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B&B or hotel: what's the difference

What sets the B&B apart from a hotel?

The distinction between a hotel and a bed and breakfast has been increasing blurred over the last decade, with the increased use of the term 'boutique hotel'.

'Boutique hotel' is a term used to describe hotels which contain luxury facilities of varying size in unique/intimate settings. Typically, boutique hotels are furnished in a themed manner, each room may be different. While there is a cross over with B&Bs, it's important for the owner to make sure that a customer is not given the impression that theirs is full-service establishment.

Hotels are often used for a few nights of rest. For the most part, hotels are part of a chain, with rooms, bedding, and decor with a uniform theme across each room and hotel, normally set up to resemble apartment/complex style living arrangement, normally equipped for conferences or events.

Bed and breakfasts, on the other hand, are designed for a comfortable, short-term stay, with breakfast is a key part of the experience. B&Bs are usually in homes, converted to multi-accommodation that are rented out for people to come and stay, meaning that they are usually independently owned. Most likely, there will be an open kitchen and room variations.


Unlike hotels, almost every B&B owner must face an off-season during part of the year, although in London and other hotspots demand stays strong throughout the year. Properties in places less fashionable than, say Bath, Bristol or Edinburgh, may not generate a significant income in the off season, and can become costly to run, not to speak of lonely. 

It's important to research and determine when and how long an off-season will be. Use this time wisely to redecorate and do any odd jobs that are difficult to do when guests are present. 


Hotels ordinarily have a large scale staff. While hotel staff are required to perform a wide range of tasks, they will ordinarily take a role in a specific sector and concentrate on it. B&Bs are usually equipped with a smaller group of staff members, possibly only the proprietor and one other, who engage with the guests as if they were a part of the home itself, everything including cleaning the rooms, washing the linens, cooking the breakfasts, checking in guests, and generally providing whatever the guests may need.


Following on from this, hotels usually hire chefs to do all the cooking - which does ultimately drive up the price of chain hotels. The food at most B&Bs are prepared by the owners of the home, and can be at a higher standard, yet the service will be far more informal.

The goal of a B&B owner is, in the end, to get closer to the guests, as opposed to just performing service tasks for them.

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Matt Skinner

About the author

Matt Skinner writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.

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