Hotel managers who consider shutting down on-premises laundries (OPLs) and consider outsourcing their laundry services might view these vendors as a commodity. Cost savings are often viewed as the primary advantage of such a shift. Outsourced linen services operate more economically than OPLs and convey the cost benefits of their large-scale operations. At first glance, multiple local vendor options in this industry seem indistinguishable other than their prices, so the cheapest bid gets the contract.
Part of that is accurate and part of it isn’t. Certainly, a hotel manager will realize cost savings by moving laundering to an off-site model. Linen services do benefit from economies of scale, and closing an OPL can free floor space to generate revenue, such as by adding gyms or snack bars. But most commercial laundries offer varying services and differentiators that give them unique brands and individual relationships with their customers—the very opposite of commoditization.
Below are five ways that linen services stand out from their competition.
1. Long-established operations. One linen service that can serve your hotel(s) may have been in business longer than its competitor(s). With more time to establish a foothold in your local market, the elder may have grown larger and now serves more customers than its less experienced counterparts. It’s more likely to benefit from economies of scale and its management may be more qualified to advise on linen management.
2. Capacity. Generally, the more linen processed, the lower the cost per pound. A smaller capacity laundry that’s busting at the seams can run multiple work shifts to increase its output and handle your work. Even a larger one may need to do the same. In either case, a laundry’s existing capacity, the percent currently used, and plans to increase it say much about its capability of handling your work and improving economies in the years to come.
3. Market specialty. A growing segment of linen and uniform services—many of which are more than 50 years old—are completely dedicated to hotel work. Most operations in the industry handle multiple markets as they serve some combination of facilities in hospitality, food and beverage, healthcare, retail, service, manufacturing, or other industries. Those that are 100 percent dedicated to hotels are experts in the hospitality market. Mixed operations have even more of an edge over the competition in that it can handle more of a hotel’s product needs, such as napkins and tablecloths for restaurants and industrial uniforms for maintenance staff.
4. Equipment modernization. The outsourced laundry in town with less work than the largest one might have newer, higher-speed washing, drying, and conveying equipment. Are loads moved through processing via overhead and belt conveyors? Or is the laundry facility using hand-pushed carts that require more labor? Ask all laundries what functions they automate that others might not.
5. Proximity to your location. How far is the laundry from your hotel(s)? Chain operations that rent linen in addition to washing it may launder your work more than 100 miles away but maintain linen inventory in a service center near you. If a hotel owns its linen and outsources only washing, close proximity of laundry equipment may be important to you. However, hoteliers should note that outsourced launderers work with properties to maintain proper inventory levels to account for sudden, unexpected increases in linen demand.
About the Author
Joseph Ricci is the president and CEO of TRSA, the association for the linen, uniform and facility services industry.