A warts’n’all training course for others nursing a B&B business dream is planned for 2020 and the couple are also looking at a move into the self-catering apartment sector. Travellers on TripAdvisor voted The 25 tops this year for service, quality, price and sheer stylish ‘wow’ factor, an award that has boosted guest numbers by 20 percent. It is also vindication of the pair’s dedication to creating an upscale B&B, prices from £129 a night, that is they say “different to anything else available in the area”.
That tireless labour of love began four years ago when they bought an established guest house – one of 30 in the same road alone – reinvented it from scratch and then set a new standard for the sector.
The six-bedroom blueprint B&B took £100,000 investment, “all our savings, pensions, plus a mortgage”, say the Banner-Prices who previously ran a country house hotel and do all the work themselves.
“We learned many practical, time-saving lessons from our first hotel, from getting the most robust cleaner – for us a Henry – to introducing walkie talkies and setting up different bell rings to indicate various requests.
“We have also designed the entrance here so we are seen and are available, not hidden away in quarters at the back. We engage with our guests, they feel wanted and valued, and that helps repeat business and recommendations.”
It took six months of full-time searching to find the right property that was not car reliant and within walking distance of Torquay’s main attractions. A further five months was spent on meticulously planned renovations. “Positions of sockets, for example, really matter,” they explain.
Since then The 25 has become a destination in its own right, won many more industry awards than it has bedrooms, each one of those a striking medley of colours and original pieces.
The Banner-Prices don’t do beige but are big on straight lines, black painted coving and the odd zebra sculpture. Visitors, from those in their 20s to the over-80s, bought into the funky looks immediately.
“New budget hotels certainly serve a purpose but if you are celebrating an occasion you may want to spend more time in your room relaxing,” says Andy.
“Many of our guests are in the growing ‘busy doing nothing’ category. Then a luxury experience, with more space, power shower, a good coffee maker, slipper bath, nice toiletries, homemade cake, fast wifi, Netflix and mood lighting, becomes far more important.
“We offer the true smart room experience with Amazon’s Alexa so guests can control everything from the iPad to heated mirrors.”
It is high time however, they believe, for a more even playing field and fairer rules for B&Bs which currently have to pay for the likes of music and alcohol licences, unlike their Airbnb competitors.
The 25’s guests are encouraged to book directly to save commission fees and 75 percent now do that.
As well as sourcing from local suppliers, the jams and marmalade they serve for breakfast come from Auntie Val’s in Sussex, a centre employing those with disabilities to make the artisan preserves.
Now having nailed how to anticipate and then give guests what they want, the Banner-Prices want to broaden their service with an additional venture that includes children and pets, currently not part of The 25’s offering.
And their experience both in hospitality and training staff in previous jobs could also help future B&B owners, they believe, which is why they are aiming to hold a short residential course where hopefuls can witness on the spot what actually goes on.
Many couples cherish the dream of running a B&B, but many don’t last either once they realise how demanding it is in sheer work terms as well as making a profit. By that time they have already moved and invested, so the fall-out becomes even more distressing.
“We want people to understand before they commit so they know what is involved,” the pair explain. “Running a B&B means the business is also your home and that has an impact not always fully appreciated beforehand.
“We do everything possible to create wonderful memories for guests. We would control the weather and tidal flow if we could.”