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FAQ: What is a Bed and Breakfast?
Just what exactly is a B&B anyway? What about a country inn? No easy answer to this one... But I can shed some light on the matter. It seems that every bed and breakfast owner, travel writer, industry association, or government regulator has a different definition of the term "Bed and Breakfast". But over the years some general guidelines have come to have some value. The biggest differences you will find is between how these lodgings are defined in different countries. I'm going to stick with United States perceptions since this service is based mostly on North American Properties and is targeted at supporting travelers based in the US. Again this is another reason why guests should always have some personal communication with the Innkeepers before makeing a reservation.
National Definitions & Distinctions
The following definitions attempt to codify what is presently being used in the field. They are only approximations and will vary by region or individual innkeeper.
HOMESTAY, HOST HOME - This type of establishment is an owner-occupied private home where the business of paying guests is secondary to its use as a private residence. The hosts are primarily interested in meeting new people and making some additional monies while continuing their present employment or retirement. Frequently located in residential areas, zoning or other government restrictions may prevent the use of signs, public advertising, etc. Usually between 1-3 rooms, these homes are often a member of, and usually inspected by a reservation service organization (RSO) but are rarely required to be licensed or inspected by local applicable governmental agencies. Breakfast is the only meal served. In some instances, it may be an unhosted apartment where breakfast is self-serve.
B&B, BED-AND-BREAKFAST - Formerly a single family dwelling usually in the 4-5-room range, this owner-occupied establishment has an equally mixed use as home and lodging with lodging superseding home more often than not. It is located in a legally zoned area and meets all the tax, fire, building and health requirements for this size and use of property. This establishment advertises publicly and can legally post a sign. Like the homestay or host home, because of its size, these Bed and Breakfasts usually cannot support a family unit, so the B&B is often one partner's job and the other has outside income. Often the property is purchased specifically to be a B&B, but many are converted family homes. Reservations may be made directly with the property.
BED & BREAKFAST INN - Generally small, owner-operated businesses providing the primary financial support of the owner. Usually the owner lives on premises. The building's primary usage is for business. Inns advertise, have business licenses, produce their own brochures, comply with government ordinances, pay all appropriate taxes and post signs. Breakfast is the only meal served and only to overnight guests. The inn may host events such as weddings, small business meetings, etc. Room numbers range from 4-20 with a small, but increasing number up to 30. Reservations may be made directly with the property. Note: The distinction between a "bed and breakfast" and a "bed and breakfast inn" is not readily apparent, except with regard to building usage.
COUNTRY INN - A business offering overnight lodging and meals where the owner is actively involved in daily operations, often living on site. These establishments are, in fact, Bed & Breakfast inns which serve at least one meal in addition to breakfast, and operate as "restaurants" as well as overnight lodging accommodations.
Modified American plan (MAP) country inns serve dinner to overnight guests only, and the cost of dinner and breakfast is generally included in the room rate. A country inn with a full-service restaurant serves these additional meals to the general public. To be a country inn, a property does not have to be located in a rural area. Room numbers tend to range from 6 to 30.
To understand bed-and-breakfast/country inn in the context of other properties that are confused with bed and breakfast, the following definitions are included:
BED & BREAKFAST/SELF-CONTAINED COTTAGE - A detached building affording privacy and seclusion to guests, with owner providing minimal services. Breakfast is either delivered to the room, taken with others in a central dining room or placed prior to arrival (or upon daily cleaning) in the cottage kitchen facilities. Owner is usually available for questions, but generally guests choose this style of B&B when they want little help. Certain geographic regions see this type of lodging more than others. The light personal touch and memorable B&B decor further distinguish this genre from the vacation rental/condo.
BED-AND-BREAKFAST HOTEL - These are 30+-room historic properties offering breakfast that can only be considered hotels. Only the historic structure, and perhaps some decorating components and breakfast provide the B&B feel.
Although all of the above categories view themselves as providing these below-listed characteristics, in reality, the larger the property - and particularly if the owner is not actively involved in daily operations and guest interaction - the property moves rapidly into the "hotel" perception in the minds of the traveller.