Are you cut out to run a B&B?

CanWest News Service
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You have a spare bedroom, your hollandaise sauce is second only to liquid gold and nothing gets you giddy like shopping for pillow shams.
Sounds like destiny is commanding you to open a Bed and Breakfast, right? Maybe. But wake up and smell the coffee first, say Dominique Lavigueur and Robert Chiasson, a Charlevoix-based husband and wife team that educates potential hosts about the pitfalls of running a B&B.
The couple holds seminars, A Successful B&B, from Dream to Reality, for people thinking about owning their own B&B.
It's an opportunity for the B&B-curious to pause that doily-filled fantasy for a moment and take a critical look at the realities of running an intimate lodging.
"By the end of the seminar, you're going to know whether you're going to do a B&B or not," says Lavigueur.
Chiasson and Lavigueur ran three different B&B's over 17 years before turning to their teaching endeavour - called the Moka & Pyjama B&B Resource Centre - full time. Drawing on that experience, they know that if the host isn't happy, the guests won't be either.
"When you're in your own home, you just shut off from the world. But once you're running a B&B that concept disappears completely. You can't unwind as easily as you'd like because you're always on standby," says Chiasson.
They say it's imperative to look at a B&B as a business - don't equate it with hosting friends or family for a few nights at Easter.
And most of all, know what you're getting into in advance.
For example, it might be love at first sight with that turreted old Victorian house - but if you buy it before you know whether it qualifies for a B&B permit, the only thing you're going to be lodging is misery.
How are your acting skills? Those might come in handy as well.
"You need to be in a good mood, smiley, well dressed and ready to give information at all times," says Lavigueur.
It is also wise to model your B&B around a specific clientele. Chiasson and Lavigueur admit that back in 1978, when they opened their first B&B in Waterloo, Que., they were too vague about who they were trying to attract.
By the time their third B&B rolled around, they knew exactly what worked (upper-middle-class couples who wanted to unwind) and what didn't (budget travellers, early-rising sporty types and families).
Lavigueur suggests modelling your B&B after your own tastes and that way you'll be more compatible with your guests.
Despite the challenges, the two maintain that a B&B done right is a very rewarding experience.
"You get the cream of the cream of guests," says Lavigueur. "They don't get drunk, party, wreck the house and steal."
And although you're staying put, you travel vicariously through the ever-changing tales that guests bring across your threshold.
"Once they discover that you're genuinely happy to have them in your home, they start opening up fairly quickly. They start inviting you into their intimate lives," says Chiasson.
"We're still in touch with guests who stayed at our first B&B in 1978."
Ottawa Citizen

Organizations: Moka & Pyjama B&B Resource Centre, Victorian house

Geographic location: Waterloo, Ottawa

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