Advice from Visit England

If you are letting rooms, or thinking of letting rooms in your pub, then here are a few thoughts and suggestions from VisitEngland that might assist in making it a successful and profitable venture.

Legal and Other Sensible Stuff
Be aware of your legal obligations and ensure that you comply. We cannot cover all aspects of your legal requirements here, as they are likely to vary a little from business to business, but her are some of the more important areas to be aware of.
  • Be sure that your Fire Risk Assessment covers sleeping areas if you are starting a letting business. If you are not sure about how to do this there is information available on the VisitEngland website at www.visitengland.com. Just click on the Industry & Media tab and then Business Advice Hints where you can then open The Pink Book on-line. There you will find a Fire Risk Assessment Tool and template, as well as detail of all other legal and health and safety issues.
  • For peace of mind fit Carbon Monoxide detectors.
  • Ensure that your Public Liability insurance covers the letting rooms. This is not a legal requirement, but a sensible precaution to take. All of VisitEngland’s assessment schemes require a business to carry full Public Liability Insurance.
  • Carry out a Health and Safety Audit. Use the Pink Book to assist with this.
  • Have good policies and procedures in place.
  • On-line booking (see the On-Line Presence section below).
  • A clear pricing policy and be clear about what is included in the price. Also what payment types are accepted.
  • A cancellation policy.
  • A guest registration procedure.

On-Line Presence
Most accommodation bookings will be made on-line in today’s market. You might decide to sell your rooms via an On-Line Travel Agent (OTA), through your own website or a destination/directory website or a combination of all three. Either way, be sure of your market and target it with a well thought out strategy. Use the Business tab at www.visitengland.com to find plenty of help, advice and case studies. VisitEngland assessors are also trained to offer help and advice with this aspect of your business.

VisitEngland star rating
VisitEngland operates a large quality assessment service across all accommodation types, including Pubs with Rooms (Inns) – part of the Guest Accommodation scheme, assessing more than 14,000 businesses every year and awarding star ratings. Assessors stay overnight (unannounced) in the first year and assess every aspect of the experience from the initial booking through to check out the following morning after breakfast. Dinner is taken too and the assessor pays his/her bill on departure and then shows his business card and offers a full debrief to the manager. An experienced assessor will have stayed in a range of pubs and will be able to share best practice and ideas that may work for your business too. A written report follows the visit. Overnight stays usually take place every two or three years, with pre-arranged day visits in the intervening years.

Having a VisitEngland accommodation star rating can help to make your letting business more successful in a number of ways.

1. Help and advice on service and quality issues
2. Advice on compliance/legislation matters
3. Review of your website and advice on imagery used
4. Online marketing advice to help your business thrive
5. Use of the VisitEngland logo and other awards to promote your business (Silver, Gold or Breakfast award)
6. PR hook when first rating achieved and annually if scores improve
7. Praise from assessor can be motivating for staff

Star ratings can drive bookings allow you to command a higher room rate

Bed and breakfast businesses, whether in a pub or not, operate at different price points and with different levels of quality. It is important that you plan your letting business as a good fit to the services offered in the pub and for the likely clientele. Is your letting business likely to attract mainly business people or tourists? This will have a bearing on how you set up the rooms and services. For example, if rooms are mainly offered to business guests, the model might suffer if you cannot accommodate early breakfasts.

Hints and Tips

Breakfast
So much time and effort can go into running a pub and providing a good food and service offering during the evening and at lunchtime, that breakfast can be sometimes be neglected. When letting rooms, breakfast is an important element and provides the final service and lasting impression of the business.
  • Ensure that breakfast is staffed, with good and well trained staff.
  • If a cooked breakfast is difficult to provided, then consider a continental breakfast, but be sure that customers know about the breakfast offering at the time of booking. A good continental breakfast offering can be prepared by kitchen staff during the previous day and evening.
  • Whether cooked, continental or both, put the same thought and effort into producing a breakfast menu as you would any other menu. Use good quality ingredients and always think about the presentation of food on the plate and buffet tables etc.

A typical continental breakfast
  • Orange juice and perhaps a second juice
  • A selection of cereals
  • Freshly prepared fruit
  • Natural yoghurt or a selection of yogurts, including natural
  • Croissants and pastries
  • Meats and cheese
  • Toast and preserves

A cooked option
  • Traditional English breakfast
  • A full range of eggs; fried, poached, scrambled
  • One or more house specials

Bedrooms
  • Beds are the single most important element of any bedroom. When buying a bed, invest in the best that you can afford; it will pay dividends. Look for good quality, pocket sprung mattresses and ensure beds look good with plump pillows and well laundered bed linen.
  • Noise can sometimes be a problem when sleeping in a pub. Try to ensure that rooms in close proximity to the bar areas are as well insulated as possible. Also, ensure that staff are trained to keep noise to a minimum once customers have left the bar.
  • Guests will want to be connected, so a Wi-Fi connections in the bedrooms is very important to all customers.

Setting up a typical double bedroom
  • A good quality bed. King size, if possible.
  • A bedside table and light at each side of the bed.
  • Curtains/blinds/shutters - For privacy, but also consider blackout linings for a better sleeping
  • Clothes storage space – There is less need for large wardrobes and drawers these days and most stays are short, so a small wardrobe or open hanging space is generally sufficient and will free-up more space within the room.
  • TV – Most guests will appreciate/expect a large flat screen. When fitting the TV think about ease of use for the guest. Can they see the screen from the bed and any chairs that are provided in the room?
  • Make the heating controllable from the room, with thermostats on radiators or electric heaters. When adding your extra touches, think about ease of use. For example, a hairdryer is a good appliance to provide, but it there a power point available close to a mirror? Does the kettle fit under the tap? Etc.
  • Provide clear and easy to read information for your guests; meal times, checkout time, Wi-Fi code etc. What should they do if they need assistance during the night?

Bathrooms
Bath and shower rooms do not need to be large, but they do need to be well designed and usable.
  • It is good to be able to offer baths and showers, but many successful businesses now offer shower rooms only.
  • Ensure that showers offer good water pressure and it is important to have thermostatic controls.
  • If you are intending to let rooms during the colder months, do the bathrooms have sufficient heating?
  • Lighting in bathrooms should be bright and well positioned. A light above the mirror, in order to illuminate the face, is an important consideration. Lighting within shower cubicles and above baths is something to think about, especially if shower curtains are fitted.
  • Guests like the comfort of large, soft and fluffy towels. If possible provide bath sheets in preference to bath towels. Does your laundering process keep the softness in the towels?
  • Guests will expect some level of toiletries. Your assessor can offer help and advice about the quality and range of toiletries that will best suit your style of business

Setting up a typical shower room
Assuming the shower unit, washbasin and WC, heating and lighting are in place, there are a number of other things to consider when setting up the room.
  • It is tempting to fill shelf space with toiletries and other items in order to make the room look attractive, but leave sufficient free space for guests to store their own toiletries.
  • Add a soap dish or other container to the shower. Many guests will take their own toiletries into the shower and some will not find it easy to have them on the floor.
  • Provide space for hanging towels.
  • Add a hook for hanging clothes.