By Lynn Marshall
There’s no place like home – unless it’s a bed and breakfast that feels like home. One thing that separates a successful bed and breakfast from a hotel or an Airbnb is the ability to provide a homey atmosphere to travelers.
Here are six ways to make your B&B feel like home:
1. Start With Yourself
You are the main ingredient to making your guests feel at home. Are guests going to feel comfortable with you and your staff? Would they like having you in their own home? Obviously, guests want hosts who are friendly and attentive, but beyond that, learn to read your visitors and gauge what kind of relationship they prefer. Some may be outgoing and sociable, while others may prefer peace and quiet. Treat them accordingly.
Most will want a knowledgeable host, so it pays to know your territory, from the region’s history to where to find a barbershop. Your guests’ experience with you will be a key factor in whether they pay a return visit or recommend your place to others.
2. Don’t Skimp
Maybe their sheets at home are getting a little dingy, but your guests won’t accept the same at a place where they’re paying for a pleasing experience. Make sure everything they come in contact with — from bedclothes to towels — is in prime condition. Cold-natured guests may need extra blankets or quilts. Some like the breeze of a fan wafting over them as they sleep. Some like firm pillows, others like soft.
While many may bring along their own toiletries and little comforts of home, don’t presume they will. Keep a stockpile of essentials. No guest wants to discover in the morning’s early light they have to get dressed and drive to a store for a toothbrush or a couple of aspirins.
You can’t anticipate every need or whim, but building a stockpile can make points with guests and lead to better reviews.
3. Temper Atmosphere With Comfort
Most visitors appreciate décor and ambiance that reflects a place’s history and culture – but most relish their creature comforts even more. An antique sleigh bed may impress – but lumpy bedsprings won’t. Achieve a workable blend of atmosphere and comfort expectations. Your guests may want an escape from their daily routine, but don’t presume they want a getaway from daily conveniences. Your BnB should be equipped with cable, internet, Wi-Fi, and plenty of charging outlets.
4. Don’t Forget your Surroundings
Your building may be the focal point of your BnB, but don’t forget the exterior. This is the first impression prospective guests get. Your landscaping should be well-presented regardless of the season and should reflect the native plants of your region. With careful planning, you can keep colorful flowers and outdoor plants thriving through the winter. Colorful potted plants on stoops and/or porches convey a homey feeling.
5. Breakfast is your Chance to Shine
The second “B” in B&B is breakfast. This is an opportunity to make a lasting impression on your guests. The concept of breakfast may vary from toast and coffee for some people to full-blown meals for others. Make sure you’re equipped to handle all tastes. It’s wise to have a signature dish or two that will have your guests gushing to friends when they leave. This can range from a special omelet concoction to Grandma’s biscuit and gravy recipe. Make sure you have some menu offerings that reflect the cuisine of your area. Consider keeping the teapot and coffee maker going throughout the day for those who like refreshment as they come and go.
6. Recognize your Limits
You want your BnB to be financially successful, but don’t sacrifice long-term well-being for short-term profit. Avoid the temptation to overload your establishment. Too many guests at one time can diminish the sense of homey ambiance and personalized attention guests cherish. Happy guests that will return again and again – and maybe tell their friends – are better for your business in the long run.
Lynn Marshall has never owned a BnB, but she’s stayed at hundreds of them over the years, preferring the warm atmosphere to stodgy hotels where you never know what to expect. She’s traveled the world several times and still prefers to vacation in the Southern U.S.