Bed, Breakfast And Beyond

No Lace, Please

If you think of doilies and homemade bran muffins when you think of B&Bs, think again. You haven't been to a B&B in a while. No doubt the old stereotype is out there somewhere, but the current trend is decidedly modern and upscale.

"Don't even think about opening a place without private baths," warns Bobbi Zane, founder of Yellow Brick Road, a newsletter for prospective innkeepers, that she publishes in Julian, California. That's a bare minimum. In fact, rated among the top amenities by guests are hot tubs, fireplaces, quiet ambience and privacy. Things formerly unheard of in B&Bs, like private telephones and fax machines, are becoming available to business travelers as well.

Sound a lot like a hotel? Well, not quite. "Travelers want a place where they aren't just a room number," says Hardy.

Providing conveniences while keeping your inn charming isn't easy. Just ask Ted Kidwell, 39, and his wife, Eva, 31, who together opened an eight-room B&B, The Weller House Inn, in 1998. He logs 90-hour workweeks--"and that's during the weeks I actually sleep," laughs the Ft. Bragg, California, entrepreneur.

He's not exaggerating. According to PAII, innkeepers spend an average of 42 hours a week on innkeeping tasks, even when they have hired help. Those who go it alone are kept busy well over 100 hours each week.

"It's a lot of hard work," agrees Bruce Libowitz, 33, who with his wife, Anne, 35, launched The Inn On Crescent Lake in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, in 1996. "You're always `on.'"

"Usually when people first open, they do all the work themselves, except during the busiest season, when it's impossible," says Hardy. "Then, as the years go on and they become more successful, they begin hiring staff to help out year-round."

To get an idea of the time involved, consider just one aspect of innkeeping--the housekeeping. "It takes about 45 minutes to clean a room properly," says Zane. "Now multiply that by six or eight rooms."

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