A bed and breakfast business offers travelers an alternative to hotels and motels, by combining sleeping quarters with a full breakfast. Most bed and breakfasts also promise more unique, intimate settings than other lodging options.
You may also be interested in additional home business ideas.
Learn how to start your own Bed and Breakfast and whether it is the right fit for you.
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Start a bed and breakfast by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Bed and Breakfast
- Form your Bed and Breakfast into a Legal Entity
- Register your Bed and Breakfast for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Bed and Breakfast
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Bed and Breakfast
- Get Bed and Breakfast Insurance
- Define your Bed and Breakfast Brand
- Create your Bed and Breakfast Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your bed and breakfast. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
What are the costs involved in opening a bed and breakfast?
The startup costs for a bed and breakfast are significant. The largest expense, by far, is the price of purchasing a property.
Bedandbreakfastforsale.com maintains a list of established bed and breakfasts for sale. The inventory obviously changes, but there regularly are places for sale for anywhere between $200,000 and $5 million. Some of the factors that affect price include the condition of the building, the size of the property, the location of the property, and how established the business is. Most business owners need to take out a mortgage to pay for a property.
Alternatively, business owners can purchase any large house and turn it into a B&B. Old mansions and farmhouses are especially promising properties, as they usually have character and plenty of rooms. The price for a property can range anywhere from thousands for a run-down structure, to millions for a beautiful building in a great location.
Business owners who purchase a property that’s not already a bed and breakfast will have to furnish and decorate it. Other startup costs (which are small compared to the other expenses) include licenses, insurance, and breakfast-making supplies.
What are the ongoing expenses for a bed and breakfast?
The biggest ongoing expenses for a bed and breakfast business include mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, and property repairs. Other expenses include utility costs, cooking supplies, and any licensing fees.
Who is the target market?
An ideal customer is someone who travels a lot, usually for pleasure, and has discretionary income. Vacationers are more likely to spring for the intimate setting of a bed and breakfast than business travelers are. People need a decent amount of discretionary income in order to afford the rates of a bed and breakfast, which are often higher than a comparable hotel or motel.
How does a bed and breakfast make money?
A bed and breakfast makes money by charging guests for their lodging, which includes breakfast. Guests may be charged by the night, week or month.
How much can you charge customers?
The going rates for a room at a bed and breakfast vary quite a bit, with most charging between $75 and $400 per night. Location, amenities, and season all affect these rates. Business owners should research the going rates at different times of the year in the area where they’re considering starting a B&B, to see how much they might be able to charge.
How much profit can a bed and breakfast make?
A bed and breakfast business’ profitability depends on the number of rooms it has, how much it charges per night, and its occupancy rate. Total profit potential varies greatly.
As an example, assume a bed and breakfast has five rooms that have an average rate of $125 per night. If all rooms were booked every night of the year, the bed and breakfast would have an annual revenue of $228,125.
Few bed and breakfasts are booked every night of the year, though. About Travel reports that the average B&B has an occupancy rate just a little higher than 50%. At a 50% occupancy rate, the bed and breakfast in this example could expect a year’s revenue to be closer to $114,063.
From this figure, all operating expenses must be subtracted. This includes all building costs and utility costs, which can be substantial.
How can you make your business more profitable?
A bed and breakfast can increase its profitability by offering special packages for guests, and by opening its meals up to the community. Some guests will be willing to pay a bit extra for anniversary, honeymoon, or holiday packages. Additionally, letting people who aren’t guests dine at your B&B provides an additional revenue stream and, potentially, lets a bed and breakfast use its kitchen and dining facilities to offer lunch and dinner.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your bed and breakfast is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a bed and breakfast. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting the Small Business Administration’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Food establishments are randomly inspected by the local health department on a regular basis. These inspections will check for compliance with local health laws, typically related to prevention of food contamination.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
Certificate of Occupancy
To operate a bed and breakfast business, it is be necessary to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a bed and breakfast business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location for your business:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
FInd out what types of insurance your Bed and Breakfast needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Bed and Breakfast.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a bed and breakfast
A bed and breakfast’s main customer base is travelers, so marketing efforts should be focused on where vacationers look for lodging information. At a minimum, a business should have a website and social media pages. Getting listed on bed and breakfast websites, and offering bookings on sites that feature hotel deals, can help attract guests.
Encouraging guests who stay to leave reviews on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor will show prospective guests that a bed and breakfast offers comfortable lodging and excellent service.
How to keep customers coming back
A bed and breakfast business can make itself stand apart by offering a truly unique lodging experience. This may be accomplished by choosing a property that has excellent views or a prime location. You can also convert a less naturally enticing space into a genuine attraction by decorating with antiques from a particular time and place, or by specializing in a particular type of cooking (e.g. Parisian breakfasts or organic meals).
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Is this Business Right For You?
Anyone who enjoys hosting others may be well-suited for owning a bed and breakfast business, because guests come to B&Bs for a level of hospitality that hotels and motels don’t provide. Business owners should like talking with people, cooking meals, and making guests feel comfortable.
Business owners should have a flexible schedule, so they can meet guests during the day, and take care of any issues that arise at night. Additionally, they should plan on working anytime the bed and breakfast is open, which for a typical B&B is every day. They don’t usually close down for holidays because these are busy travel times, but some bed and breakfast owners take several weeks, sometimes even a month or more, off during the slow season.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a bed and breakfast?
Much of the work involved in running a bed and breakfast business revolves around looking after guests. Daily duties include welcoming incoming guests, cooking breakfast in the morning, checking guests out, and cleaning rooms after guests leave. While someone should always be on call and available, midday and late-night hours usually require little work.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful bed and breakfast?
A successful bed and breakfast business owner should know how to decorate rooms so they’re welcoming, and also be able to cook a good breakfast. Business owners who don’t have an eye for interior decorating should ask a friend or family member for help. (Saying thank you to a friend with a free night’s lodging costs much less than hiring an interior decorator.)
Business owners who don’t have an eye for interior decorating should ask a friend or family member for help. Saying thank you to a friend with a free night’s lodging costs much less than hiring an interior decorator.
Owners can get breakfast recipe ideas online, from sites like Pinterest and food blogs. Owners who don’t know how to cook at all can learn by consulting well-known cookbooks, such as The Joy of Cooking. For more hands-on help, owners can enroll in local cooking classes or hire a local chef as a consultant for a day.
It’s also helpful if owners know how to perform routine building maintenance and make basic repairs. Being able to take care of minor building issues will save a business from hiring a professional to fix everything.
What is the growth potential for a bed and breakfast?
A bed and breakfast business usually has one location. Thus, a bed and breakfast’s growth potential is typically limited by the number of rooms in the building. Most have at least four or five rooms for guests, and some have a dozen or more.
A few successful bed and breakfasts expand by purchasing a second, nearby property for guests to stay in. This is relatively uncommon, though. It’s also difficult to plan for, because you have no control over when nearby buildings come up for sale.
Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
How and when to build a team
Many bed and breakfast businesses are run by one person or a couple. Some bed and breakfasts hire an employee or two. Even large ones, however, keep a fairly small staff.
Read our bed and breakfast hiring guide to learn about the different roles a bed and breakfast typically fills, how much to budget for employee salaries, and how to build your team exactly how you want it.
- American Bed and Breakfast Association
- Bed and Breakfast Businesses for Sale
- Find more Business Ideas perfect for Small Towns!