A B&B ‘doctor’ reveals the secrets to running the perfect guesthouse (and yes, the customer IS always right)
- Caroline Nolder runs a highly successful B&B in Bruton, Somerset – Turks Hall
- The #granpreneur saw a gap in the market for a B&B doctor
- Here she talks about the importance of a clean fridge, social media and more
Caroline recently set herself up as ‘the B&B Doctor’ ‘after realising there was no one-stop B&B service online for owners keen to chat about their plans’
The next time you stay in a terrible B&B, perhaps leave the owners a discreet note suggesting they see a doctor – B&B doctor Caroline Nolder, that is.
Caroline runs a highly successful B&B in Bruton, Somerset, called Turks Hall, but recently set herself up as ‘the B&B Doctor’ ‘after realising there was no one-stop B&B service online for owners keen to chat about their plans’.
The self-proclaimed ‘#granpreneur’ (she has six grandchildren) communicates with her clients via Whatsapp and Facetime – but she told MailOnline Travel the secrets to running the perfect lodge over the phone.
First on the agenda? The ‘golden rules’.
‘The guest really is always right,’ says Caroline. ‘I can’t emphasise that enough.
‘Even if they’re being difficult and tedious you have to just accommodate them as much as you can.
‘If someone is very very fed up I do think it’s worth giving them a partial refund. That way, if you do get a bad review you can at least say you’d offered to give some of the monies back.
‘And I think having someone to meet and greet is absolutely essential. We always give guests a cup of tea or a glass of wine when they come. Be flexible up to a point, as one does have a life. If you need to explain to people why you might not be around, everyone is normally very accommodating.
‘Guests are very keen that you’re a person in your own right. They want to know that you’re an interesting person.
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‘Also, make sure the bathroom is spotless and it’s essential that you keep the fridge in the kitchen tidy and the food in-date – sometimes people do check the fridge! You can’t tell them not to.
‘Hypoallergenic bed linen is also a very good idea.’
Using social media is also key, says Caroline – but not too much, and not too little.
She explains: ‘I think a lot of us are just about getting there with social media. My generation haven’t really embraced it, but we are now.
‘I tend to do Instagram photographs of me as a person and if I’m cooking something I’ll say “this is this” and so on. I think Instagram lets people get to know who you are – if they’re interested.
‘If you’re doing Instagram or Twitter you need to do it twice a week, not every day.
‘But if people look on a social media page and there isn’t something for six months, it doesn’t look very professional. So if you’re going to do it, do it regularly.’
The dining room in Caroline’s Turks Hall B&B
AT-A-GLANCE TOP TIPS FOR B&B OWNERS
Three words to describe the ideal B&B
Comfortable, convivial and convenient.
The worst kind of B&B
Dirty, unwelcoming and bad location.
Where do most B&B owners go wrong?
Cobbling together a bad website, wrong location and not doing their homework before they start.
The ‘golden rules’
Always be there to greet your guests, invest in a good website, state house rules clearly on your website and promote on social media. The guest is always right!
Do not be too trusting. Do not have dirty basins and showers or out of date food. Don’t lose your temper.
How should a B&B owner deal with stroppy guests?
Stay calm. Be tactful but firm. Look into their complaint. Do not give them cause to write a bad review.
Are there any free things B&B owners can do to improve their property?
Flowers, iced water in rooms, toiletries and homemade cakes.
Expensive things to improve it
Egyptian cotton sheets, gorgeous curtains and draperies, climate control systems, consider creating a home gym.
Source: The B&B Doctor
A swish website is important, too. And to build the swishest Caroline recommends using Wix.com.
She enthuses: ‘Wix.com is a very good portal for doing websites, which is what I use. People can do it themselves, it costs them very little.
‘Keep it simple and plain. Wix will help you make it clear and concise and they have very good follow up.
‘But there are other portals as well.’
A good website, she emphasises, is a sign of a B&B that cares.
She adds: ‘Bad websites that look old fashioned, people are just not going to bother about. They’ll think if they can’t be bothered with their website, why would they bother with their B&B?
‘I recommend creating a virtual tour of the whole house and see exactly what it’s like before they come.
‘I also have a picture of the kitchen. People really like to see where food is being processed.’
For anyone reading this who might fancy themselves as a B&B owner, Caroline has some words of advice before they dive in – think where your customers are going to come from.
Turks Hall is in Bruton, Somerset
She says: ‘A lot of people think “we’ve got a house, two bedrooms, a bathroom down the corridor, let’s open it up”. They spend money doing it up and might do a bathroom. Then they suddenly think “oh wait, where are the customers coming from?” And I think one of the major things when opening a B&B is to think about where your customers are coming from.
‘If you’re in the middle of nowhere the chances are you’re not going to get enough monies to pay for the things you’ve done to the house.
‘I think it takes three years. I think it’s worth going round to see the other B&Bs in your area and talking to them.
‘Most people I’ve found are incredibly friendly and out there to help each other.
‘Certainly in Somerset. People go out of their way to help each other. When we were in France it was the opposite.
‘The basic question to ask yourself is “do you like people and are you prepared to have them in your house?” It really does impede on family life. You have to be very certain you’re the right person.’
WHAT ANNOYS B&B OWNERS THE MOST?
Caroline says: ‘One thing that gets up the noses of B&B owners is when guests don’t let them know they’re going to be very late. I’ll say to them, when they phone at eight and arrive at one in the morning, “we’re not a hotel, we’re a B&B”. People need to know the difference. Hotels normally have 24-hour service, but B&Bs are normally run by families.’
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