Running a Bed and Breakfast with Eagle Mill’ Sam Harkness

Maintaining Quality

Running a Bed and Breakfast is incredibly immersive. We started with five rooms when we opened Eagle Mill and had a soft run in. As we started listing on the online travel agencies our customer-base started expanding. It became increasingly challenging to manage ourselves. The reality was that we needed to hire staff to ensure our quality offering remained.

We’ve been very focused on creating a luxury feel to the Eagle Mill rooms. However, luxury comes with a hefty price tag, as well as maintaining exacting standards that you have to stick to. Loyal customers have been returning to Eagle Mill for eight years and they expect the same high standards every time they visit.

Sam Harkness, Owner of Eagle Mill Bed and Breakfast, St Ives, Cambs
Sam Harkness, Owner of Eagle Mill

A day in the life of a Bed and Breakfast Business Owner

It all starts with the day before. To avoid waste, our guests breakfasts are always cooked fresh, so that requires ideally taking orders and prepping the night before. The great thing about offering table service, as opposed to a buffet, is that we get to interact with our guests should they want to.

I come down early in the morning to ensure I have everything I need for the breakfasts. My head is then down from the minute we start service to clearing up at the end. I then give myself around an hour to tackle the admin, and possibly another hour to sit down and relax. This soon changes in the summer months as the Eagle Mill garden needs a lot of attention. Part of the Eagle Mill experience is that you’re in nature and being able to enjoy all that the grounds have to offer. Garden maintenance is therefore essential!

Then of course there’s the check-ins. There’s always guests wanting to check-in early and a delayed flight can mean an arrival in the early hours of the morning. Our regulars are happy to let themselves in, but new guests do of course have to be greeted and shown to their room. We do end up being everything for everyone, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Browse the Eagle Mill gallery here.

The Great Ouse Private Garden, Eagle Mill Bed and Breakfast, St Ives, Cambs
The Great Ouse Private Garden, Eagle Mill

Business Traveller Rates

Our business travellers/single occupancy benefit from a reduction in room rates. The corporate rate is £115 for single occupancy if you book direct through the Eagle Mill website, which is a large reduction. We encourage guests to book directly with us, rather than booking through third party sites, as we can offer the best room we have available. Guests get so much more added value by booking directly though bed and breakfasts or boutique hotels.

The Houghton Room, Eagle Mill Bed and Breakfast, St Ives, Cambs
The Houghton Room, Eagle Mill

Bed and Breakfast’ vs Airbnb

As a Bed and Breakfast, we have a certain offering. Airbnb is probably cheaper in the long run, but you make your own breakfast and we have the personal touch. This is why we do quite well I think; it feels like home at Eagle Mill but better. The rooms are nicer than your own bedroom, and the breakfast is freshly made for you. We are essentially offering a completely different experience. Part of that experience is the standard of the room, the personal touch, and the delicious, home-cooked breakfast.

Eagle Mill doesn’t have to compete with Airbnb. Our offering is very different and we’re each attracting different customer-bases.

Eagle Mill Bed and Breakfast, St Ives, Cambs
Eagle Mill Bed and Breakfast

What Makes Eagle Mill Bed and Breakfast different

We have invested in brand new buildings and the luxurious environment feels more hotel-like. All the rooms are within the Eagle Mill grounds so guests don’t have to go into someone’s house and they don’t have to be quiet, so we probably have the edge as far as those points are concerned. Without being pretentious, we’re probably offering more luxury than most.

One of the things I’ve learnt is that it’s easier to be a Bed and Breakfast than it is to be a hotel, because they have so many things to get right but also to get wrong. Someone might go to a hotel and have a wonderful night’ sleep but then have a bad breakfast, or experience poor customer service. People will not dwell on the good, they’ll focus on the parts of their stay that they didn’t enjoy. That’s the beauty of running a Bed and Breakfast – we manage the standards from the moment our guests arrive, to their departure.

The Orchard Rooms, Eagle Mill
The Orchard Rooms, Eagle Mill

The Future of Eagle Mill

We’ve recently added two orchard rooms – the Great Ouse and the Cam – to the Eagle Mill offering, as well as installing a Skargards Scandanavian hot tub for guests staying in the Great Ouse.

Our focus now is to build a bistro and spa within the Eagle Mill grounds. Eagle Mill’ existing clientele are more than happy to go out for dinner or bring food in but we’d hope to offer something for everyone eventually. Our aim is to maintain that personal, cosy feel with a family focus, whilst emulating the ambiance of a hotel.

The Eagle Mill grounds
The Eagle Mill grounds

To book your stay at Eagle Mill Bed and Breakfast, contact us directly and we’ll be happy to offer you the best room available.

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