Linen services typically persuade hoteliers to outsource laundry purely on the basis of improving the use of real estate, encouraging hotels to convert the existing on-premises laundry (OPL) into functions that increase hotel revenue, such as a gym, meeting room, or snack bar. They contend that whatever gains are made from this shift will far outweigh any benefit currently received from processing linen in-house. However, this may not always be a convincing argument for hoteliers who have concerns about saying goodbye to their in-house laundry facilities.
Hoteliers may want to hold onto their laundry operations for a number of reasons. Some may be skeptical about whether outsourcing laundry is more cost effective. Others may want to maintain control over linens and keep laundry in-house so that hotels can wash whenever necessary to better serve guests. Another concern is keeping laundry equipment as a factor in property valuation so that, in the event of a hotel sale, a property with laundry facilities may be priced higher.
“We begin by reminding hoteliers of their primary function, which is to provide lodging for their customers. Ours is to provide a professional laundry service for our customers,” says Mark Whitten, vice president of sales, Mission Linen Supply, Santa Barbara, Calif. His company uses a questionnaire to get as much actual data as possible on a hotel OPL. “We ask for the opportunity to evaluate their entire program as it exists today,” he says. “This evaluation covers all costs associated with running their laundry, such as equipment, maintenance, linen purchases, labor, utilities, etc.”
To address other concerns about outsourcing laundry, linen services will typically ask hoteliers about the frequency of replacing linen inventory and the age of laundry equipment. Too much sheet and towel washing at the last-minute risks guest satisfaction rather than enhancing it. The frequent need to overcome shortages in circulating inventory reflects too much washing of the same pieces (which wears out linen prematurely). Higher linen costs revealed by benchmarking may not be an economic concern to hoteliers but they indicate risk of customer dissatisfaction. In terms of equipment, when machinery is in decline, it doesn’t wash, dry, or remove wrinkles as effectively—another minus for guest satisfaction. If equipment needs to be replaced, it’s not much of an asset. Linen services have traditionally cited a property’s need to replace old equipment as the most common reason for OPL shutdown.
Billy Dickerson, general manager for Gulf Coast Laundry Services, Gulfport, Miss., recently observed in Textile Services magazine that whether OPL shutdown provides additional space or cost savings, it enables hotels to “commit more resources to hospitality needs” and provides for “one less worry a hotel manager has to face on a daily basis.”
No single motivation drives an hotelier’s decision to commit to a new service or business practice. Hoteliers must consider whether the switch will help them achieve potentially large revenue gains, produce an immediate bottom-line benefit from cost reduction, and preserve the business’s core competence to maintain a profitable status quo.
About the Author
Joseph Ricci is the president and CEO of TRSA, the association for the linen, uniform and facility services industry.