How to Cook a Perfect Poached Egg

a weekly digest (1)

Many people are scared of making poached eggs ( including B&B owners ) and rightly so in my opinion! They are the type of egg most likely to go wrong. There can be nothing worse, when you have a full English or Avocado Toast all ready to go, you pop your egg into poach & it goes terribly wrong.

There are, of course, egg poachers & pods & cling film methods. But I find most guests like to see a poached egg made in water with the egg white perfectly enclosing a runny yolk. So here’s my method. I’d like to call it foolproof but that would be telling porkies. It does, however, have a high probability of working out ok…..
First, choose your chicken. Your poached egg will work much better if you choose an egg from a young hen. As the hen gets older I find their eggs don’t quite work so well. If you don’t have your own chickens in the garden make sure you buy nice fresh free range eggs.

The eggs do need to be as fresh as possible. I try only to make poached eggs with eggs that are a few days old. The older the egg, the thinner the white and the more chance that they’ll spread & disperse in the pan. I always use room temperature eggs but I know other people swear by cold eggs……my blog, my recipe :0)

Now you need to take a small pan and fill with water. Add a good slug of vinegar. I’ve seen some chefs using white wine vinegar but I just use ordinary white distilled vinegar. Don’t worry the egg won’t taste of vinegar

File_000 (8)

The water needs to be at a fast simmer, so lots of bubbles on the top but not boiling. Break the egg into a small bowl. Stir the water so it’s swirling. Don’t go mad here or you could just find the egg being dispersed around the pan. Slip the egg quickly into the water and cross your fingers. Hopefully you’ll get a lovely shaped egg. Simmer for about 3 mins 45 seconds. This will give you just set egg white & a runny yolk.

The trick I use to take the stress out of poached eggs is to pre cook them before I start on the rest of the breakfasts. Take a bowl & fill with water & lots of ice. As soon as your egg is ready plunge it into the iced water. This means you can prepare all eggs up front then, when the rest of your breakfast is ready, just reheat for a minute in boiling water. Use a slotted spoon to take the egg out, rest on kitchen towel to absorb the water then serve.


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Top 10 Tips For Creating A Bathroom You Can Clean in 5 Minutes

Top 10 tips for creating a bathroom you can clean in 5 minutes - cleaning tips - B&B training

Just before Christmas, my husband, Rob, announced he was planning to redo our own personal bathroom again. We’ve lived in the house for 13 years and have redone the bathroom twice but neither refurb was particularly successful in terms of use of space or finish.

This time, however, we were determined to get it perfect. After 13 years of running a B&B I also had one very clear goal in mind and that was to create a bathroom that was as quick and easy as possible to clean.

I’ve included a few hints and tips from previous course attendees on their own bathroom design at the end of this post.

Tip 1 – Deciding on a Design

Tiled Wet Room Bathroom with shower - How to design a B&B bathroom - Bed and Breakfast Courses

Rob and I are not experts in interior design and it’s not something either of us enjoy doing. I know, for some people setting up a B&B, that is the aspect they enjoy the most, but not us!

In previous years when we’ve needed to do decorate our home or the B&B  we’ve bought home magazines (at great cost), perused them for hours, cut photos out and stuck them on a mood board. But this time we had Pinterest.

For those of you who don’t already have a Pinterest addiction, Pinterest is a social network that allows you to share and find new visual ideas by “pinning” web links with images to “boards”, which are usually a collection of ideas with a common theme; basically an online mood board.

So I created a board for Bathrooms on Pinterest, invited Rob to join as a collaborator (which means he could pin ideas to the same board ) and searched Pinterest for “Bathroom”, “wet Rooms” etc. Once you’ve started pinning ideas, Pinterest will start recommending pins to you as well. You can also search the general internet and, provided the websites you’re looking at are Pinterest friendly, you can pin links to Pinterest.

Whilst we doing this we kept the board secret. This is great if you don’t want anyone else to know what you’re up to. But I’ve made our Bathrooms Pinterest board here  so you can get an idea of what we were doing.

Tip 2 – Invest in a Wet Room

My number one requirement for making the bathroom easy to clean was to have absolutely the minimum amount of glass possible. We’re in a very hard water area and shower screens, chrome etc. need daily cleaning in the B&B rooms. This meant we needed a wet room.

The first problem we had was that our bathroom is upstairs and people will quite often tell you it’s unwise to have a wet room that isn’t on the ground floor. However technology has moved on ( try doing a google search on wet rooms ) and my husband assured me we could put our wet room on the first floor.

It was a bit nerve wracking, when we first started using the shower, waiting for water to come pouring through the ceiling of our lounge but it appears to have all worked well.

Tip 3 – Choose a floor and wall covering which doesn’t show lime scale

We decided we wanted to completely tile the bathroom. We have had wood panelling in bathrooms before, which has got mouldy or needed attention, so we were going for the completely tiled look.

We ended up with a matte limestone tile with veins of white in it, which means any lime scale that did settle could do so without being noticed until the next clean! A small mosaic tile was laid over where the shower tray would sit. This creates a nice design effect and also is less slippy that normal tiles.

Tip 4 – Install heating solutions that will quickly dry the room and keep you a warm

Having spent a whole winter with an unheated bathroom, having a warm bathroom was quite high on my list, so we put in underfloor heating on a timer. This heats the bathroom, but, more importantly, quickly dries the floor ready for cleaning. This allows me to run a vacuum over the floor to get rid of any hairs ( sorry to be indelicate but you’ll soon learn that running a B&B involves a lot of dealing with strangers’ hairs and not being squeamish about it). I can then quickly mop the floor.

We’ve also put a heated towel rail in, that means we aren’t left with wet towels in the Summer when the central heating is turned off. The clever trick here was to put the electric towel rail on a timer so it comes on everyday for a few hours. Wet Room Toilet and Heated Towel Rail - Bed and Breakfast Academy - B&B Courses

One of my problems in the B&B guest rooms in the summer is that the heated towel rails are manual so need to be turned on and off. If I put the towel rail to dry off towels that guests have hung back on the rail, I usually forget to turn it off again or guests return before I have a chance. The outcome is a heated room in the heat of summer and a high electricity bill.

Tip 5 – Choose simple easy to clean sanitary ware

The loo and basin were chosen for their minimal surface area with no nooks and crannies and hence easy cleaning.

For a loo brush I use a Toilet Duck Cleaning System. These consist of a plastic handle to which you attach a disposable pad. I much prefer them to toilet brushes. They’re septic tank friendly but shouldn’t be used with macerator type loos.

Tip 6 – Decide what’s essential and what will just need extra cleaning

Those people who know me well  will be very surprised to see our main bathroom now has no bath. I love my baths and, in the colder months, can quite happily wallow for a couple of hours with a good book. Indeed if I’m going away for a holiday, I wouldn’t stay somewhere without a bath.

However, in this case, the bathroom was a bit too small for bath ( we’ve tried to fit them in previous refurbishments and it’s just not worked plus they need cleaning! ) We also have plenty of other baths in the house.

If you’re thinking about whether you need to put a bath in, I’d say about 25% of my guests make use of the lovely baths in our B&B guest rooms whilst it’s very rare for the shower to go unused. However we don’t take children and our clientele tend not to be here for strenuous sports such as biking or long distance walks. These groups may have different bathing requirements!

If you are putting baths in your B&B, make sure there are grab rails available for people to get in and out. Even as relatively fit and flexible fiftyish something I like to have the security of grab rail when I’m getting into a slippery bath.

Tip 7 – Make sure there’s enough storage space

One bugbear of guests visiting B&Bs is not having enough storage space to put their toiletries. To this end, in our own bathroom, we have a couple of glass shelves, one next to the shower for shower gel etc. and the other next to sink for tooth brushes and toothpaste, chargers etc.

Next to the shower is a hook for hanging shower scrubbies or sponges.

We’ve also put in a table with a drawer for storing extra bits and pieces, along with a towel rack for additional towels. In my own B&B I supply 2 bath sheets, 2 bath towels, 2 face cloths, 2 bath mats and a hand towel, as well as bathrobes and slippers.

Tip 8 – Install window coverings that need minimum cleaning

I’ve been showering in our bathroom with no window covering for a few months now. I’m fairly sure no one can see in past the houseplant I’ve put on the window sill, but having naked windows is  probably not something guests will appreciate. In one of our guest bathrooms I used to have a muslin curtain, which one guest got very unhappy about because he thought people could see him peeing in the night.

Any window covering needs to be opaque and waterproof. I happen to like the sunshine pouring in in the morning, so we’ve ordered a café style shutter, that we can leave open at the top. In terms of cleaning, this isn’t great because shutters need daily dusting in the countryside, but I love the look of shutters so much it was my one compromise.

My friend, Birgit Jones, who runs a couple of self catering properties ( see below ) has suggested having no blinds etc. but instead having an opaque surface on the window itself.

Tip 9 – Invest in a few luxurious extras that make

One thing that can be quite frustrating in a bathroom is the mirror getting misted up and also poor lighting. To solve this we have installed a heated mirror with integral lighting in our bathroom. The one issue with this in a B&B bathroom is that it’s not immediately obvious how to turn it on ( you wave your hand under the bottom of the mirror to turn on the light )

If you have any bathroom equipment that isn’t very simple to use – think taps, showers etc. make sure full instructions are provided to your guests. We had a shower pulled off the wall once by a guest who thought you turned the tap towards you rather than rotating it clockwise.

Basin and heated Mirror in Wet room - B&B Academy - Bed and Breakfast TrainingMany guests also comment favourably on the lighted magnifying make up mirrors we provide.

In a B&B, guests appreciate a forget me not box, containing items they might have forgotten to pack; lady’s sanitary products, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, deodorant, comb, razor, shaving gel, mending kit, scissors, shower caps etc. I provide these free at my B&B but some B&B owners charge for these or ask for a charity donation.

And finally my husband put a Sonos speaker into the bathroom so we can listen to music or the radio when we’re getting ready in the morning; totally unnecessary but a bit of fun. This may not be something you want to do for guests. In the 13 years of running a B&B the changes in technology have been quite amazing. So if you do put any technology in, make sure you plan to replace it and to supply instructions for guests.

Tip 10 – Use cleaning products and gadgets that make your life easier

Investing in the right cleaning products and appliances will definitely make your life easier and cleaning the bathroom quicker.

I prefer to use distilled white malt vinegar to clean with. It quickly gets rid of lime scale and is cheap and environmentally friendly. I just buy the vinegar in bulk and put it into a spray bottle.

For a more intensive clean Clare Wright of The Schoolhouse B&B in Shropshire says

“My top tip – having showers with lots of glass and chrome there’s one product I couldn’t live without (though I’m sure other products are available….). It’s called White Rock and I use it about once a month on each shower, chrome and glass, and it comes up like new again. I think it’s only available mail order but I got a small tub and it hasn’t run out in year 1 yet”

For cleaning cloths I buy microfiber cloths that are designed for cleaning cars. They’re much larger than normal cloths and make it quicker to clean that using a smaller cloth. I then polish with a smooth cloth.

Kate Moyce of Morwendon house ( see below ) has a great tip for using old towels.


As a B&B you’re required by law to make reasonable adjustments to allow guests with disabilities access to your B&B. When considering what is reasonable you need to take into account both your budget and the layout of your B&B.

Bear in mind that not all disabled guests are in wheel chairs. As an example, you may have a guest staying who has severe arthritis in their hands so turning an old fashioned tap might be problematic but using a lever tap would be ok.

So before you start your bathroom design ( or indeed the design for all of your B&B ), make sure you’ve understood what design features you can incorporate into your bathroom to make is as accessible as possible within the constraints of your budget and layout of your building

VisitBritain has free accessibility guides available here

Some more bathroom design advice from my friends!

My friend Birgit who runs self catering cottages Hop Barn and Applegarth in Shropshire recommends

“We’ve used high end Mermaid wall panels in the bath/shower areas and so have eliminated grotty grout completely. Very easy to keep clean. I always leave cleaning materials in the bathroom – some guests do like to use it. Try to put a decent sized shelf or table if space allows for people’s wash kit bags etc. I always find it so irritating when there’s no where to put anything. And more than one option for hanging damp towels, a) do they can air better and b) less chance of mixing up whose towel is whose.”

Some more tips on bathrooms from previous course attendees

Bea Hyde of Hammonds Farm B&B, in the Cotswolds says

“We went for sand coloured marble tiles, which are matt, so don’t show any water marks. Avoided as much glass as possible. Showers with additional hand-held heads which allow easy rinsing of bathroom. Mirrors, with built in lights/shaver sockets and demisters.”

Kate Moyce of Morwendon Guest House in Barmouth Wales  recommends

“A tip….I cut up my old towels when they are no longer good enough for guests to use for bathroom cleaning…they are brilliant for cleaning bathroom ceramics and tiles….leave everything really shiny”

Fiona Potts of Gwaenynog Farmhouse B&B, Campsite and Wedding Venue

“Avoid corner showers at all costs… space dictated to us that we had to have corner showers, but I wish we hadn’t. The grooves and runners are the biggest pain in the butt to clean… Wish we’d had single opening doors. As and when we need to change, we’ll do that rather than the sliding doors “


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Welcoming Assistance Dogs At Your B&B

On my courses I cover the Equality Act of 2010. One of the many areas covered by the act is how we, as B&B owners, treat guests with disabilities.

One aspect of the Equality Act 2010 is, that as a B&B, you must accept assistance dogs, even if you have a no dog policy. There’s a great leaflet provided by the Guide Dog Association which gives advice to B&Bs on accepting assistance dogs ( see the link at the bottom of the blog ).

But what I wanted to know was how B&Bs could really make assistance dogs and their owners feel as welcome as possible. Making people feel welcome is, after all, what we’re all about as B&B owners!

I’ve recently “virtually met” a new Twitter friend, Karl Denning. Karl and I are both from the Black Country so immediately found common ground to chat! Karl lost all of his useful vision in a work accident in 2009 and is now owner of Guide Dog, Quasia.

Karl very kindly agreed to write a post for this blog.  At the end of Karl’s post I’ve included a link to the Guide Dog Association’s leaflet for B&Bs and hotels, providing information about accepting Guide Dogs at your B&B.

My name is Karl.  I am a Guide Dog owner (still think of it has more of a partnership). I had an accident at work in the winter of 2009 that took all my useful vision. I got partnered up with my first Guide Dog Quasia 1 year later. She transformed not only my life but that of my family.
My youngest daughter was 6 months old when my sight went. As a family we have had several refusals that have resulted in me missing out on 2 of my daughter’s birthdays. As a family we are really keen to let people know how great a Guide Dog partnership is, not only for us, but how business can gain market place by being more accessible for the disabled.
I have a blog you can find it at:-
So why make it easy for an assistance dog (guide dogs being just 1 type) and owner to stay in your B&B?
Besides it being a requirement of the Equalities Act 2010,  Assistance dogs give a normality of life to their owners that their disability has already tried to remove. So letting someone else’s dog into your home & business may seem an inconvenience, but to an assistance dog owner it can be a massive deal, one that can pay back in repeat business and recommendations.
How can you make things easier for an assistance dog owner? The first thing I would say is ask if there is anything they need, each person is different and has different needs, the same can be said of their dog.
Have somewhere where the dog can go and spend (toilet), most guide dogs are trained to spend on a hard surface, but again not all are. Next make sure there is a bin for the waste. Ask if you can show the owner the place you have planned to use.
Try and make the route in and out has clutter free as possible and as easy to enter/leave as possible. This might sound like a lot of fuss but Assistance dog owner are members of an ever growing group of people, not all are dog owners, but all love that a place gives good service to an assistance dog and their owner.
Mostly use common sense, ask if you can fuss their dog, never offer treats or your food to the dog. The bond of an assistance dog and owner is one of love respect but also that the owner is connected by feeding their dog. Most assistance dogs cost the charity that supplies them an awful lot of money and you’d not want to be the personal that ruined part of their training by being too kind or trying to feed the dog.
The main thing I would recommend is to always ask, be honest with the owner if you have never had an assistance dog stay before. Most importantly be proud that you have helped an assistance dog continue with their amazing work.


Thanks again to Karl ad here’s the link to the Guide Dog Association Information


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Setting Up a B&B – Update From Bridget Green of the Old Kiln House in Shipston-On-Stour

Bridget attended the Two Day Course in 2013. She has very kindly written an update on how she is getting on to share her experience with potential B&B owners. If you scroll through to the bottom, you’ll also find some before and after pictures showing what a tremendous job she has done in transforming the house into a fabulous B&B.

Setting Up a B&B – Update From A Past Course Attendee – The Old Kiln House

I attended Bed and Breakfast Academy in 2013 and went on to open The Old Kiln House Luxury B&B in Shipston-On-Stour in July 2014.

Although I was fortunate enough to also be aided by advice from a good friend who has a successful Luxury B&B, I can honestly say that Karen and Bed and Breakfast Academy helped me enormously.

I had originally looked at purchasing an existing B&B and viewed a few of which were on the market. The most promising one which I saw was on the edge of Dartmouth Moor but was eventually advised against this one on the basis that it was too remote. None of the others felt right to me.

I then started searching for a suitable property within a radius of 10 miles of Broadway, the famous, tourist Cotswolds town. Broadway is surrounded by beautiful countryside, charming towns and many great tourist attractions. There are a steady stream of tourists all through the year originating from the UK as well as all around the world. This was important to me as I did not want a purely seasonal business.

The search was quite difficult because, in my opinion, the perfect B&B house is quite different from the perfect home. I was looking for a house whose layout leant itself to the B&B section being separate from our personal area. There were other important criteria that many houses did not meet e.g. adequate parking for guests, close to restaurants etc etc.

Eventually I saw a house in Shipston-On-Stour which was just outside our budget but which had the almost perfect layout for a great B&B. It had a separate staircase for the guest bedrooms meaning that our side of the house was totally private.  The house also had masses of character and the location was good as Shipston-On-Stour is a working market town with many independent businesses, restaurants and pubs. It is a busy place with lots going on and great new businesses opening quite often. It is also near to Stratford-upon-Avon and many of the beautiful Cotswold villages and towns.

The house is a complex, 18th century town house comprised of three sections built at separate times and a beautiful a courtyard garden. It had the feeling of being totally isolated even though it is in the centre of town. When we viewed the house it was in poor condition with many of the recently added features being substandard. I wanted a project and boy did I get one!

After a difficult negotiation, the place was ours and we started renovating in 2013/14. We had to make extensive improvements to all guest rooms, shared areas and the kitchen. We also had to install a totally new hot and cold water system and upgrade all en-suites in order to bring them up to a level which we felt was luxurious enough.

My experience of the B&B business

I love the B&B business. It is hard work and needs constant attention to keep it up to a high standard but we are fortunate to have, without exception, lovely guests. The guests enjoy the property so much that this in itself is a really good reward as well as being recognised through exceptional reviews on Trip Advisor and ( reviews can only be completed by persons who have actually stayed with you and booked through unlike some other websites).

Desirable characteristics for B&B host

I believe that the most important quality a B&B host needs is that you must like people and interacting with people. Do not get into this business unless you are willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and be willing to really look after your guests.

Secondly, busy B&Bs are a lot of work. Even if you are hiring staff, I believe that it is important to have good attention to detail and this can only be achieved if you do a fair amount of work or supervision yourself.

You will HAVE to be at ease with loading and unloading the dishwasher multiple times a day!!

Unless you hire staff in, you will also have to enjoy cleaning. Four in a Bed shows a lot of contestants trying to win by looking down the plughole or under the mattress so be prepared for your guests to hold you to the same high standards.

I believe that the key to a successful B&B is the belief that you absolutely cannot rest on your laurels. Your business is almost only as good as your last reviews.

Setting up from scratch

As mentioned we did look at an existing B&B but decided on starting up from scratch. I do believe that buying the right B&B is a good option for some people however it is heavily dependent on past reputation. The power of review sites especially TripAdvisor is obviously very strong.

Following on from the  post on Karen’s blog, we decided to not go down the rating route with the AA or visit England. We believe that the market is changing so quickly and that the size and efficiency of some players make official ratings less relevant.

We signed up to and have found them to be exceptional. Through them we achieved 75% occupancy in only our second month. I am aware that some people have a problem with them and other large companies but for me they have been wonderful.

However one of the keys to our success so far is overinvesting in our website. We were very fortunate to find an exceptional web design agency Riley and Thomas who fully understood the B&B business as well as how important an optimised website is. It also really helped that one of the partners used to own a B&B.

In summary, B&B is a great way to live and earn a living and offers a wonderful lifestyle but it can be hard work.


Some before and after photos

Avalon Room Before

avalon before

Avalon Room After

avalon after

Salisbury Room Before

salisbury before

Salisbury Room After

salisbury after

Salisbury En-Suite Before

salisbury ensuite before

The Salisbury En-Suite After

salisbury ensuite after

Westminster Room Before

westminster room before

Westminster Room After

westminster after

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Primetime TV documentary looking for people about to change their lives

I’ve been contacted by TV production company, Pi Productions, who are looking for people who are about to relocate for a major lifestyle and career change.

The details are below. Please contact Pi Productions directly if you are interested.

Pi Productions is casting for a brand new documentary series for a national broadcaster that follows people as they relocate for a major lifestyle and career change.

We are looking for families or couples who are planning to ditch the 9 to 5 to pursue a career in something they are passionate about. You could be relocating to the seaside to run a B&B, moving to the countryside to take the reins of a pub or guesthouse, or you could be setting up a holiday park or campsite in a popular tourist hotspot. We want to showcase the amazing lifestyle business opportunities out there and show what it takes to make a new business a success.  

We are keen to feature positive and aspirational stories. This is a brilliant opportunity for “life changers” to feature themselves and their new venture on a prime time documentary, and inspire other people in the process. 

Running a bed and breakfast or boutique hotel is hugely aspirational and UK “staycations” are increasingly popular. We’d love to capture that and feature a leisure or hospitality story in our new series to showcase some of the great places to stay around the country. 

We are looking for people who are embarking on their journey this Spring or Summer. 

If this sounds like you, or if you would like to recommend someone you know, then we’d love to hear from you. 

Interested parties can email the casting team on or give us a call on 0203 761 4522. There is no pressure to take part at the initial enquiry stage. 

Pi Productions is a TV company run by John Silver, who created Grand Designs and reinvented MasterChef. Please have a look at our website for more information about us: You can also follow us on Twitter: @PiProdCasting.  

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Two TV Companies Looking For Prospective B&Bers

I’ve been contacted by a couple of TV production companies who are looking to help / follow potential B&Bers.

Ricochet who are making a new programme for Channel 5 provisionally called “To B&B the Best” and Twofour who are looking to create a Grand Designs type of programme based on B&Bs.

The details are below. Please contact the companies direct if you’re interested.

“As discussed on the phone I’m a  Researcher at TV Production Company Ricochet, the makers of Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped, Channel 5’s Cowboy Builders and Bodge jobs and BBC’s Family Finders and Michel Roux’s Service.  We are making a new a 35-part series for Channel 5 daytime To B&B The Best (provisional working title)   about homeowners who are hoping to make some cash from their spare rooms. In each episode, our award-winning B&B expert will visit a different homeowner who has either just started or is about to start opening up their own home to paying guests.  With her characteristic no-nonsense approach and years of experience, she’ll take a good look around their house and what they’re planning to do, and give them advice, guidance and some help with makeover to help them be the best they can be. 

Applications can be received at or through 01273224829. I have attached a leaflet with this information.”

The 2nd request is from Twofour

My name’s Kat, I’m a researcher at Twofour, a television production company based in the UK  –

“The series will be focusing on individuals who are undergoing renovation work on what will become future accommodation. This will range from boutique hotels, B&B and guest houses to larger, more ambitious projects. We will follow the journeys of these projects, from renovation to opening –  in a similar vein to UK Channel 4 series Grand Designs. 

We are looking for couples & families who are renovating/refurbishing a property to become a new hotel/guest house/B&B etc. I wondered if you are aware of anyone  that is about to or currently undertaking a project for the first time, either in the UK or Europe? We are interested in people who are no more than 50% of the way through their project, planning to open as a functional premises by the Summer 2016. The focus will be on individual stories to follow, rather than big named chains. Kind

Kat Healy

Researcher | Twofour Broadcast

T: 01752 727643



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Running a B&B – 4 Tips for an Easier Breakfast Service

Running a B&B - 4 Tips For An Easier Breakfast ServiceUnless you offer guests an evening meal, breakfast is probably the only meal that guests will experience at your B&B and the promise of a well cooked Full English is one of the reasons people choose a B&B over a hotel.

Whilst business guests may well be happy with the buffet or a bowl of porridge, my experience is that the majority of my guests, here for a relaxing few days away, want a big cooked breakfast.

banana muffins

I love to cook and I like to offer a bit more than just  the normal full English breakfast. And I find that over 50% of my guests will choose one of the breakfast specials I offer.

So come and stay at Hopton House and you can choose from any variation of the full English, with homemade cheese and herb sausages or halloumi for the non meat eaters, blueberry or cinnamon apple buttermilk pancakes, herby mushrooms with poached eggs, eggs benedict or eggs royale or omelette with a choice of fillings.

If my guests are vegetarian or have special dietary requirements I’ll provide a few extra specials.

On the side table you’ll find homemade bread, freshly squeezed orange juice, Bircher muesli, fruit, yoghurt and some sort of baked goods.

The problem with providing this amount of choice is the logistics of preparing all this food and having it ready by 8.30 ( I serve breakfast between 8.30 & 10 ) without having to get up at 5am every day!

So I have a few shortcuts for making life a bit easier

1. Make Your Own “Packet” Pancake Mix

Rather than having to weigh out flour, sugar, baking powder and raising agents each time someone orders pancakes, I make up a big batch of the dry pancake mix and store it in a big kilner jar. Then for each person wanting pancakes I scoop out half a cup of the dry mix and combine it with buttermilk, egg, vanilla essence and melted butter. For the full recipe – click here.


2.Prepare & Freeze Your Scone Mix

I always like to put some kind of baked goods on the buffet table. But I find that they quite often don’t get eaten – this can be a bit disheartening when you’ve spent some of your valuable breakfast preparation time baking. The exception is scones – I’ve found that there’s a good chance that these will get eaten.

Scones are great for the B&B owner in the morning. You can keep the base recipe the same but vary them daily. Think plain, cinnamon raisin, blueberry, apple, almond, lemon zest, dried cranberry, ginger…

The problem with scones is that I think they really need to be eaten warm out of the oven. They’re not something that will sit around or taste good the next day or out of the freezer. But what do you do if you only have a few guests in? It can be tricky preparing scones for just 2 people.

On a course last month one of the participants shared this great tip from her brother who runs a café on Cape Cod. Make up a big batch of  scone mix;weigh out flour, sugar, baking powder, lime zest ( if you’re using ) and rub in the butter. Store this in the freezer, then when you ready to cook, scoop out about 50g of mix per person and mix with buttermilk and egg until you get a soft but not sticky dough.

My favourite breakfast scone recipe is Lime and Blueberry – click here for the recipe


3. Pre Poach Your Eggs

If you struggle with cooking poached eggs ( and even the most seasoned of B&B owners can struggle to create the perfect poach egg occasionally – I speak from personal experience ), the last thing you need when you have 6 cooked breakfasts to get  out at the same time, is for them to be going wrong.

One way to reduce the stress at dishing up time it to pre poach the eggs when you’re doing your breakfast prep. I poach mine in fast simmering water ( with a good slosh of vinegar ) for about 3.5 minutes, then plunge into iced water. You then just reheat for 1 min in fast simmering water. This also has the advantage of removing all taste of vinegar.


4. Taking the Stress out of Hollandaise

Eggs Benedict is probably ordered more than any other breakfast special here at Hopton House. However I have been reduced to tears by hollandaise in the past. I certainly don’t want to be preparing last minute hollandaise at the same time as cooking and dishing up 5 other breakfasts.

One method recommended by cookbooks for keeping hollandaise warm is to hold it in a bowl over simmering water. I’ve never managed to do this without ending up with a mess that resembles scrambled eggs.

So a tip handed to me by a B&B owner in the states is to use a small thermos flask to keep the sauce in. I have a small aluminium flask from Lakeland. I preheat it with some boiling water, pour out the water, then pour the sauce into the warmed flask up to an hour before serving.

Whilst my method for making hollandaise in a blender is almost foolproof, I do find it can be a little messy. As you pour in the lemon juice & vinegar, then melted butter it splatters all over the kitchen and me. If you use a small funnel in the hole of the lid of the blender this reduces the splatter and also helps you create that thin steady stream of liquid you need.

My hollandaise recipe is here

eggs benedict

If anyone else has any tips for making breakfast service easier please do comment and share them with us all.



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Setting Up a B&B – Update From A Past Course Attendee

I’ve been running the training courses for over 9 years now- I can’t quite believe how time flies. And in that time I’ve met lots of prospective B&B owners ( over 100 course attendees this year alone ). Many of whom have gone on to set up very successful B&Bs of their own.

I recently asked for past course attendees for an update. Michael of Barn and Beach in Norfolk has kindly shared his thoughts of what has gone well with his business and, with hindsight, what he might have done differently.

Michael set his B&B up from scratch and tells us why he feels this was a good thing for him.

On every course we have the “communal versus individual tables at breakfast” discussion. It’s interesting to see Michael’s perspective on this and how he changed his business model.

Please let us have your comments and, if you already own a B&B, what would you do differently if you got the opportunity to start all over?

Dear Karen,

As you are aware I attended your training course prior to setting up my business Barn & Beach

The business is three stranded consisting of;

  • Holiday Cottage Lettings & management
  • Housekeeping of the Cottages
  • Bed & Breakfast at Meadowside Barn.

Meadowside Barn is a converted agricultural Barn set in Norfolk countryside and close to the beach.

I originally had two rooms to let at the Barn with guests sharing a communal table in the open plan kitchen.

I quickly found that it wasn’t a comfortable situation putting people who didn’t know each other in the same space so I adjusted the plan to only let one room with guests being treated more as house guest getting undivided attention.

The pros of the B&B are mostly social for me, living and operating a holiday business in a rural location can be a very isolated existence. The B&B means I have frequent visitors from towns and cities who have generally lots to share and as they have one-one attention I find most open up and conversations are interesting.

The rural location means visitors have to want to come, there is no passing traffic or business travellers (I also only take pre-booked visitors a tip picked up at Hopton House) I tend to find this lends itself to a more discerning visitor.

The Barn had not been lived in before so I started with a blank canvas; this was good for me as I didn’t have to compete with a previously loved owner or conversely a dreadful operator/reputation.

Being small means little economies of scale so suppliers are harder to negotiate with and can fail to meet expectations from time to time.

Also the size and turnover means I’m generally a one-man band this can be challenging so it is important to learn to take breaks/holidays and learn to live with enough rather than pursuing the maximum turnover.

I think if I changed my business in the future I would aim for a larger B&B established or new wouldn’t phase now as long as I knew it could deliver in terms of occupancy.

I would like to eventually have this type of operation instead of operating Holiday Cottages too as I have to spread myself thinly over a larger geographical area some days!

Perfect scenario now would be a boutique B&B where I could focus all of my energy at one location.

Hope all of the above helps



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TV Company looking for Start Up Business

I’ve been contacted by a TV casting producer looking for people who starting up their own business. She’s keen to talk to people who are starting their own B&B ( rather than buying an existing business ).
Please contact Sam direct if you’re interested.

Hi Karen

It was great speaking with you just now. As mentioned, I am a Producer at Pi Productions, the new company of John Silver, who created Grand Designs and reinvented MasterChef. We are making a potential new documentary series for a major broadcaster that follows people as they start up their own business.

We are looking for people who are making a major life change and are at the beginning of their journey. Perhaps they are quitting a secure 9-5 job or returning to work post redundancy or after a long break. Perhaps they have been dreaming of being their own boss and running their own show for years. We are looking for people with big dreams and great ideas; perhaps they want to open a shop or café, or plan to start a housecleaning or painting-decorating company. They will be making major personal and financial investments into their ideas and will likely have a great deal to lose, but also much to gain.

The tone of the series will be aspirational and positive and we believe this will be a great opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to showcase their ideas and tell the story of their new business.

We are keen to feature an individual or individuals starting a B & B . It would be great if you could circulate this email to your mailing list and post the below on twitter. Perhaps you might know someone who might fit the bill?

Are you trying to start your own business?
Do you have an idea that you’re determined to get off the ground?
A major TV broadcaster is looking for people starting a major career and life change. Do you want to give up your traditional 9-5? Do you dream of being your own boss? Are you trying to kick start your own company?

If you are at the early stage of setting up a brand new venture, then we would love to hear from you for a potential TV series following people on their new business journeys.

If you are interested or know someone who might be then give us a call on 0203 761 4522 or email and tell us a bit about yourself and your business idea.

Many thanks


Samantha Carty
Casting Producer
Pi Productions
North Row Studios, 3rd Floor, 64 North Row, London, W1K 7DA
+44 20 3761 4670

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Can you run a B&B when you have a young family?


I was contacted by a prospective B&B owner the other day who wanted to know if it’s sensible/possible to run a B&B when you have a young family.

My daughter, Jess, was 12 when I opened our B&B so it wasn’t a question that I could answer from personal experience. But, thanks to the magic of social media, I knew someone who would be happy to answer that question.

Sarah of Fern Dell B&B in Shrewsbury has a young family with 3 children and manages to combine looking after a family with running a successful B&B. I asked Sarah if she would mind writing a blog post for me and here it is. Thank you Sarah.

Blog post. Running a B&B with Small Children at Ferndell B&B
I would like to thank Karen for asking me to write a piece for her B&B blog. I have done so in the past, that was for my Chocolate Cake Recipe you may remember. But this one is not food related sorry.
Hello I’m Sarah, I opened my B&B in Shrewsbury just over 7 years ago.  I had a new born baby boy and 2 daughters 5yrs & 10yrs at the time. When I say new born I really mean new born. My son was born on June 29th. I did have to check my 2007 diary in case I was exaggerating to confirm that I had guests 3 days later.
My home is a large Victorian house spread over 3 floors. There is a cellar, also my husband’s workshop is down there, it’s a good icebreaker when guest arrive and he peeps up from underground.

My daughters are on the top floor with their own bedrooms, bathroom and landing, so away from the guests and my son’s room is across the landing from our room in between the 2 guest bedrooms.

People often ask me “aren’t your worried about having strangers in your home with your children around”, but I like to take people as I find them and, to be honest, most people are just like you and me..nice happy people. They have chosen a family home for their night away as a change to a hotel. I have to admit I do sleep with one ear open so I am aware if a door opens or a stair creaks but, having said, that I’m not up all night worrying.

My Charlie is 7 now and over the years guests have fed him his bottle while I’ve prepared breakfast. Dads, granddads etc. have been on their knees with him at breakfast time playing with his train set. He has sat and played on guests iPads while at the breakfast table with them. But now he’s at school it’s just a quick “good morning” and he’s gone. At a weekend or holidays he sometimes plays Connect 4 with the guests depending what mood he’s in. (he’s 7… he’s a boy)

I make it clear on the homepage of my website that we are a family with young children, and Charlie stars in our video too. If our B&B is not what people are looking for luckily Shrewsbury has lots of lovely Hotels and other B&Bs (without children) to choose from.
Our B&B is very relaxed and not like the normal run of the mill B&B I suppose, in that guests come into our kitchen to have breakfast so can see me cooking around the Aga. I don’t have a separate dining area so, depending on the time of breakfast, the guests can see the children collecting their sandwiches, putting on their cycle helmets coats and whizzing off to school…

The one rule the children abide to is to be quiet of a morning and not shout and run around. Also I’m forever telling them, if they pass a guest on the landing etc. they must always smile and say hello

Bethan my eldest is nearly 18 and is very social and chatty and will let the guests in and offer tea & cake if I’m not around when they arrive. She likes meeting all the different types of people. Mae is 13 now and will make the chocolate cake for me before the guests arrive.  She is a little more reserved than Beth, but both like the fact we run a B&B as it enables them to live in a lovely house, and means their mum is around for them more than If I was doing a full time job away from the home and, of course, Charlie doesn’t know any different.

The children still have friends over to stay even when we have guests in. Their friends love it.  I often get them to take up the tea & cake to the guests, but big gang sleepovers have to be when we have the house to ourselves.

For me the beauty of running the B&B is there are no rules.  This is our home first and the guests are made to feel a part of it, but you can choose to run your B&B entirely differently and that’s fine too.

P.S Should you feel you would like a chat with me at all, do email or phone I’m always happy to talk about the business… which I love



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