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The B&B Business Model

April 27, 2008

by Kit Cassingham

The traditional inn is the basis for hospitality as we know it today. The model has diverged, as things tend to do, giving us the style range from hotel to bed and breakfast. By understanding the bed and breakfast business model you will be better able to create an atmosphere of comfort and safety.

Do you ever wonder about the difference between B&Bs and other types of lodging? Why are some people "B&B people" while others are "non-B&B people"? Here is my explanation of what I see is the difference. This will help you better understand the importance of your role as an innkeeper and the guest experience you create for your market niche.

Elements common to all quality inns and outstanding innkeepers:

  1. Appreciation of the guest situation as shown by the innkeeper’s inspiration in problem solving before the problem appears (e.g., wastebaskets where needed, lights usefully located and bright enough for reading).
  2. Hospitality by showing concern for the guest's personal environment and reducing guest trepidations with gestures of warmth and thoughtfulness.
  3. Service to the guest by anticipating their needs and placing their comfort first.
  4. Vulnerability of the innkeeper in creating their idea of comfort and sharing that with strangers, risking rejection or criticism, or even adoration and appreciation.

    Elements common to all guests:
  • Concern for their personal environment.
  • Desire for a more personal experience.
  • Willingness to risk an unknown situation and environment.

Architect Christopher Alexander wrote a marvelous book about his theories of design. He addresses making people comfortable starting from when they enter town all the way to where they enter your building. He addresses what characteristics make people feel welcome, "at home". Here is a bit of what he says about buildings, as I see his words relating to the B&B industry.

A person who stays the night in a strange place is still a member of the human community, and still needs company. At all times, the inn was a wonderful place, where strangers met for a night, to eat, and drink, play cards, tell stories, and experience extraordinary adventures. There is a deep need for company. It is the business of an inn to create an atmosphere where people can experience and satisfy this need. Make the inn a place where travelers can take rooms for the night, but where -- unlike most hotels and motels -- the inn draws all its energy from the community of travelers that are there any given evening. The scale is small -- 30 or 40 guests to an inn; meals are offered communally; there is even a large space ringed around with beds in alcoves.
            â€”Christopher Alexander in Pattern Language

The guest/Innkeeper dynamics are a give and take. You, as the innkeeper, must "receive" to balance your "give". Refuel your energy and soul to maintain your ability to give freely; "receiving" is one of the ways to accomplish that. You may find this another challenge and another part of your "balancing act". Maintaining this balance helps minimize your frustrations and burn out and encourages enjoyment of the haven you have created for the traveler -- your guest. Innkeeping success includes taking care of yourself.

As you can see there is no one way for a bed and breakfast to look or feel. The inn you decide on should be a reflection of who you are and what hospitality you will offer. The guest experience will be enhanced by the building you use and the style you create in it. The B&B business model is a way for you to think about how to create the best business you can, which include creating the most welcome for your guests.

This article is excerpted from the ebook Building a Good Foundation So You Don't Find Yourself in A Hole. This ebook is a valuable basic in your B&B education.




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