Scotland business

Taking a rest from the guests

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Most of us don't think twice about taking a break from work to recharge the batteries or handle personal issues such as an illness in the family. But that's easier said than done when you run a 24/7 business like a guest house.

Two Scottish hoteliers think they may have come up with a solution - a new venture that will allow bed and breakfast owners to "take a rest from your guests".

Scottish hoteliers Neil and Carol Scott used to dream about taking time off from their business.

But the idea of jetting off to sunnier climes and leaving their award-winning establishments on the Isle of Islay behind seemed more than a bit fanciful.

The question was: Just who would run the business in their absence?

The answer was simpler than they had imagined.

It emerged when they went to stay at a B&B in the Cotswolds last March.

Neil says: "When we were there, we discovered that this lady who was running the show was not the owner - she had been brought in to look after the business while the owners were away.

"A lot of people think being a hotelier is a lifestyle business, not realising how committed and difficult it will be.

"It is not a nine-to-five job. You are always on call and you have to make sure that your guests are looked after."

Image caption Neil and Carol Scott have spent two decades in the hospitality sector

Having reflected on their Cotswolds trip, the couple from Auchterarder have set up a new venture - a "locum-style" service for B&B owners called Take a Rest from Your Guests.

The couple, who have been hoteliers for the last 20 years, are offering to run businesses for guest house owners while they are away.

The service is thought to be the first of its kind in Scotland.

The Scotts have owned and run several hotels, including The Inns by the Loch in Bowmore, Isle of Islay, and The Harbour Inn and Restaurant, also in Bowmore.

Both establishments received 4 star VisitScotland Gold Awards and two AA Red Rosettes for their restaurants.

Neil, who has an accounting background, says: "Being unable to leave the establishment for personal matters or just to get away for a break is a difficulty many proprietors face.

"Therefore we hope that our services will give them peace of mind that their business is in very capable hands - a service which we would have hugely welcomed had it been available for us to use."

The Scotts plan to offer their services to four and five star establishments in Edinburgh, Perthshire and the Trossachs area.

Image caption The Scotts are previous owners of the Harbour Inn and Restaurant in Bowmore.

The B&B Association says taking time off is an issue for its members but adds that there are pros and cons to bringing someone in to run their businesses in their absence.

Association chief executive David Weston says: "Sometimes it can cost as much to bring someone in as your income so it is not necessarily cost-saving.

"On the other hand, what you never want to do is let someone down who has already booked, or a regular customer, as you might not get their business back.

"Trust is another huge issue. For B&B owners, it is not only their home but their business.

"What people tend to do when they want to take a break is use a relative, who may not know much about running a B&B.

"However, owners should weigh up carefully what is best for them, bearing in mind the cost.

"They should also look to train the interim manager in their own specific processes, so they understand the ins and outs of it.

"It does need to be someone who is experienced.

"It is not just about making breakfasts - the owners are responsible for the safety of their guests so if, God forbid, there was a fire then that person would have to know what to do and look after the guests."

'Testing the waters'

Neil and Carol are confident that they are offering a service which will appeal to many B&B owners.

Neil adds: "We have already been testing the waters and are certain that the demand is out there.

"Together we understand how important someone's business is and how each and every guest who steps through the door must leave with special memories and pass on glowing comments.

"We look forward to meeting potential customers and discussing exactly what they are looking for and how they would like us to run things in their absence."

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