Bed and Breakfast places in Surrey
PUBLISHED: 20:41 11 April 2012 | UPDATED: 09:37 04 February 2015
If the returning to work fills you with wistful dreams of a retirement spent running a B&B, then take heart - it may be possible sooner than you think and you don't necessarily need that country cottage with roses round the door
To B&B or not to B&B...
Most Surrey business owners can only dream of getting Hollywood exposure, but that's exactly what happened to the proprietors of Shere bed and breakfast, Rookery Nook.
They opened their doors to guests two years ago, when by happy coincidence, the film The Holiday, starring Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Cameron Diaz, was being shot in the village. Not only did they end up with some of the crew as their first clients but their home made it onto the silver screen.
"They pumped fake snow around the village, some down on our roof," explains the owner of Rookery Nook, Chris Capstick. "Our house was in the beginning of the film when one of the characters drives into Shere and into the square."
Though he, personally, thinks the movie was "terrible", he admits that the B&B business he runs with his wife Jill has benefitted from its starring role.
"We have a lot of people come to stay because of the film," he continues. "They go to the White Horse pub because they want to sit where Jude Law sat."
It was both the good looks of the village itself, and also their historic home, which was built in 1485, that convinced Chris and Jill to open a bed and breakfast. To many, this kind of picturesque tourist ideal is synonymous with B&Bs but, surprisingly, if you are thinking of opening your home to guests, an urban location can be more desirable.
"In Surrey, you have big business demand in areas like Guildford," says Pam Foden, of Visit Britain, who helps advise accommodation owners on grading. "If people live close to a conurbation like that, they may do much better than the people who are looking at setting up a B&B in a nice pretty village and might only do well from tourism.
"Where there are big companies with a big workforce is good. People coming to install computers, people coming for interviews; quite often these are the sort of people who stay in B&Bs. If you are near an established big firm, with an office block, then you may well make a lot of money... and if you are in the Gatwick area you are going to have very high occupancy rates."
Challenging the stereotype...
Nicky Anstey of Anstey's B&B, Elstead, and Georgina Ede of Nightless Copse B&B in Capel, near Dorking, both host tourists but say most of their clients aren't on holiday.
Georgina explains: "My guests are predominantly business people who are working in the area - reps covering a patch who come every couple of months or people on longer contracts. I also get people visiting relatives, going to weddings and christenings."
Nicky adds: "I get people doing training and going to the research parks at Guildford or Aldershot."
What also challenges the B&B stereotype is that neither Chris, Nicky nor Georgina are near retirement age and all run their accommodation business around other commitments. Chris is a freelance photographer, Nicky a nutritionist and practitioner of holistic treatments such as reiki and Georgina has two young children.
"I was nervous about trying it to start with; I thought people might get the wrong idea, me doing massage and running a B&B," says Nicky. "But luckily no one's been dodgy like that!"
Working from home...
She finds her dual jobs even complement each other. "I've got some ladies who come once a year for a pamper weekend and I give them healthy food, they relax and I look after them all, and it works really well," she says. "My two websites are linked and you obviously have people who are staying who want a treatment as well."
Nicky started running her B&B when she was just 29: "I did my nutrition degree and I wanted to work at home and then I panicked and thought, 'what else can I do from home?'"
Unlike Nicky, Georgina planned her B&B business well in advance when she and her husband were renovating two cottages to turn them into one new home. "We thought one day we'd have a family and I could do B&B and not have to go out to work," she explains. They created two en suite bedrooms with their future guests in mind.
"The beauty of it for me is because I am around in the day, I can go to sports days and harvest festivals and all those things parents get invited to," says Georgina. "If you've got flexibility in your work or you work from home, I'd definitely recommend it."
Pam says even people who go out to work full-time can run B&Bs. Some take bookings for weekends only, while others, such as a teacher she knows, simply arrange for guests to check out before they leave for work each day.
"You just have to be very organised, control your bookings and be quite firm, and cross certain times out of your booking diary," Pam explains.
"You just think, 'I need to leave early that day, if I take anyone the night before I have to get them an early breakfast,' so you tell them that when they phone up."
She adds. "It doesn't have to be a life changing thing. Some people start while they are working and go into it more seriously when they are retired. It can be very flexible."
As for the qualities needed to be a B&B owner, Pam stresses that as well as natural sociability, you need to have very high standards of cleanliness. She points out: "It's one thing if you go into your own shower and find a hair, because it's one of yours; if it's someone else's, it is not so good."
With the London Olympics on the horizon and Surrey in the catchment area for some of the huge volume of extra visitors, it could be a very good time to consider B&B.
Shere accommodation owners, however, are unlikely to have to wait that long for their next boost. Film crews are becoming a fairly regular feature with a BBC TV drama about the life of Mary Whitehouse the most recent production to be shot in the village.
Back at Rookery Nook, Chris Capstick adds: "Our guests couldn't believe it when Julie Walters cycled past the window while they were having their breakfast."
Top tips: for getting started
- Consider your location. Big towns with a high workforce and locations near to Gatwick or to major sporting venues, such as Wimbledon, Twickenham and Epsom, are likely winners.
- Check if and when other B&Bs in your area are full to see how viable another may be.
- Find out the planning regulations and fire safety requirements that would affect you and weigh up any costs these might incur.
- Be aware that en suite facilities are expected these days in all but the cheapest B&Bs.
- Remember, B&Bs are not expected to function round-the-clock like hotels. You can set the days you open and choose check-in and check-out times to suit you.
- Work out if you'll need any help - Georgina has someone to take her children to school while she handles guests' breakfasts.
- Consider what local attractions may help draw leisure visitors - such as a stately home, good fishing, walking etc - Chris and Jill recommend horse and bike riding routes they use themselves.
- Get assessed for a star rating from Visit Britain or the AA to get a guidebook placing and give potential guests confidence in you.
...for starting a B&B
- Check with your local authority what planning and building permission you might need.
- Undertake a fire risk assessment of your premises. (For more information, download the Fire Safety Risk Assessment Sleeping Accommodation Guide from www.communities.gov.uk/fire.)
- Make reasonable adjustments to enable your business to accommodate disabled guests.
- For full advice on the legal aspects of setting up and running a B&B, call 0870 606 7204 for a copy of Visit Britain's Pink Booklet.