Beds, breakfasts, and inns, oh my!
March 28, 2013 11:31 AM   Subscribe

What is it actually like to work at a bed and breakfast or a small inn?

(Boring backstory: I've been grappling for pretty much ever on "what I want to be when I grow up." I always told myself if I hit 25 and I wasn't happy/on a path, I'd go back to school for teaching. WELL, today is my 25th birthday, I've been accepted to a teaching program - buuuut I'm not sure I'm feeling it. And I don't want to go through all that time and money just because I always said I would - when I may not enjoy it and/or not be able to get a job after.)

Long story short, though, I've realized recently that I've might like running/working in a B&B. I'm looking into trying to find one to work at for a while (easier said than done, probably), but in the mean time, I'm looking for anecdata & more on pros, cons, and what it is really like behind the scenes. (And not just from the cheesy Nora Roberts books I've been reading!)

Also: I know you can go to school for hospitality management. I already have a BS in business and a certificate in pastry arts, but I'm happy to go back to school IF it would help. Unfortunately, I don't know that it would. Has anyone been to school for hotel management and has thoughts on it?

Thanks, mefites!
posted by firei to Work & Money (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Thing 1: Happy birthday!

Thing 2: I am not 100% qualified to answer your question, but maybe 80% -- I spent my late twenties and thirties working in (and later running) a series of small hotels and hostels. Without a doubt, best job of my life. You meet fascinating people every day, you get to be the face of your city/town to newcomers, you get to help people with decisions about how to spend their time in an unfamiliar place when they need suggestions and without even trying you will make lifelong friends. The hours can be long, and nobody does it because they are going to get rich from it, but it is satisfying in a way few jobs are. I am still in touch with many of my colleagues from the olden days and most have moved on to other fields, but I hear the phrase "best job I ever had" from quite a few of them when we reminisce about our days behind the front desk.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:58 AM on March 28, 2013

Well, I think if you want to run a B&B, you'd want to own the building. That probably entails a lot of start up cash. (I've been sort of looking into this.) A nice historic 5 or 6 bedroom house in Seattle easily costs $1M. Obviously, if you're not in a major city, you could buy a property for cheaper. With a commercial loan, you probably want 25% down, with extra for closing costs, the first 6 months of payments (when you don't have a steady income stream yet), and money for renovation/licensing/advertising. So you'd probably want at least $300k in cash.

The rest is just calculating how much you need to make enough money to live off of. And if that's worth it.

Keep in mind that if you actually own the B&B, you likely won't be able to travel much, unless you have someone you trust very much to run it for you in your absence. Shutting down your income for a month so you can travel sounds terrifying to me.
posted by ethidda at 12:04 PM on March 28, 2013

My mum ran a b&b from our family home after we'd all moved out. Personally think its a really hard way to make a living. She was in her fifties then so obviously it would be physically easier for you as you're young, but its very tiring. You are up early to do breakfasts, and there is constant stripping of bed sheets, cleaning, shopping etc, and the overheads are high. if you live in the house it's better if you have totally separate quarters. It's difficult when you're sharing your actual living space with strangers. Also as a solo woman you need to be conscious of personal safety with having strangers in your space. There are other inconveniences - getting calls, or callers to the door late at night. As mentioned above it ties you as to when you can travel yourself, especially during main holidays. Then there are guests who will smoke where they're not supposed to, cover the sheets in chocolate body paint, leave bathrooms in questionable states and others.

However!! I know that is a litany of cons, but there are pros. No commute for one! You're your own boss, and there's always satisfaction in that. My mum also had fun making it the best possible stay she could make it, from all the little touches she put in the rooms to giving people lifts to places and making great meals. She's really chatty and loved meeting new people. There are still guests she's in touch with even though they stayed once years ago. Everyone loved it and she took a lot of pride in it. (But I'm still glad she's now retired!)

Good luck whatever you decide to do!
posted by billiebee at 12:30 PM on March 28, 2013

A Table in the Tarn: Living, Eating, Cooking in Rural France is a book by a couple that opened a B&B in rural France. It's part cookbook and part little essays about running the place (even little details like when you have to put the bread in the oven so it's fresh for the evening dinner). Whatever you decide to do, the recipes alone are worth it.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 1:04 PM on March 28, 2013

I worked at an eight-room B&B for a year after graduating high school. It was a wonderful job for me at the time, but I definitely saw the cons as well.

PROS: Like other people say, you meet lots of nice people. And I liked the work I was actually doing - preparing breakfasts, baking, taking reservations, making sure that rooms were ready for check-ins, and light gardening. Once in a while I even made a bed.

CONS: You are constantly surrounded by people on vacation while you are working. You work every weekend. You work really early in the morning (I had to arrive by 6 am to make and serve the breakfast) and sometimes late at night (checking in late arrivals). There is no personal space if you live at the B&B. High start up costs.

Anecdata: Doing the baking, shopping, and gardening was really zen for me. I loved when guests would ask for something special (a picnic basket or a nice bottle of wine) and I would get to choose delicious things for them. But many people are picky - especially the type of people who stay at B&Bs - and others are just jerks, which can be especially hard when you are making your own cooking/ decorating/ hard work/ home available to them. I stopped working at the inn because I moved away, but I have frequently entertained the idea of running a B&B myself.

Many places take on weekend help during their high season, so you might have better luck finding work once the summer comes (depending on where you live). As an aside, you might also enjoy reading this book, which is about working in big hotels, but is very informative and entertaining.
posted by milagu at 3:19 PM on March 28, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the info & reading suggestions, all! Very helpful. :)
posted by firei at 5:49 AM on March 29, 2013

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