Learnings from the world’s best B&B

Who would have believed that the world’s best B&B is a modestly proportioned place in the small village of Masham in North Yorkshire. But it’s true and Millgate Bed & Breakfast sits proudly atop the pile.


When reading the Times newspaper recently I came across an article about the guest house that was set up only four years ago and quickly gained its place as the top B&B as judged by its former customers on Trip Advisor.

This got me thinking about what it was that made it number one and whether there was anything that retailers could learn from Millgate and its dedicated owners Sue and Andrew Burrell.

For starters, they took the route of constant re-investment in the business. They chose an iconic building (in a similar way that Apple has selected wonderful properties around the world and added the ‘wow’ factor) and beginning with a single room they added another two over time as they re-invested their profits. The best example of this being replicated in the retail sector is Amazon whose mindset is constant re-investment.

The Burrell’s also bring a massive amount of passion to their B&B, which was clearly evident to every one of those guests that chose to give good feedback on Trip Advisor. When serving the public it is imperative that you love what you do, and if this is the case then it will shine through. The key bit of advice from Sue Burrell is: ‘Never open your door and darken your countenance.’

This customer care piece is clearly the component that has also helped John Lewis to successfully stand out from the crowd. Many others talk up a good customer-centric story but they so often fail to actually deliver the goods.

The reality is giving customers a great personal service far outweighs providing myriad services. Clearly Millgate does not have a spa, gym, swimming pool, 24-hour room service, or a bar but it does have the personal interaction between the Burrell’s and their guests.

According to James McClure, general manager for UK & Ireland at Airbnb, the difference between establishments that achieve 4-star ratings and those with 5-stars on Trip Advisor is wholly down to them having enjoyed a personal interaction and experience with the people running the lodgings. You can have all the facilities you like but top ratings can only be earned through a personal experience.

Interestingly the key facilities focused on at Millgate are the bed and the breakfast components. Top notch, best quality mattresses are on each of the beds and the breakfast involves starched linen tablecloths and very good ingredients including breads and bacon sourced locally.



They obsess about these most obvious things that a good B&B should provide. There is a lot to be learned from this Napier-like focus on the important aspects. Retailers can learn from this by avoiding over complicating things.

In today’s increasingly technology-driven environment there are so many things that retailers could commit to doing – from Click & Collect, to personalisation and big data analytics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and mobile commerce that all take time and money. But a much better strategy is to just focus on the most important factors and then obsess about them.

There is no escaping the fact that we are in a very complicated retail world but as the Burrell’s have found to their great benefit – small players can succeed if they focus on the key Important elements.

Customer desires have not really changed that much – people still want a great experience and fundamental to this is being served by passionate people who deliver an exemplary customer experience. But the Millgate has not completely eschewed technology. It has recognised the value of social media and has utilised it assiduously to help it engage with customers and build on its Trip Advisor success.

It is inevitable that we are also going to see technology used a lot more to actually enhance the customer experience. We can reveal that in the forthcoming ‘Retail Insider Digital Retail Innovations’ report (sponsored by Webloyalty) that will be launched on July 6 many of the innovations included in the Top 50 are customer experience solutions. But much more of that in the next column…

Guy (online only)Guy Chiswick, Managing Director, Webloyalty Northern Europe (@Webloyalty_Guy)