It’s surprising how many of our guests say it’s the first time they’ve ever stayed in a B&B. Nothing like starting at the top and setting the bar high I suppose.
I thought I could offer some advice to anyone else who’s in the same boat and wanted to know what to expect. Here’s my top ten things to note…
B&Bs will be personally run and the owners will usually live on site as it’s their home too. This means you’re not just a room number to them and they will be genuinely interested in you. Your first impression will usually be a good one, with the hosts ensuring you have all the information you need for a great stay. They want you to return one day so they’ll do everything they can to make sure you enjoy your time with them.
Many B&Bs will welcome you with a complimentary drink and sometimes a home baked cake or biscuit too.
At The 25, we’ll open the front door before you get to it, greet you by name, check you in along with a personal tour of your bedroom (currently not possible during Codiv-19), then offer you a complimentary drink (which can be alcohol) served alongside my famous chocolate brownies.
This isn’t going to be a corporate carbon copy of the other 200 bedrooms in the hotel. Each and every B&B bedroom will be different. Of course, just like hotels, rooms vary wildly from budget to luxury. You’d usually expect a little more character to your bedroom along with little personal touches. These can range from home made biscuits to hand made soap, distinctive décor to carefully chosen books and nic nacs.
The 25 has six completely different bedrooms, all with unique, funky décor. Their layouts are all different, two have separate lounges, two have baths, one has a dressing room.
Again, it depends on your price range but even the cheapest B&B will usually have a better offering than its budget hotel counterparts that don’t even provide tea trays in the rooms. At the 5 star end, the extras can be similar or even better than your top London hotels charging thousands a night.
At The 25 you’re going to find a whole host of extras from fluffy bathrobes and slippers to air conditioning, lip balm to pillow mist, daily home made treats, fresh milk and a range of around 20 different drinks on the tea tray. There’s a box of items you may have forgotten to pack, reed sticks, flannels, cotton buds and tissues. You have glasses, chocolates and biscuits, a Nespresso coffee maker, shoe horn and clothes brush. Basically, anything you could possibly want or need during your stay is already provided for your convenience in the room. We even have a sachet of sun cream in case you weren’t expecting it to be sunny!
This is where a bed and breakfast can really come into its own. Proprietors are often ex-chefs or worked in catering before. They will be dealing with much smaller numbers for breakfast so your food will usually be cooked to order. You’re unlikely to find the nasty hot breakfast buffet with luke warm food you have to help yourselves to. Here at The 25, your food will be piping hot and the fried egg still sizzling from the pan (with the white properly cooked and the yolk still soft). A B&B will care what food it serves, over and above profit so you’re much more likely to be served locally sourced food. Our meat comes from the butcher based in the next road, and the sausages are made from Devon reared pigs. Our eggs come from happy hens clucking around fields whilst enjoying views of the mid-Devon countryside.
You’ll often find more choice on a B&B menu too. You could easily stay a week and experience a different hot choice each day including Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royale, the “Banner-Price Beans” or Scrambled eggs & Smoked salmon using Julian’s family recipe.
I haven’t even had chance to mention the buffet on the sideboard yet. Again, we offer enough to rival most hotels but it’s a much nicer selection. You’d have to be paying a pretty penny in a hotel to have a choice which includes so many homemade items like granola, yogurts and smoothies. Each B&B will have its own specialties and whilst the range will vary depending on the price you’re paying, I’d expect you to enjoy most B&B breakfasts more than you would in a hotel.
It’s the non-food side that is important too though. You’re not going to come down to a B&B for breakfast finding the noise deafening from a hundred people all in the room at once. You’re not going to be forced to sit at a table recently vacated by someone else, still with dirty crockery and toast crumbs on it. You’re going to get a friendly owner greeting you who asks about your evening and if you slept well. Someone who wants to know what your plans are for the day ahead and offers advice like the best place to park or the most scenic route or a great café nearby for a spot of lunch.
When it comes to leaving, your hosts at a B&B will be genuinely interested in if you’ve had a great time and any feedback you have. They will want you to return. At a hotel, you’ll often just sling a blank key card over the counter and wave goodbye to a receptionist who never knew your name, you’ve never seen before and doesn’t really care if you ever come back or not.
At The 25, we’ll settle your balance whilst having a chat about your stay. Sometimes we spend far too long chatting or perhaps it’s the fact that our guests just can’t bring themselves to leave. We send them on their way with a “goody bag” for the journey home and hope that they will soon be looking at dates for their next trip to the English Riviera.
6. Hotel services
One big difference between a hotel and a B&B is what I’m calling “hotel services”. What I mean by this is that you’re a lot less likely to find a swimming pool, and highly unlikely to find a lift, a concierge, 24 hour reception, room service or laundry services. They may not be licensed so can’t provide alcohol and won’t normally have a gym or provide evening meals in a restaurant. If you want these things, then it’s usually best to book a hotel.
As a B&B is usually a much smaller property, you will probably have to walk up the stairs to your room but it’s unlikely to be any more than two sets, and the owners would usually offer to help with your bags. Rather than a rowdy bar, we have an honesty bar so if you fancy a cold beer in the sun on the terrace or a glass of wine in the drawing room whilst waiting for your taxi then you can. We offer the services of a concierge on a less formal basis and can direct you to a launderette who do service washes if you’ve been travelling for weeks and need some washing done. Instead of the gym, why not go for a jog along the promenade? And as we live on site, we’re usually close by if you need us in an emergency, day or night.
Your B&B hosts will be familiar with the area you are visiting and will have more of a vested interest in you having a great time as they’ll want you to come back. They’ll know the best place to park, the best restaurants, the sandiest beaches, the best place to buy a particular item, the nearest chemist, the most scenic route to walk to a local attraction or the best place for afternoon tea. The list is endless of things you might want to know and they will have the answer. Think of your hosts as your own personlised Google.
You’re not going to find room after room a mirror image of the first in a B&B. Each bedroom and B&B will be different. Every aspect will be individual to the hosts from breakfast to bed linen, wall paper to toiletries.
You may like the reassurance of a carbon copy chain hotel in every major city in the country but it’s not exactly exciting is it? Yes, you may need to do a little more research as you won’t be as familiar with the bed and breakfast you’re looking to book as you might be with a Premier Inn or a Hilton but check out their website, Facebook and Trip Advisor reviews and you’ll have everything you need to make an informed decision and could end up having a much better experience than in a hotel.
At the end of the day, the bed and breakfast owners can’t afford to let you leave without having a great time. They will be personally affected financially if you leave a poor review for them. They need you to spread the word and go back to work raving about your stay with them. And they care – it’s not just a job for them. They chose to open up their home to complete strangers. They like people, they like chatting, they like getting to know people, they like making people happy and creating memories. If you’re wanting to be anonymous and stay somewhere for two nights without contact with anyone else then a B&B is not for you. If you want to be treated well and feel special, go to a B&B.
Talking of personal, it’s also worth pointing out that often the B&B host is also the cleaner, the breakfast chef, the waiter and the maintenance person. They will often have no staff.
10. Book direct
There are lots of on line booking sites out there. The likes of Booking.com, Expedia and so on are purely middle men. They hijack the names of B&Bs and pay to put their advert above the B&B’s own website. They entice guests to book via them, then charge the B&B an exorbitant amount of commission for the booking to be passed on.
By all means, use these sites as a search engine function to find out what’s about and who has rooms available for your dates, but then find their own website and book direct. To circumvent the high commissions, B&Bs will usually offer a better rate. If you book direct with us, you can get our VIP rate saving an extra 5% on our room rate (making it a total of 13% cheaper than third party sites as we add 8% to the prices they advertise). In addition, you’ll get a complimentary minibar, earlier check in and later check out.
Have I persuaded you to book a B&B next time? Email me and let me know.
If you’d like to visit our B&B, book on our website at www.the25.uk