Thinking of Becoming an Innkeeper?
Here is some food for thought, in this case, no pun intended. First ask yourself why you want to be an innkeeper. If you think it would be fun, it is. If you think it’ll be an easy retirement job that will make some extra money? Think again. Innkeeping is not only a full time job but a full time commitment. It involves working holidays, weekends and basically all those days that others generally have off. You are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the physical labor at our own Illinois B&B often grueling. Next, you should ask yourself if you are a people person. Do you enjoy entertaining? Are you ok with people touching and looking through your personal items? If so, innkeeping is for you.
Keep in mind that if you believe that starting up a bed and breakfast sounds like a lucrative investment, it isn’t. You will never become rich as an innkeeper. But, you will have wonderful times, be an entrepreneur and be self employed. This comes with a lot of perks and a lot of downfalls, biggest one being the lack of benefits which come with a normal 9 to 5 job. If you are smart, you’ll diversify, as most bed and breakfasts do. Maybe you’ll serve meals, maybe you’ll do cooking classes and you will likely want to sell some retail. All of these will contribute to your bottom line, but not by much. Innkeeping is ultimately a lifestyle choice and one that can be tremendously rewarding.
Before you begin, make sure you have written yourself a very clear and detailed business plan. You should be absolutely certain of your finances. Know what you can afford before you start looking because banks don’t understand innkeeping as an industry and getting a loan is a tremendous challenge. Then, estimate your expenses at about 20% more because even if you purchase an existing property, which you should, you will likely end up with hidden expenses you didn’t anticipate ranging from home improvements to marketing. With regards to getting an existing property, there are pros and cons to that. A newly built facility, whether from the ground up or taking an existing property and building to suit, is great because you can get exactly the amenities and floor plan you want. However, a very serious pitfall often encountered by would be innkeepers is zoning. You cannot apply for zoning to become a bed and breakfast until you own a property and if your request is denied, you are stuck with a property you bought with the intent of turning it into a business and cannot do anything with it. We have known several innkeeper friends who spent months fighting their county boards and thousands in legal fees trying to get their inns zoned properly.
Next thing to consider is location. Where do you want to be in terms of potential business? Keep the following factors in mind. It always helps to be near a major thoroughfare, such as a highway, so that people can reach you easily. Secondly, being near things to do is helpful, for example shopping, outdoor activities, historical sites, wineries. Your guests will want a reason to come see you. Third, having a significant population within a two to three hour drive is a must. If you are more remote than that you will have a tough time drawing an audience. People who frequent inns tend to keep their searches to within a two to three hour drive.