Rick Sciuriaga bought Number 46 in Hastings this year, and is trying not to fix what isn’t broken. Bill Lumley talks to the first-time B&B owner, whose strategy is to cherry pick what works best
WHEN you take over your first commercial hospitality property whether it be a terraced suburban B&B or a large boutique hotel, the temptation to put your mark in it can be huge.
Many is the time new B&B, guest house or hotel owners will tell you they were unable to wait to start renovations and running things the way they consider best. It is not often you hear owners saying they want to see what works best before making any changes. Yet that is exactly what Rick Sciuriaga is doing with Number 46 Rooms & Apartments in Hastings.
He acquired the property in February this year and is running the business with his sister Jocelyn. Their mother worked in tourism and the two of them grew up staying in all standards of B&Bs, hotels and guest houses. These were mainly in Europe but more recently in seven-star properties in the far east. Rick says that gave him a taste for the kind of service and offer that he likes, and that he would like to offer his guests.
He quit his job in high-end retail because he sensed a need for change.
Rick was jointed by his sister who worked and owned restaurants overseas.
“It is a perfect situation in terms of her knowledge and my knowledge, and we work well together,” he says.
“With my previous experience I know what the luxury end of the market wants in terms of service delivery and I want to put some of that experience of dealing with the public which comes as second nature,” he says.
He explains: “Most of my immediate family live in Hastings. This opportunity came up and it set the ball rolling. I started looking at what other B&Bs were for sale up and down the country, but I really wanted to be in Hastings. Having found this one it ticked so many boxes – location, size, affordability and an excellent track record.”
The property was in good condition when they moved in and, owing to the fact that it had been running so well and had received so many good reviews he saw no rush to change anything just for the sake of changing it.
“In time I will put my own stamp on it with new décor and so on, but as for changing the infrastructure or the way the business is run I don’t think I will need to change anything drastically,” he says.
One of the first decisions he made was to keep on the existing housekeeper, whom he described as fantastic. “A lot of the reviews are based on the cleanliness of the establishment and she has been cleaning there for the past five years, so she is an asset to the company and keeping her on was vital,” he says.
The previous owners built up the business over 12 years from next to nothing, and Rick says he counts his blessings for the help they have given him and continue to provide. “We have become friends; we talk a lot and I look on them as mentors and they still offer advice for example if something crops up that I am not so sure about they are always happy to help us out. When it comes to the handover, I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” he says.
The owner wanted someone with a passion to buy it. “She saw that in me and was very keen to sell it on to me and to come back and see what I had done with the place over time.”
OTAs & Marketing
One of the first things Rick is looking to change is the look at the website – the shopfront of the business. The previous owners admitted they hadn’t really given that much attention to it over the past few years, so it is looking dated. But before I change it I need to update some of the rooms and the décor to mirror them on the website.” He says he has given himself three years to get the property looking the way he would like.
We use all the usual OTAs managed by a channel Manager. They are basically our advertising. Provided you can keep up with good reviews they are a perfect platform and the commission we pay to the OTAs can be offset against a non-existent marketing budget.
Rick can be contacted at numberfortysix.com.
TOP TIPS from TINA BODEN, The Tiny Troubleshooter
- As yourself, are your priorities for purchase life-style or income focused?
- What type of customers do you want to attract – business, leisure, focused on a specific market.
- How much can you afford? Just like buying anything, you need to know this before you start looking not once you have your heart set on something.
- Understand the income you can generate and the expenditure you will have. Put together a 2 year cash flow plan including services you may have to buy in. This list should Include items like marketing, bookkeeping & maintenance. Look at what you can do yourself.
- Speak to people in the industry and understand what owning a BnB entails. It’s not just cooking a few breakfasts, making a few beds and having the rest of the day off, it’s hard work.
- Accept that what you saw at the property pre sale may not be reality post sale.
- Maintain a relationship with the previous owners if possible so they can help if you need a little advice.
- If you have staff ensure you hold a meeting with them and set out your plans so you keep them onside. Transfer of ownership is often hard for them and having to recruit new staff can be hard enough without taking on a new business as well.
- Commence positive marketing to previous customers through a newsletter and social media. Start this as soon as possible starting with an introduction as the new owners.
- Make a plan for any upgrade work and create a timescale based on the actual cash flow in the business not what you predicted. This is often very different and what you planned originally may not be achievable post sale.