Laundry is an important function for hotels, but what provides the best service - in-house, outsourced, or a mixture of both? Lisa Jenkins reports
Laundry and housekeeping are two of the most important functions in hotels, but often they are services put to the bottom of the priority list. Ironically, it's the unsung heroes in housekeeping that your guests will remember; the little touches when they return to their room after a day spent sight-seeing or in a long business meeting. Laundry quality leaves a lasting impression - you want it to be a fresh and clean one.
So, how do you ensure you are getting the best service? Processing your laundry in-house means you retain control, while outsourcing to a reputable laundry company can ensure consistency. For many, the answer to this age-old question is to do a bit of both.
"We have decided to continue with a mixture of in-house and outsourced laundry," says Julian Tomlin, group operations director at Exclusive Hotels, which is at the end of an internal laundry review across all its properties. "I believe you get a better top-end quality of linen through an in-house laundry." Though he is keen to add that he is very happy with his current laundry contractor, Watford Laundry.
Exclusive Hotels will send its flatware out and do towels, facecloths and robes in-house. "You have to ensure, however, that you have sufficient stock to let your laundry rest between uses," Tomlin adds. He would also like to find other like-minded hotels willing to share laundry delivery routes to cut down on costs and focus on the quality of the linen.
Cost and quality are two of the most important considerations for hoteliers. But for those who don't have the space, or the money to do both options, how do you decide which route to take?
Consistency is a major factor. You must be confident that standards will be maintained with your laundry contractor so that inferior laundry can be rejected without argument. Signing a contract based on the pristine laundry shown on signing day will not necessarily guarantee this level of quality continues. You need to factor in time to check your laundry deliveries - dark hairs can fall between the sheets from operatives' hair and flatbed iron marks can appear. Clear guidelines and terms need to be discussed at the start of the process if going down the outsourced route.
Matthew Drinkwater, deputy general manager at Audleys Wood hotel, Hampshire, which also uses a mixture of in-house and out-sourced laundry, incorporates this checking time into his managers' schedules.
Meanwhile London Hilton on Park Lane's laundry manager, Rebecca Still, believes combining outsourcing and on-site laundry processes offers the best of both worlds. "There is so much technology involved in laundry processing that it would be very difficult and expensive to keep up with these, and the maintenance of such equipment can be a financial drain," she says. "For our on-site service we couldn't live without our shirt finisher and collar and cuff machine, both of these dramatically cut the processing time of drying and pressing of shirts."
Any examination of tasks kept on site should include the initial equipment, ongoing running costs, high rental charges and replacing damaged linen (see below).
A hidden cost is the investment required to train your staff to make best use of the equipment. Liz Smith-Mills, UK hotel consultant with Diversey, says: "Training is one of the most important factors to the quality of laundry within properties and language barriers and time spent in a country can impact on this being more or less effective."
Diversey is working in partnership with Electrolux to bring the benefits of in-house laundry to major lodging customers. Electrolux claims that a 200-bed hotel with 70% occupancy switching to OPL could expect to report an additional £87,000 of profit on the bottom line on a five-year lease if it ran its laundry eight hours a day, seven days a week. In April 2010, four new washers from Electrolux Laundry Services (ELS) were installed at the Maison Talbooth hotel, Colchester, in its existing laundry room - it had some interesting results (see panel below).
So, you've made your decision, one way or the other - or both, but have you considered the technological advances and the environmental impact?
Roger Oliver, managing director at the London Linen Group, claims that its steam-less laundry service uses 70% less water and 25% less gas and electricity when compared with conventional laundry services. It also offers a direct heated tunnel washer which uses thermal exchange to transfer heat from hot water to incoming cold water, reducing energy consumption.
Sunlight Textile Services UK & Ireland has three factories in south London and provides a laundry rental service for hotels including Starwood Hotel Resorts, the Hyatt Churchill and Holiday Inn. It is fortunate to have its own water from two bore holes on the site and believes this is one of the advantages to laundry being processed off-site - water costs are high on the list of disadvantages for hotels with on-site laundries.
Chris Hancock, regional service manager at Sunlight, says: "The space an on-site laundry takes up could be better used as a selling area for increased profits."
As you would expect, all of the above equipment, products, training and technologies come together to help achieve the main objective - the ultimate guest experience. Tomlin concludes: "For us, the quality of the linen and the sleep experience is a key differential for the customer experience."
julian tomlin's laundry tips
● Remember to factor in your capital and operational costs as part of a review
● Review your maintenance contracts - make sure they include all laundry equipment
● Investigate a water re-use tank
in-house versus outsourced laundry
Lisa Williams is executive housekeeper at Park Plaza County Hall, London, and manages all the laundry in-house. She says: "I couldn't live without our two Miele washing machines and dryers. They are a good quality product and last for years. The quality of the laundry after washing is to a high-standard, too."
But she is familiar with both approaches. Here she offers her pro and cons of in-house versus outsourced laundry:
● Choose your own quality
● You will not pay high rental costs
● Cost savings on purchasing and washing
● You have to do your own stock takes
● You have to replace damaged linen yourself with a cost implication
● Staff may take more care of your own linen
● Good quality linen can be sold to guests, extending the hotel experience
● Quality/choice may not be up to your expectations
● High rental charges
● You do not have to do your own stock takes
● Reject linen is replaced, depending on service level agreement
● Linen replacement not always guaranteed by supplier
● Abused linen stock is charged for
● Damaged stock can also be charged for
● Staff may be less careful with the linen as it doesn't belong to the hotel
case study maison toolbooth hotel
The family owned Maison Talbooth hotel in Colchester is a well-established luxury hotel. Owners, the Milsom Group, recently upgraded the laundry facilities and the results have revealed not only an increase in laundry efficiency, but also an improvement on the profit margin.
Each washer is equipped with Electrolux's Clarus control options to ensure water and energy savings. This inbuilt microprocessor co-ordinates timing, optimal water levels and temperature for a combination of superior performance and minimum water and energy consumption.
Four dryers and two ironers complete the replacement laundry equipment. The ironers speed up the laundry process as the sheets can be taken straight out of the dryers with the heated cylinder in the ironers drying and ironing table linen and bed sheets.
Since the update, the hotel laundry service has taken on the laundry requirements of all four hotels in the Milsom Group and Daniel Courtney, hotel manager, is delighted with the new facilities. "The laundry is working to full capacity", he states. "We have four laundry operators working from Monday to Friday, and during our busiest periods we can do the laundry, not only for the hotels, but also for a number of outside catering events a week."
The On Premises Laundry has enabled the laundry service to operate as a business in its own right, becoming a profit centre for the hotel and showing a significant increase in productivity.
Procter & Gamble Professional
London Linen Supply
The British Institute of Cleaning Science
By Lisa Jenkins
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