Being a Good Bed and Breakfast Host

Part of a worksheet series for aspiring bed and breakfast innkeepers

Room service tray on bed
••• Jeremy Samuelson/Photolibrary/Getty Images

One key ingredient in running a successful bed and breakfast is the ability to get along with all types of people who will be staying at your inn. When you operate a bed and breakfast, you become the host (not an owner) who greets and welcomes guests (not clients).

Hospitality is your business. A successful bed and breakfast operation builds its reputation on the hospitality it provides. Repeat business and referrals often come as a result of your interactions with the guests.

Guests who frequent bed and breakfasts usually seek the enjoyment of getting to know their hosts and sometimes develop close friendships with them.

Bed and breakfast hosts can use these tips to increase their guests' satisfaction levels.

  • Provide a warm, friendly welcome at the front door.
  • Show guests to their room and give them an opportunity to settle in. Offer to carry their luggage.
  • If they feel up to it, you may want to give guests a quick tour of your home soon after they arrive.
  • Offer a beverage and/or a light snack after guests have had some time to settle down from their trip.
  • Be a "fountain of information" for your guests. As hosts, you should be able to answer questions about your area and mention nearby attractions and places of interest.
  • Provide guests with a fact sheet listing frequently asked questions and answers about your inn and the surrounding area.
  • Collect brochures and maps for the immediate area as well as other nearby areas of interest. Make these available to your guests at no cost.
  • Collect menus from local restaurants. You may put these in guest rooms or leave them in your lounge area, perhaps in a three-ring binder, so that people may browse through them at their leisure.
  • Offer "special touches" that will appeal to a variety of guests, such as offering breakfast in bed for newlyweds or for special occasions.
  • Find out when guests arrive what they would prefer as a beverage in the morning, and always have coffee made early. A pot of freshly brewed coffee outside the door in the morning will be a treat for the true coffee drinker.
  • Be sure to provide a variety of beverages so that guests can choose from a good selection. Coffee should be of the best quality -- never instant! Experiment with different blends.
  • Offer -- for an extra fee -- to make special picnic baskets for lunch or dinner so that guest may enjoy a special outdoor location. Be sure to look into your local food service regulations.
  • Provide an umbrella stand with loan umbrellas near the door for guests who aren't prepared for bad weather.
  • Set up a special corner in your public lounge area with a variety of games, cards, books and magazines. Provide a variety of reading material in each room.
  • Have extra sample-size toilet articles on hand for your guests, such as shampoo, hand lotion, toothbrushes, razors and toothpaste. You can order a supply of many such items imprinted with your logo to promote your bed and breakfast.
  • Use liquid soap or small, individually wrapped soaps in the bathroom so no guest has to use someone else's soap.
  • A special guest "welcome tray" in each room can include fruit, cookies, or candy. Provide disposable drinking cups in each room as well as tissues, etc.
  • Have an area which is easily accessible to guests where they can always find a beverage or snack of some kind.
  • Keep an extra hair dryer, make-up mirror, curling iron, iron and ironing board available for guest use.
  • Provide a local newspaper, as well as one with large circulation such as USA Today.
  • Be able to provide your guests with a local map. Mark your home, restaurants and other attractions on the map.
  • Collect discount coupons from local restaurants, fast food chains and other attractions for your guests' use.
More great tips for being a good bed and breakfast host can be found on the next page of this feature.

Bed and breakfast hosts can use these tips, and those found on the first page of this feature, to increase their guests' satisfaction levels.

  • Leave a notecard or flyer telling guests where they can order a pizza if they wish. Let your guests know if it's all right to eat in their room or on your deck or patio.
  • Make sure guests know that they should ask if there is something they need -- extra towels, more pillows, iron and ironing board, etc.
  • Some hosts put together a collection of recipes to share with guests. You'll need to decide whether or not to charge for this.
  • If you have a special hobby or interest, such as quilt making, invite your guests to watch you if they wish.
  • If you have an historic inn, your guests may want to know more about it. Keep a scrapbook of pictures and documents detailing the history and/or renovations and restoration of the inn. This can be placed in a public area or duplicated and placed in each room.
  • If your community has a walking tour, provide guests with a copy and make suggestions of things to look for along the route.
  • Provide a list of churches in the area along with worship service hours. Be sure to keep the list up to date to avoid embarrassment for your guests should they happen in during the middle of a service.
  • Be sensitive to your guests' need for privacy and space. Be available for those who want to talk to you, but just in touch enough for the guest who wants to be left alone.
  • Bed and breakfasts often attract couples looking for a romantic getaway. If your setting conveys that feeling, play it up. Offer guests some privacy in front of a fireplace, use a romantic decor for a special honeymoon or anniversary room. Special touches such as candlelight, satin sheets, soft music, a decanter of liqueur or brandy all add to the romantic mood. (Be sure to check the laws of your state before providing alcoholic beverages to your guests.)
  • If guests want to get to know you better, do so. You are a unique individual -- your way of life, your home, your town all make the visit very special to your guests. Remember that word of mouth is one of the best ways to attract more guests and repeat visitors, so make a positive impression.
  • Consider the ideas listed in How To Pamper Your Guests.
This series of worksheets and information was originally written by Eleanor Ames, a Certified Family Consumer Sciences professional and a faculty member at Ohio State University for 28 years. With her husband, she ran the Bluemont Bed and Breakfast in Luray, Virginia, until they retired from innkeeping. Many thanks to Eleanor for her gracious permission to reprint them here. Some content has been edited, and links to related features on this site have been added to Eleanor's original text.