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Food Service Requirements in a Bed and Breakfast

Part of a worksheet series for aspiring bed and breakfast innkeepers


One of the features that attracts guests to a B&B is the promise of a special breakfast. The host's goal is to serve attractive, delicious, and (whenever possible) nutritious meals to guests.

Breakfasts start at the very simple -- a continental breakfast, which usually includes hot tea or coffee, fruit juice and sweet rolls, muffins or biscuits. A full breakfast with juices, entree, breads and hot beverages is at the other end of the scale. No matter what type of meal you serve, everything should be of the highest quality.

Meal Planning

You may prefer foods that do not appeal to your guests, but you need to consider that people have a wide variety of food preferences as well as specific nutritional and dietary needs. Plan to serve foods that compliment one another and are appropriate to the season as well as those that are easiest for you to prepare and serve.

  • Consider the number of people you will be serving;
  • The type of place settings to be used; and
  • The method you choose for serving.

Start with high quality foods. The best meals typically include a variety of temperatures, textures, flavors, shapes, colors, and sizes.

Of course, despite all your planning, there's no guarantee everyone will enjoy the meals you serve.

Table Settings

The current trend in table fashions is that just about anything goes. Use of colors or florals is a personal choice. There are no fixed rules about what to use and when to use it.

Foods should always look attractive and appealing against the table cover and place settings used. Table settings can range from informal to very formal. The choice is yours and depends on the mood of your B&B and the feelings you want to convey to your guests.

Serve Healthy Foods

You should ask ahead of time if a guest has any specific dietary needs. This special touch will show your guests that you want to provide for their needs. Guidelines to consider for healthy meals:

  • Use low-fat products.

  • Include whole grains, fruits and vegetables in your meals. Bran or oats can be included in muffins, quick breads and served as cereal. These foods provide extra fiber.

  • Limit the use of fats and products with cholesterol and other saturated fats. Choose vegetable oils and liquid margarines rather than butter and other animal fats.

  • Limit the use of salt. Sodium can contribute to high blood pressure. Try substituting herbs, spices and other seasonings for salt in foods. Omit or reduce the amount of salt called for in recipes and avoid using processed or other foods that are high in sodium.

  • Limit the amount of sugar. Sugar itself is not harmful, but it's a source of empty calories and provides very little nutritional value.

Food Safety

We're fortunate to have proper storage and cooking methods easily available today. However, it's amazing how many unsafe food practices people still use.

Government inspections and strict standards in the food industry usually assure us of high quality, wholesome and safe foods. It's your responsibility to make sure that standard is maintained in your bed and breakfast.

The danger zone for bacterial growth in food is between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F. Most food poisoning bacteria grow in room temperatures around 60 to 70 degrees F. When bacteria grow, it divides and multiplies in number. Two very important rules to follow are:

  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold!

  • When in doubt, throw it out!

Make sure all leftovers are stored promptly. Never thaw frozen foods on a countertop at room temperature.

For more food safety tips, contact your state or local health department.


"Sanitization" means effective bactericidal treatment by a process that provides enough accumulative heat or concentration of chemicals for enough time to reduce the bacterial count, including pathogens, to a safe level on utensils and equipment.

For example, bleach is an effective all-purpose sanitizer that even kills bacteria which may cause food poisoning. This sanitizer is authorized by use under USDA meat, poultry, rabbit and egg products inspection programs.

If using other types of sanitizers, such as tablets, then they must be registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the product label must claim it will sanitize food contact surfaces without needing a final clear water rinse.

Check with your state and local health departments for rules and regulations which are specific to your area. You also may have to undergo some type of health inspection, perhaps on a regular basis.

State and Local Regulations

Your food service might be controlled by state and/or local laws or regulations. Be sure to understand all of the laws and regulations which govern you in this area.

This series of worksheets and information was originally written by Eleanor Ames, a Certified Family Consumer Sciences professional and a faculty member at Ohio State University for 28 years. With her husband, she ran the Bluemont Bed and Breakfast in Luray, Virginia, until they retired from innkeeping. Many thanks to Eleanor for her gracious permission to reprint them here. Some content has been edited, and links to related features on this site have been added to Eleanor's original text.

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