiful countryside, charming towns and many great tourist attractions. There are a steady stream of tourists all through the year originating from the UK as well as all around the world. This was important to me as I did not want a purely seasonal business.
The search was quite difficult because, in my opinion, the perfect B&B house is quite different from the perfect home. I was looking for a house whose layout leant itself to the B&B section being separate from our personal area. There were other important criteria that many houses did not meet e.g. adequate parking for guests, close to restaurants etc etc.
Eventually I saw a house in Shipston-On-Stour which was just outside our budget but which had the almost perfect layout for a great B&B. It had a separate staircase for the guest bedrooms meaning that our side of the house was totally private. The house also had masses of character and the location was good as Shipston-On-Stour is a working market town with many independent businesses, restaurants and pubs. It is a busy place with lots going on and great new businesses opening quite often. It is also near to Stratford-upon-Avon and many of the beautiful Cotswold villages and towns.
The house is a complex, 18th century town house comprised of three sections built at separate times and a beautiful a courtyard garden. It had the feeling of being totally isolated even though it is in the centre of town. When we viewed the house it was in poor condition with many of the recently added features being substandard. I wanted a project and boy did I get one!
After a difficult negotiation, the place was ours and we started renovating in 2013/14. We had to make extensive improvements to all guest rooms, shared areas and the kitchen. We also had to install a totally new hot and cold water system and upgrade all en-suites in order to bring them up to a level which we felt was luxurious enough.
My experience of the B&B business
I love the B&B business. It is hard work and needs constant attention to keep it up to a high standard but we are fortunate to have, without exception, lovely guests. The guests enjoy the property so much that this in itself is a really good reward as well as being recognised through exceptional reviews on Trip Advisor and Booking.com. (Booking.com reviews can only be completed by persons who have actually stayed with you and booked through Booking.com unlike some other websites).
Desirable characteristics for B&B host
I believe that the most important quality a B&B host needs is that you must like people and interacting with people. Do not get into this business unless you are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and be willing to really look after your guests.
Secondly, busy B&Bs are a lot of work. Even if you are hiring staff, I believe that it is important to have good attention to detail and this can only be achieved if you do a fair amount of work or supervision yourself.
You will HAVE to be at ease with loading and unloading the dishwasher multiple times a day!!
Unless you hire staff in, you will also have to enjoy cleaning. Four in a Bed shows a lot of contestants trying to win by looking down the plughole or under the mattress so be prepared for your guests to hold you to the same high standards.
I believe that the key to a successful B&B is the belief that you absolutely cannot rest on your laurels. Your business is almost only as good as your last reviews.
Setting up from scratch
As mentioned we did look at an existing B&B but decided on starting up from scratch. I do believe that buying the right B&B is a good option for some people however it is heavily dependent on past reputation. The power of review sites especially TripAdvisor is obviously very strong.
Following on from the https://bedandbreakfastacademy.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/ive-kept-my-5-star-rating-why-am-i-thinking-about-dumping-it/ post on Karen’s blog, we decided to not go down the rating route with the AA or visit England. We believe that the market is changing so quickly and that the size and efficiency of some players make official ratings less relevant.
We signed up to Booking.com and have found them to be exceptional. Through them we achieved 75% occupancy in only our second month. I am aware that some people have a problem with them and other large companies but for me they have been wonderful.
However one of the keys to our success so far is overinvesting in our website. We were very fortunate to find an exceptional web design agency Riley and Thomas who fully understood the B&B business as well as how important an optimised website is. It also really helped that one of the partners used to own a B&B.
In summary, B&B is a great way to live and earn a living and offers a wonderful lifestyle but it can be hard work.
Some before and after photos
Avalon Room Before
Avalon Room After
Salisbury Room Before
Salisbury Room After
Salisbury En-Suite Before
The Salisbury En-Suite After
Westminster Room Before
Westminster Room After