We spoke with five hospitality experts to find out about running adult only and family friendly businesses. Discover handy tips and helpful advice for adult only venues or hosting children.
Whether you’re building your business from the ground up or going through a restructure, it can be hard to make key decisions.
Do we serve lunch? Shall we have a theme? What wallpaper should we have?
It can be difficult deciding which way to go. But much to your chagrin, we’ll add one more question to your ever-growing list (if it’s not already been asked of course). Should you be an adult only hospitality venue? Or do you want to host children and market yourself as family friendly?
We spoke to Tony Pithers, owner of the Kaywana Hall Luxury B&B near Dartmouth and Andy from The 25 Boutique B&B in Torquay, to find out all about running adult only establishments.
Tony from Kaywana Hall said: “We originally decided fairly early on that the sensible thing would be just to say 16 and over.
“We then very quickly realised 16 and older was something you couldn’t really police and we saw that people were bringing kids that were quite obviously not 16 and were pushing the younger limit.
“In our fourth year, we had two separate couples. One brought two girls and one brought two boys. After those two weeks, the aggravation, and particularly the mess and the demanding nature of the ‘so-called’ 16 year olds, I said to my partner, ‘Adults only. I can’t handle the stress anymore’.”
Andy has had similar troubles with hosting families, which is one of the reasons why The 25 is an adult only B&B. “At our last hotel, we made it over fives, but then we had issues and raised it to over 12s. Then we had a flood caused by 16 year olds so we decided to make it 18 plus,” said Andy.
But his experience of hosting badly behaved children was supported by his own experiences as a guest.
Andy said: “We still talk about a break we took at a lovely B&B in North Wales over ten years ago that was ruined by a baby screaming all through breakfast, banging it’s cutlery and throwing toast everywhere.
“We don’t want our guests to have the same experience.”
Tony at Kaywana said: “We market ourselves as being peaceful, tranquil and away from the bustle. We find that adults come here to chill. Even running away from their own children.
“People really appreciate it and all the feedback we get is ‘It’s so lovely not having to deal with kids!’” Tony laughed.
But what do guests look for in adult only accommodation?
Andy said: “If you’re considering adult only accommodation, you probably want a more luxurious stay, somewhere to relax in comfort. At The 25 you can relax in the bath watching TV, spend the evening in with a bottle of something from the bar watching Netflix, or sit and read in the peaceful Drawing Room without kids running around.
“It also means you can have an honesty bar with alcohol without risking under age drinkers.”
Tony added: “All our bathrooms at Kaywana have a bath as well as a separate shower. A lot of our customers when they arrive go ‘oh lovely, a bath!’ and that’s not something kids worry about. But we get calls asking if we have baths.
“We also offer good wifi, good beds, and good showers. We pamper our guests. They get all sorts of little treats, including turn down service in the evenings.
“People appreciate the little things. We leave the weather forecast on the bed and a little room spray or a pillow spray. You know, just little touches like that.”
When it comes to marketing, a lot of you might be wondering ‘But wouldn’t you lose out on business if you’re an adult only property?’
Andy at The 25 said: “Being adult only will obviously restrict bookings from the family market, however, I think we win just as much business from those looking for adult only venues as we lose business from those looking for child friendly.”
Tony said: “To be honest, we do very little marketing. Our return guest ratio is running at about 40%. We’re in the very fortunate position that we don’t struggle to fill up.
“In the summer we run with 95% occupancy. This year because of the virus obviously, we made the decision not to open for our safety, but normally we run at 95% occupancy throughout the season.”
When it comes to the positives of running as an adult only b&b, Andy says it’s a lot easier to keep things clean.
“There are no sticky finger marks, less dropped food, we don’t have to offer plastic cups, heat milk or have a children’s menu.
“It’s easier in a lot of ways. More often than not it’s just couples looking for a relaxing break and spending quality time together.”
Andy added: “There’s a lot less to consider. You don’t need to worry about breakable ornaments or whether a kid will touch a heater. From a health and safety point of view it’s easier.
“You can also have more spacious bedrooms as they don’t need any bunk beds or extra single beds.”
Both proprietors had some helpful advice to pass on for those who wish to run adult only hospitality businesses.
“For us, it’s all about the service,” says Tony from Kaywana Hall.
“It’s also about working out how far you engage with your guests. Some just want to be left alone, in which case, we leave them alone. Some want to interact.
“It’s always good to have a unique selling point and for us, it’s definitely the house. We’re always more than happy to discuss our journey from a run down 1962 house to a very contemporary b&b.”
Andy’s advice concerned marketing and thinking about your audience.
“Think about your guests. If you’re talking about your location for example, you are more likely to be highlighting nice restaurants, nightlife and National Trust properties than places like the zoo,” said Andy.
Kaywana Hall is lucky enough to be situated near the two popular National Trust properties, Coleton Fishacre, home of the D’Oyly Carte Family who built the Savoy, and Greenway, the home of Agatha Christie.
“We’ve also got The Elephant, The Angel and The Seahorse. These are fine dining restaurants, and you wouldn’t take your kids. Most of our guests would go to one or two of these,” said Tony.
5 TOP TIPS FOR RUNNING ADULT ONLY PROPERTIES
1. Consider putting baths in your bathrooms
2. Make the most of fine-dining restaurants and nice bars in the nearby area
3. Focus more on the luxury element of your property and offer your guests peace and tranquility
4. Offer little treats and turn down service
5. Make the most of any National Trust attractions and other sites near your property that fit the house and the location
To find out more about hosting families and children, we spoke to Tom Turney at Tapnell Farm on the Isle of Wight, Humphrey Bowles at Park Farm Barn, and Nicole Court at the literary themed Craigmount B&B in Wigtown.
When setting up their b&b in Wigtown, Nicole and her husband Malcolm decided to run as a family friendly accommodation provider.
“This is an area that children should be exploring,” said Nicole.
“There’s so much to explore here and so much for children to do that gets them away from computer games and sitting on their bums watching tv.
“We have a huge sideboard in our sitting room that’s absolutely full of games, books, colouring and just arts and crafts stuff that the children can use.”
Tapnell Farm in the Isle Wight used to be a dairy farm before expanding into the family friendly business they are today. They now have a range of accommodations on offer, including domes, eco lodges and tents, as well as a popular restaurant called The Cow.
Tapnell Farm also boasts an aqua park, farm park, archery and many more family friendly activities.
Tom Turney, Managing Partner of Tapnell Farm, said: “Family has always been at the core of everything we’ve done. We didn’t even think about not being family friendly.
“Our location and being on the island is really popular for younger kids. We’ve got a lot of space, a lot of fresh air and a lot of family based attractions and things to do.”
Park Farm Barn is a 14th century barn in Bowlish, Somerset and is owned by Humphrey Bowles who is eager to offer his guests the chance to have “breakfast with the goats”.
Humphrey said: “We know how great a boost to business families are, so we just wanted to take advantage of that market.
“By having families come to stay, you’re really increasing your occupancy and pool of potential guests.”
He added: “The barn has a mezzanine level which we’ve clad and quite a few teenagers refer to it as the treehouse which is pretty cool. It’s a kind of teenage hideout up there.”
Nicole spoke about how she made the rooms at Craigmount great for kids.
“For example, in our Peter and Wendy room, we have about four or five different Peter Pan books, and they’re all different versions. And the children have to find different things in the room.
“When they arrive we say ‘Now when we see you at breakfast tomorrow, we want to know where the pixie dust is in your room. See if you can find it for us and let us know.’ So we make a big effort to include the children.”
She added: “We also have a very large garden and the children are more than welcome to explore and go into the greenhouse and pick tomatoes, or pick apples from the tree. If your children want to pick carrots, pick carrots!”
There’s also lots of things for children and families to do that aren’t far from Craigmount B&B.
“We have lots and lots of leaflets on child friendly activities in the area, which makes a big difference. We also know all of the beaches and how to get to ‘the secret island’ which you can only get to when the tide is out.”
Laughing, Nicole adds: “We also have walking sticks here that the children can use when they’re out walking. We try to make it as exciting as possible.
“We also have a specific menu and we ask them when they arrive if there is anything specific that they would prefer to eat.”
There’s also lots of things for families to do in and around Park Farm Barn, including Longleat Safari Park and the seaside, which aren’t far away.
One of Park Farm Barn’s unique selling points for families are Humphrey’s three goats, Harry, Barry and Larry.
“If you’re calling them by my daughter’s names for them, then they are called Twinkle Toes, Lime and Lawrence,” laughed Humphrey.
“We look after them ourselves and these ones are all hand reared on bottles so they’re even more friendly than the friendliest of friendly goats, and the kids love them.”
Humphrey added: “We are just converting a little stone shepherd cabin at the top of a hill and that’s in the field where our goats are.
“The barn is right next to the goats and families that come and stay with us are going to be treated to, essentially, a petting zoo, whenever they like. We can give them a completely new and different experience, which will be tea or breakfast with the goats.”
Despite the hubbub that inevitable comes with hosting children, Nicole says she can’t think of any cons to hosting children and families.
“Sometimes you can hear little footsteps but nobody has ever complained about children being here,” she said.
“We market the fact that we’re family friendly to everybody that stays here.”
However, Tom at Tapnell Farm said that one of the cons is that it’s “very easy to become seasonal quite quickly”.
He said: “You need to be open to other groups, not just families with school kids. The kids are at school for most of the year and you won’t fill up, so you need to be open to other groups.”
But despite this, there’s still plenty of positives to being family friendly.
“When I created our tents in first place, it was very much a reflection of our own childhood. It’s on the farm we grew up on, doing things we did as kids, and it’s great being able to share that with children,” said Tom.
“It’s amazing to see families come back. We’ve had some families who have been here maybe ten times over the last ten years. You see their kids when they’re four and now they’re 14 and they still love it here.”
He added: “Kids see things in a different way and seeing their reactions is probably a lot more rewarding than with the adults.
“Seeing their excitement, their reaction, when they walk into the domes. They’re just blown away because it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever seen.
“Or even things as simple as towel art and putting their towels into crocodiles or swans. They get super excited and it’s so rewarding.”
When asked if she has any advice for hosting children and families, Nicole doesn’t even wait to hear the end of the question.
“Washable walls!” she said. “Fully washable walls. Also, boilable, 100% cotton bed linens and bleachable carpets. And do not put felt tip pens in the children’s rooms.”
Humphrey from Park Farm Barn said: “Flexible check ins. Especially with young kids, because you don’t know when nap time is. If you have nap time, you want to be able to plan the start or finish of your journey to fit around nap time.”
Tom said: “You have to be a bit more careful and things have got to be robust and safe. Kids are kids. They will get mucky and dirty.
“Provide kiddy plates and cutlery so people don’t worry about breaking stuff. Choose elements that look great but that can ultimately be scrubbed, cleaned and fixed.”
Humphrey added: “Having essentials like high chairs, nappy bins, kiddy cutlery and all that is really helpful too.”
Tapnell Farm are also conscious about cars on site, so they have designated car parks away from the accommodation.
“There are no cars going around and they’re away from the general public, so the kids can run around with the parents being comfortable that they won’t get into too much trouble,” said Tom.
He added: “It’s also about making it as easy as possible for the parents to have a holiday too and allowing them to have time away from the kids.
“Make sure there’s something for the kids to entertain themselves with for a couple of hours so the parents can have some time by themselves. Ultimately, the more relaxed and comfortable the parents feel, they’ll be happy to come back.”
Nicole added that she spends a lot of time interacting with the children.
“We spend a lot of time talking to the children and my husband Malcolm is amazing at hospitality. Rather than asking the parents ‘Would your child like this, would your child like that?’ We ask the children. We get to know their names and they love it.
“If the children are happy, the parents are happy,” said Nicole, laughing.
5 TOP TIPS FOR HOSTING FAMILIES/CHILDREN
1. Washable walls and bleachable carpets
2. Spend time interacting with the children
3. Something to entertain the children while parents enjoy some alone time
4. Furnishings that look great but can also be easily washed and fixed
5. Designated parking areas away from areas where children might be playing
URLs to note down
This article was first published in Issue 44 of the Luxury BnB Magazine in December 2020: