Originally posted – Nov 16, 2012
One of the most profitable and high-volume commercial accounts a self-service laundry owner can acquire is a small hotel.
Typically, such accounts are 20- to 45-room hotels that may or may not have their own laundry facilities – and the owners are looking to farm out some or all of their linens and laundry.
Most likely, you would be laundering linens that are owned by the hotel. However, there is a possibility that you may be asked to purchase and supply linens to certain hotel accounts; in such cases, you should consider having the client sign a contract, because the linen rental portion of such accounts will require a much larger investment on your part.
For the most part, hotel laundry is probably what you would expect – sheets, towels, blankets, pillow cases, comforters and so on. Of course, as you develop a relationship with your hotel client, you may be able to add items like mops, towels and rags that are used internally by the hotel’s housekeeping staff – as well as perhaps some hotel uniforms.
But the bulk of the business will still be the linens that are supplied directly to the rooms.
Although the type of workload depends on the type of hotel and the typical length of the stay of the guests, you’ll likely see a lot more towels than sheets, because hotels don’t change their sheets every day – only when they have a new guest. However, they will change the towels that get used every day.
For example, if your client caters to businesspeople Monday through Friday, you might not have to wash a lot of sheets during the week, but you will see a good deal of dirty towels. Then, over the weekend, you might get some sheets sets as the hotel cycles through its weekend visitors.
If you’re going to do hotel work – and especially if there isn’t a large inventory of linens – you will be expected to do a lot of work over the weekend. Of course, the weekends are also the prime time for your self-service customers, so you may find yourself interfering with the walk-in segment of your business. In fact, some laundry owners will adjust their attendants’ hours, having them come in early during the weekends to get the hotel work done so that the self-service customers have full access to the store later in the morning.
With hotel accounts, it’s crucial to have the proper amount of inventory. A hotel can change every room overnight, and that can occur several days in a row – so not having enough inventory will mean that the hotel will be left with rooms without linens, and those are rooms that can’t be sold.
In the hotel industry, one complete set of linens that will fulfill the needs for one turn of a room is called a “par,” and a minimum inventory level would be a 3-par. In other words, there would be one set of sheets on the beds, one set dirty at your store being processed, and one set on the shelf and ready to go. That would be an ideal linen inventory minimum.
A 2-par level – which would mean there is one set on the beds and one set at the laundry being cleaned – will not work.
Hotels have a very narrow window in which to turn around their guest rooms. By 3:00 p.m., they’ve got to be ready to sell every available room. This means that the bulk of their housekeeping work occurs between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. They’ve got to turn over all of their rooms during that period, and if they’re waiting for you to clean and return the only other sets of sheets and towels, the process physically will not work.
In doing hotel laundry, you’ll typically be dealing with very lightly soiled items; however, you will have to tackle some tougher stains from time to time.
At my store with our hotel accounts, we don’t pre-spot anything – we tackle it after the fact. As we’re packaging and folding the finished items, we’ll pull out and set aside anything that requires extra attention, and we’ll run a separate reclaim load with these items. That’s how we handle quality control for our hotel clients.
Another key element to consider when doing commercial hotel work is how the client folds and presents its towels. Every hotel may have a slightly different way of presenting its towels, and you certainly don’t want to cause them any additional work; therefore, presenting them their finished product in the exact way they will then assemble it in the room can be very helpful to your hotel clients.
A final tip with regard to doing commercial hotel laundry is to develop a good working relationship with your client’s front desk manager. This individual can let you know what the hotel’s linen and laundry demands will be at any given time, and this will help you in planning your labor.
After all, hotel work can require a lot of labor for every turn. Doing one full turn for a 30-room hotel could equate to as many as 20 to 30 labor hours. Clearly, you won’t always have that kind of extra staffing just sitting around your store doing nothing. On the flip side, if you know in advance that your client, for example, won’t require a complete turn on a certain weekend, you might not need to staff as many attendants that weekend. It’s all about efficiently planning your labor and best servicing the needs of your client.
In fact, it’s the up-and-down aspects of hotel laundry labor that will have many hotels clamoring for your services. Small-hotel operators have enough to keep them busy without worrying about washing their sheets and towels. If you can effectively eliminate that part of their equation, you’re likely to attract some very loyal – and profitable – new commercial accounts.