Summer 1989 // Volume 27 // Number 2 // Ideas at Work // 2IAW1
Separating Bed and Breakfast Facts from Rumors
As a result of the farm crisis in Iowa, the Iowa Cooperative Extension Service has taken an active role in helping to promote small businesses, including those based in the home. The Bed and Breakfast (B&B) operation is a home-based business that also contributes to tourism.
In 1984, the specialist in hotel, restaurant, and institution management at Iowa State University received requests from county and area Extension personnel to provide help to those interested in starting B&B operations - which led to the Extension publication, "Starting a Bed and Breakfast in Iowa."1 A videotape2 of interviews with four B&B owners in their homes/inns was developed by the specialist for general audiences and prospective B&B owners, with segments of the tape being shown on public and commercial television.
Clarification and interpretation of B&B regulations, as well as modifications to existing laws pertaining to restaurants and hotels, were needed to meet the specific needs of the B&B industry and their guests. The Extension specialist served as a liaison for the various interest groups (regulatory agencies, Iowa Lodging Association, Iowa Restaurant and Beverage Association, B&B owners, and legislators) in developing concurrence and drafting legislation.
The B&B industry in Iowa has been growing rapidly. We conducted Iowa's first comprehensive survey of B&B establishments in March 1987. Having figures available for the B&B industry in Iowa takes some of the guesswork out of responding to questions posed by potential operators. For example, information on the newness of the businesses and the low volume of demand helps reinforce some general rules of thumb shared by the specialist when giving programs, such as: "Don't invest a lot of money initially in getting ready." "It takes several years to become established." The importance of location to success is stressed, as is the need to focus on warm Iowa hospitality. A realistic picture of what it takes to operate a successful home business helps those considering such a business answer the question "Should I do this?" and helps a current operator evaluate "How am I doing in comparison to others?"
Good visibility for the Extension specialist as an important source of information for small businesses has come from the televised videotapes as well as newspaper interviews. Our involvement in the survey, in addition to other contacts with B&B owners at their organizational and information meetings, also has helped to build credibility for Extension and Iowa State University. We're now perceived as a part of the communication network and a source of reliable information by those in the business, as well as by legislators, licensing agency personnel, and other business organizations.
A survey of overnight guests staying in Iowa B&Bs has been conducted, additional videotapes will be produced that look at successful B&Bs and emphasize the contributions these businesses make to economic development in Iowa, and a follow-up survey of B&B operations in Iowa is planned to measure changes in operation and in the business climate.
1. Jim Huss and Joy Banyas, "Starting a Bed and Breakfast in Iowa," Bulletin Pm 1263 (Ames: Iowa State University, Cooperative Extension Service, June 1986).
2. To obtain information about purchasing the videotape or receiving a survey instrument, contact Jim Huss, Department of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management, 11 MacKay Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa 50011-1120, 515-294-3527.