Defining B&Bs

In typical “Yankee” fashion, Americans have taken the British bed and breakfast concept and grown it into a widely diversified industry. You’ll find every conceivable style of inn varying in size, architecture, business style, attitude, culture, cost, and location. There are Manhattan apartments, boats (ocean, lake and river), Kansas farm houses, mountain chalets, urban mansions and townhouses, as well as country inns. I have seen churches, schools, jails, and firehouses used for B&Bs. The house styles I’ve seen usued for B&Bs include Victorian, modern, log, adobe, plantation, farmhouse, and even beehive. B&Bs have been found underground, in high-rises, in trees, in townhouses, and underwater. Along with different styles of structure you will find different styles of environment ranging from casual to elegant, eclectic to period furnishings, garage-sale to designer decor, shared baths to luxury private baths, and low- to high-touch. These characteristics influence the B&B classifications.

With this diversity influencing B&B definitions you will also find innkeepers and their associations defining establishments in various ways. I will try to give you the best terminology and definitions I can, taken from the variety I have found. The classifications I see in various publications include host homes, B&Bs, B&B inns, inns, country inns, and boutique hotels; my classifications are simpler than most I see. These definitions are to serve as guidelines. I feel that service level and professionalism affect your classification more than anything.

    1. Bed and Breakfast Home/Home Stay
      • non-commercial
      • unlicensed
      • 1­3 guestrooms
      • owner occupied
      • bookings through reservation services (commissions run up to 25%)
      • word of mouth and return guests
      • no signage or marketing

Typically these are less expensive than larger, more commercial lodgings, but not always and rarely as inexpensive as their counterparts in the United Kingdom or Europe (known by different names like zimmer frei and pension, for example).

    1. Bed and Breakfast Inn
      • commercial
      • licensed
      • 3-plus guestrooms
      • owner or manager occupied
      • no public dining room or bar
      • signage and marketing

This is a broad category of operation styles. There are so many possible names or descriptors for these properties that at times Bed and Breakfast Inn feels inadequate. To me, B&B Inn is another way of saying Special Place To Stay.

  1. Country Inn
    • commercial
    • licensed
    • 6-plus guestrooms, though there isn’t a “rule” for this point
    • 24-hour staff on premises
    • signage and marketing
    • full service, providing breakfast to their guests (occasionally to the public) but most importantly a restaurant is run as well as the inn.

Most of the country inns I know of are on the east coast, though by no means is that a criteria. Country inns are generally located in remote areas where there aren’t good restaurants, if any, within easy driving distance for the guests so the inn attends to the guests’ food needs. The food often becomes part of the guest experience. It’s rare to find a country inn located in an urban area because of the competition with restaurants.

Call your inn what you want, and what you can. Let it be part of your B&B’s identity and your statement of who you are and what you are offering your guests. If your zoning allows you to call yourself a Boarding House to do what you want, then call yourself a boarding house. This is part of the fun of being a B&B innkeeper. And it’s part of your marketing and brand.

How do you define your special lodging operation?

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