A Bed and Breakfast, commonly known as a B&B, is a business that provides short-term accommodations in a private home or other comparable location and traditionally includes breakfast as part of the service. Accommodations can vary from one establishment to the next, as each building has its own unique characteristics. Locations that might provide B&B accommodations can range from historic buildings and cottages, to houseboats and private homes. The amenities offered by different B&B businesses can also vary. In some cases, you may have private rooms with private bathrooms, or several private rooms with shared bathrooms. B&Bs generally emphasize a high level of personalized customer service and will often be connected to local tourist attractions.
When you start a business there are several things to consider before you can sell your product or service. Most businesses in Ontario need to complete a minimum of three basic steps:
Our business start-up guide will give you more information on these steps and other basic requirements for starting a business in Ontario.
Business Start-Up Guide
Your business may need licences and permits from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.
In addition to the information you will find in this guide, you can use BizPaL—an online search tool—to find licences and regulations that may affect your business. You can also contact the Business Info Line to speak to someone about starting your business.
Permits and Licences Wizard
Contact the Business Info Line:
The local municipal government may classify a B&B under another type of industry. You can contact your local municipality to verify how your business will be classified and what regulations will apply to you (for example a Food Handler license).
Additionally, most municipalities also require a building permit before alterations or new construction begins. It is important to check zoning regulations before signing any binding contracts and to obtain the necessary building permit(s) before beginning alterations or new construction.
Association of Municipalities of Ontario
Some common licenses, permits and regulations that may apply to your bed and breakfast include:
Your local health unit is the main contact for information on food safety. Local health authorities are responsible for carrying out food service inspections.
You should contact your local health authority and arrange an inspection of the premises/equipment/and processes to make sure your business is complying with provincial and federal legislation.
The following link provides a list of contact information for local health authorities that perform inspections on restaurants and food businesses in Ontario.
Local Public Health Contacts
In addition to contacting your local health unit, if you are involved in the production, service or processing of food products, you will need to comply with safety standards and labelling regulations from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
Regulated products and sectors
Regulations for the food industry
The Ontario government prohibits smoking in all enclosed workplaces and enclosed public places. Find out what your responsibilities are, what is required for inspections and how to get “No Smoking” signs.
How the Act Affects You - Employers & Employees
How the Act Affects You - Bars & Restaurants
How the Act Affects You - Hotels, Motels & Inns
How the Act Affects You - Enclosed Public Places
How the Act Affects You - Signs for Stores and Public Places
As a provider of accommodations you will likely need to meet additional requirements under the Ontario Building Code and the Ontario Fire Code to ensure the safety of your guests. You can contact your local Fire Department and Municipal Building Department to make sure that your business premises meets all local safety requirements.
Hotel Fire Safety Requirements
When your business uses recorded music, you are responsible for obtaining the right licence(s) for that use. The Copyright Board of Canada works with individual copyright collective societies who provide music licensing. Contact the following two organizations for more information.
SOCAN is a not-for-profit organization that represents the performance rights of music creators and music publishers. They can help you learn about your obligations and obtaining the required license(s).
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada
Re:Sound is the Canadian not-for-profit organization that represents the performance rights of artists and record companies, and provides the legally required license(s) for businesses. You can get help determining what licence(s) will be required, what the licensing process will be and how much it will cost.
If you have legal questions, contact a lawyer who deals with business regulations. The Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service may be able to assist you in finding a lawyer, based on your needs.
Contact the Law Society of Upper Canada:
Law Society of Upper Canada's Lawyer Referral Service
Depending on your location and the type of products or services being offered, federal, provincial and/or municipal business taxes may apply.
If you sell goods and services in Ontario, you may need a business number to collect and remit the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). Most businesses that make less than $30,000 in any 12 month period are not required to charge HST; however, you can register voluntarily and claim input tax credits. Speak with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for more information.
Canada Revenue Agency – Business
The Canada Revenue Agency also provides information on the following HST requirements and rebates that could apply to your business.
Contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA):
Find out how the HST applies to operating a bed and breakfast in your home.
GI-007 Operating a Bed and Breakfast in Your Home
You may be eligible for the HST new housing rebate if you bought or built a bed and breakfast.
GST/HST New Housing Rebate
Learn how to charge the HST on accommodations, tour packages and passenger transportation services. You can also get information the HST rebates that may be available to non‑residents for eligible tour packages.
Find answers to common questions and how the HST may apply to the sale of owner-occupied homes, including those operated as bed and breakfast businesses.
GI-004 Sales by Individuals of Owner-Occupied Homes
Canada Business can help you find government financing options for your business. There are programs that apply to businesses across Canada, and others that apply only to businesses in Ontario. Use the Canada Business financing search tool or browse by type of financing.
You can also access Canada Business information through the ONe-Source online financing wizard. The wizard guides you through 3 easy steps to create a personalized list of results for Ontario business financing programs.
Contact the Business Info Line:
You can find Ontario-specific assistance for your business including advice, financing options, tax incentive programs and more using the Ontario government’s free online directory of support programs for business.
The OBPG provides:
Ontario Business Program Guide
If you are a tourism professional, you may be eligible for financial support for innovation, training, and improving the investment readiness of your business.
Contact the Investment and Development Office:
Tourism Development Fund
The success of any business starts by setting goals and managing the ups and downs of daily operations. Here are some key factors to consider when starting a bed and breakfast.
An Accommodations Rating Program rates similar accommodations according to how clean, comfortable and safe they are, along with the quality of the facilities and amenities available on site. Participating properties are inspected and rated to ensure they meet consumer expectations. A higher star rating indicates that the facilities, guest services and amenities are more extensive.
If you wish to have your establishment rated, contact your local bed and breakfast association for a listing of Canadian companies who offer this service in your area. (see also Section 7: Associations)
Note: The majority of lodging properties are in the two to three star range; there are only a handful of five-star properties in Canada.
Having the correct business insurance can provide peace of mind. Contact an insurance agent to discuss your business insurance options, or to develop a plan that is right for your business.
You may also wish to contact your local chamber of commerce or industry association, as some organizations offer members lower rates on their business insurance.
The following list is included to remind you not to overlook the complex areas of business insurance. It is best, however, to discuss your specific requirements with your insurance agent.
Insurance for Your Small Business
Whether you have a small bed and breakfast or a large one, you need to tell people who you are, where you are located and how to contact you. Some methods of advertising include placing ads in local newspapers, on radio, sending out direct mail pieces and brochures and including your business information with any local tourism initiatives in your region. Outdoor signage and word of mouth can also be effective means of advertisement. How well you market your business and interact with your customers can vastly influence your success.
You can also contact a local destination marketing organization or visitor centre to discuss promotion and marketing options that may be available to your business. Some additional options to consider are listed below.
You can register your tourism business with the Ontario Tourism Marketing Partnership Corporation (OTMPC) for listing on ontariotravel.net, the Government of Ontario's official visitors' information site for travel. Your listing is available to consumers visiting the website and through the OTMPC toll free tourist information line. Basic registration is free but enhanced options are subject to a fee.
OTMPC - New User Registration
The CTC offers marketing support programs and a number of practical resources to help you market your tourist attractions as uniquely Canadian. Learn how you can use the Explorer Quotient® (EQ) and traveller types to shape your marketing strategy.
Canadian Tourism Commission -Toolkit
If you are starting a bed and breakfast, you may be able to get help developing a competitive and sustainable tourism venture. You can contact your local RTO to discuss your business ideas and coordinate your own projects with other tourist ventures in your region.
Note: RTOs are independent, industry-led, not-for-profit organizations.
Regional Tourism Organization
If you are an eligible tourism business and sign space exists, you can apply for a Tourism-Oriented Directional Sign (TODS). TODS is a sign placed on Ontario's provincial highways displaying your business name, a generic symbol (or in some cases your corporate logo) and directional information. The signs are used to provide direction to tourists and are not a substitute for advertising.
The Logo Sign System also pertains to signage for motorist services near highways. These signs have symbols for overnight accommodation, service stations and restaurants.
The TODS program and the Logo Sign System program are administered by Canadian TODS Limited, a private company, under the supervision of the Ministry Ministries of Tourism and Culture and the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario - MTO.
Contact Canadian TODS Limited:
905-851-1322 (Woodbridge) or 1-888-263-9333
Tourism-Oriented Directional Signs (TODS)
Note: Some regions and municipalities run similar and complimentary signage programs. You may wish to inquire with your city hall about any of these programs.
Association of Municipalities of Ontario
Resource-based tourism focuses on services that offer activities like fishing, camping, canoeing, hiking, exploring wildlife and plants, visiting parks, conservation areas, and historical and heritage sites, usually on a year-round basis. If you are interested in understanding the issues around sustainable management of your local natural resources and the heritage conservation process, you may be interested in linking your bed and breakfast to this growing segment of the tourism sector.
E-business is about using the Internet to provide better customer service, streamline business processes, increase sales, and reduce costs. You can explore the business benefits of using tools like email, online banking solutions, websites, supply chain management software and web-based customer relationship management solutions.
Doing Business Online
The use of business support services can be essential to the success of a small business. Professionals can provide knowledge and expertise to ensure your business is operating efficiently.
As an entrepreneur, there are several types of professional business services you can consult:
A good record keeping system should be simple to use, easy to understand, reliable, accurate, consistent and designed to provide information on a timely basis.
Note: All staff working with cash should be trained to recognize counterfeit currency.
The legal requirement concerning financial records specifies only that there be a permanent, accurate and complete record of your daily income and expenses. There are many types of record books and bookkeeping systems available. For example:
Bookkeeping and Accounting
Setting the right price is important in ensuring the success of your business. Here are a few questions you may want to consider:
When determining your fees, make sure you include the cost of your labour, the overhead and the expenses that will be incurred.
In the end, the right price for the service is the price that the consumer is willing to pay. Correct pricing decisions are often key to successful business management.
For most businesses, choosing an appropriate location is critical. Your ideal location will depend on your business needs, zoning restrictions and where your customers and competitors are. Taxes, noise and the local business environment are also important factors to consider when reviewing your options.
If you are considering setting up your business in your home, make sure you know what regulations and restrictions will apply to your home-based business before you start.
When furnishing a bed and breakfast, here are some items to consider:
Generally, each guest room should have a bed, bedside table(s), dresser, mirror, chair(s), window screens and coverings, closet, smoke detector, wastebasket, clock, hangers, locking door and a posted rate card. Extras could include:
Your business will need equipment and furniture, and it is important to decide what you need and how much you want to spend.
You must have procedures for controlling inventory and costs. Ask people in your industry for information about procedures for:
Storage temperature for dry goods (between 10-21oC) and frozen goods (-18oC or less). Rotate your stock to ensure that oldest items are used first before the new stock.
Making a profit is the most important—some might say the only—objective of a business. Profit measures success. It can be defined as: revenues - expenses = profit. So, to increase profits you must raise revenues, lower expenses or both. To make improvements you must know what's really going on financially at all times.
Although you are not required to join a bed and breakfast association, there can be advantages in becoming a member. In general, bed and breakfast associations will:
Bed and Breakfast Associations
Find out about the association’s Accommodations Rating Program and its online business listing service that is searchable by region, accommodation type and rating.
You can learn about FOBBA’s rating system that classifies the quality of the accommodations offered by its members. You can also access FOBBA’s online listing service and sign up for the newsletter to get information on the bed and breakfast industry in Ontario.
For other information that relates to starting your business, you can read the following guides:
Additional resources that may be of interest to you include:
You can also find books, magazines and other relevant print material at business service organizations in your community. To locate a Canada Business Ontario (CBO) community partner, contact us through the Business Info Line at 1-888-745-8888.
Information contained in this document is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute advice for any specific situation. Users concerned about the reliability of the information should consult directly with the source, or seek legal counsel.
Some of the organizations listed above are not subject to the federal Official Languages Act or the French Language Services Act of Ontario. Their services may not be available in both official languages.