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What I’ve learnt: how to win the B&B game

How does the phrase go? Necessity is the mother of invention. Well, as we found out when we talked to Sue Burrell of Millgate, necessity can also be the mother of bed and breakfasts! Find out how you go from renting a room in your house to help with mortgage payments, to opening a B&B and taking a year’s bookings in four days.

What prompted you to open a B&B?

We were motivated by necessity. We had previously downsized to a two bedroom apartment, were mortgage free and enjoying spending our money on holidays, meals out and entertaining. Then our two adult children returned home so we decided to buy a new family home. Within twelve months both kids had left so my husband Andrew said, “Think of something because I’m not moving again!” We live in a town that has two breweries and it is also a tourist destination, so in March 2012 we opened one of our rooms on a bed & breakfast basis.

Do you have a background in hospitality?

Andrew trained for a career in hospitality and I joined him in his pub in Hawes in Wensleydale in 1983, working in the kitchen preparing the food.  I’ve worked as a Chef at an Italian Restaurant, and have always enjoyed entertaining.

Can you describe how meteoric your success has been? 

In January 2013 (within ten months of opening), we were in the Top 25 B&Bs in Europe and number 15 in the UK so we opened our second bedroom. Twelve months later in January 2014, we were TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice number 9 in the world.  We opened our third bedroom and just one year later this January 2015, and were voted Number 1 B&B in the world ahead of over 850,000 B&Bs, inns and lodges.

How did you first market your business?

Originally on Google and any free advertising listings.

What has been the most successful marketing channel?

TripAdvisor has been invaluable. Most of our guests were rating us as 100% Excellent and this prompted more and more bookings. Without a doubt, TripAdvisor has been the best tool for securing more bookings and has helped us to build a base of return customers.

Do you use any technology to help you run the business?

Along with TripAdvisor, another huge help has been freetobook, which is a simple and efficient way of taking bookings – their payment system FabPay is a really easy way of taking payments. Superfast broadband has also really helped as guests now rate the internet on review sites.

How do you stay at the top of your game?

We always put our guests first and think about their experience. We continually assess our service and try to make improvements every day. We stay at the cutting edge of industry innovation by training and continually learning.


What advice would you give prospective business owners?

Find something that you really love doing. Do your research, get to know the industry and talk to people doing same thing.

In the week since Sue spoke to us Millgate has won two more awards! TripAdvisor’s 2015 Certificate of Excellence and the Certificate of Excellence 2014. Visit their website to see what these guys are doing right.

Thinking about opening a bed and breakfast? Sue recommends visiting the Bed and Breakfast Association website.

For free, impartial business tech help and advice, why not book a session with an O2 Guru? They’re available online, in store and over the phone.


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