Changing Perceptions ... How?
Recently, two guests checked out of the Tyndale and on departure they mentioned that they rarely stay in a B&B ("especially seaside ones!") because of their reputations ... (but they liked this one).
This hasn't been the first time that this has been mentioned to us in the past, so I just wanted to try and share our perspective on what you should expect in a B&B / Guest House in the UK.
The majority of Bed and Breakfasts across the UK have had a major re-vamp over the past 10 - 15 years or so. Why? ... a major consideration we feel is
- a) Online review sites
- b) Greater online information
Long gone are the days of picking up the Yellow Pages and scrolling down to see a name that you liked or a one sentence description that appealed ("All rooms with Colour TV and Kettle")
With review sites such as TripAdvisor, and now Google playing catch up, there is a lot more information readily available at your fingertips. Not only can you view countless images of accommodation providers within your destination, you can also read the experiences of those people that have been before you.
Online booking sites (please don't use them to book - you can to search though - I'll explain why in my next journal entry) are being used to secure bookings and on these too you'll find, again, reviews of past experiences and photos galore.
Since arriving back in the UK in 2015,we've also noticed B&Bs featuring more on the telly. Programmes such as '4 in a Bed' and 'The Hotel Inspector' have raised the general awareness of B&Bs (although not always in a positive way, but hey, publicity is publicity) and give a peek-behind-the-curtain of what they're like inside.
Below are our friends, Andy and Julian, they run the best B&B in the world! (p.s. it's in Torquay)
I will admit to having some memories of seaside town B&Bs when I was a nipper. I remember waking up and having to put on smart clothes in the morning as we waited for the 'Gong' that was rung to tell us that breakfast was ready. No options, just a full English (well an option of toast or no toast),
However this was back in the 80s, things have moved on considerably. Long gone are the days of 'staying in someone's spare room' - if you want to do that, try AirBnB.
So what do you get at a B&B that's better than a hotel?
Chain Hotels provide the 'one size suits all' room. You know what you are getting which is a massive plus if you travel around for business. However, it does mean that you're going to get a standard room with no personalised feel to it.
Want a seaside Premier Inn this summer? Go for it. You'll pay £119 - £129 per night for a room in Torquay and that's with no breakfast, parking if you're lucky (first come-first served), two coffee sticks and two tea bags, (we have nearly 40 drink options and a fridge with a small bottle of fresh milk, two bottles of Scottish spring water, jar of sweets, mint chocolates, mint imperials and four Border Biscuits - replenished daily).
We will already know your names, have filled in the check-in form prior to your arrival (just need a signature), know your special requests when booking and ... it's just us. You are not meeting a different person on the 'front desk' everyday. Do you like your Eggs Benedict with only a little bit of hollandaise sauce? Tell us, we'll remember. Do you love Earl Grey tea? We'll put in extra bags for you when we re-stock the room. Would you like us to book you a taxi? A table reservation? - it's what we are here for ... To make your stay as best as it can possibly be because we want you to enjoy your stay.
Why? ... For the selfish reason that we want you to tell others what a fab time that you had on the English Riviera and then they might want to stay. Even if it's not with us, the more people come to a tourism destination then the more likely properties (B&Bs), restaurants and attractions will reinvest and develop themselves further, thus creating a positive cycle.
Most B&Bs in Torquay have upped their game when it comes to breakfasts. Poached eggs are no longer found in only 5-star B&Bs (such as ours), they are a staple across most establishments. As is locally sourced produce.
Our free-range eggs come from our friend Lou at Black Dog Farm and our sausages and bacon from Prentice Butchers, just up the road from us. Some of our friends make their own jams and marmalade (I'm not quite there yet, but may have a go in the future).
Again, this is nearly always included in the price with a B&B and not a paid extra.
Guest Houses and B&Bs are no longer an additional income for the stay-at-home parent. They provide the exact same features that you would find at any hotel in the UK. The guest house/B&B industry is heavily regulated with a heavy priority in place for health and safety. All accommodation providers (except AirBnB) have to meet strict rules to comply with fire regulations, food and safety regulations and Insurance should the worst things ever happen.
Like I mention, these don't apply to AirBnB as they consider their 'clients' as web users (not guests) but the Government is hopefully going to be introducing rules and laws for them to .. so things like this don't keep on happening.
Every registered B&B in the UK will have a fire alarm system (checked annually), fire extinguishers (checked every 6-months), a food and safety folder (updated daily) and licenses for TVs and Music (paid for annually) and public liability insurance should there be any accidents in the unlikely event.
We were quite lucky, in that when we first stepped into the trade, we'd had two years of preparation and reading so that we (kind of) knew what we were stepping into - mind you, we never fully understood the difficulty of balancing everything, we still don't.
At the end of the day, the only person who can change your perception of a seaside B&B is yourself. Try it. Take the plunge. Even if it is not with us, there are LOADS of real quality B&Bs in Torquay all you need to do is have a little search online and spend 5 minutes reading reviews and skimming photos. If you have an Instagram account, search #bedandbreakfast and see what pops up.
All the best,