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 Booking.com. (Booking.com reviews can only be completed by persons who have actually stayed with you and booked through Booking.com 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 https://bedandbreakfastacademy.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/ive-kept-my-5-star-rating-why-am-i-thinking-about-dumping-it/  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 Booking.com 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 casting@piproductions.tv 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: http://piproductions.tv/. 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 BandB@ricochet.co.uk 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  – http://www.twofour.co.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

E: katherine.healy@twofour.co.uk


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

Unless 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 casting@piproductions.tv 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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