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Does Your Independent Laundry Have a Backup Plan?

With more M&As, independents need to prepare for processing disruptions

CHICAGO — On the morning of July 30, 2023, Portland (Oregon) Fire & Rescue was called to a two-alarm fire at the warehouse of Indoor Billboard, a family-run industrial laundry.

The blaze put the independent laundry’s processing capabilities out of commission.

Fortunately, Indoor Billboard was able to enlist other laundry operations to process linens and mats while they recovered.

“Since Aug. 1, we have been processing linen for Indoor Billboard in Portland,” shares Rick Snyder, general manager of U.S. Linen & Uniform in Richland, Washington. 

“They had a fire, so their plant has been out of commission since then. They apparently have two other companies processing their mats. 

“While we did not have a formal backup plan with them, we were happy to help out.”

As an independent laundry, Indoor Billboard was fortunate to find other operations that could handle processing as the company recovered.

With more mergers and acquisitions (M&A) taking place in the laundry and linen services industry, it’s vital for independent operations to ensure they have viable backup processing plans in place in the event of emergencies or disasters.


The trend for larger national and regional laundry and linen service operations to consolidate smaller operations doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

In 2023, American Laundry News reported on 10 such mergers and acquisitions with another five so far in 2024.

Fortunately, these M&As haven’t affected independent laundry operations too much on a day-to-day basis.

“Mergers and acquisitions have not affected how we currently operate,” says John Johnston, partner and CEO of Ed Robinson Laundry and Dry Cleaning/Physicians Wear/CRDN in Columbia, South Carolina. He is also the vice president of the Independent Textile Rental Association (ITRA)

“They do allow us an opportunity to stand out as a local provider.”

“We will find out soon enough as the biggest independent competitor in our area just sold to Cintas,” shares Jimbo Carrico, the owner of Springfield Laundry in Kentucky and an ITRA member. 

“I don’t have any other knowledge at this time as we haven’t experienced any industry changes due to acquisitions yet.”

Snyder adds, “Not very much. It has just meant we have a few more prospects.” 

However, M&As do influence how independent laundries create and maintain their backup plans for business continuity.

“We haven’t updated our plans in years. Now is a good time to start working on that,” Snyder says. 

“While we had never discussed being the backup for Indoor Billboard in Portland, we became their emergency backup plan when they had a fire last year. They currently have three companies processing for them.”

“It is important as an independent to have positive relationships with other independents in case of emergencies,” Johnston says. “The emergencies could be as severe as a total loss or could be a minor disruption in service.  

“Being involved in organizations such as ITRA allows independents an opportunity to grow positive relationships with others and work on worst-case scenario plans.”    

“Relationships is all I have to say on this besides backup plans are needed,” Carrico adds. 

“With the fire we experienced a year and a half ago, it was very difficult at times to get other companies to help out.  

“With that said, being a member of ITRA, CSC, and other cost groups allowed me to become close to several other independent regional industrial laundry companies which helped us out during that hard time.”


There are several factors independent laundry operators must consider when creating or updating an emergency backup plan.

“I think with most of the remaining independents operating near capacity, it will be difficult to have one company process all of your requirements,” Snyder says. 

“We will need backup plans with multiple companies. You need a new facility to distribute and assemble the goods. 

“You need transportation to all of the backup companies. You need equipment for the things you can do, like folding and mats.”

Johnston says it’s important for independent laundries to be aware that the worst-case scenario can happen to anyone on any given day.  

“It is important to have relationships with other laundries in your area that could assist you in case of a disruption in service,” he stresses.  

“It is also important to know the capabilities of the laundries around you and what type of work and how much they can handle.” 

Johnston’s key elements of a backup plan for an independent laundry include, first and foremost, relationships, followed by understanding capabilities and having a general idea of what would need to happen in the first 72 hours.

“First in my mind is you need a depot to store route soiled and clean product, if you don’t have one, to help distribute the designated items to the helping facilities,” Carrico says. 

“I was lucky enough to have purchased a building that we were renovating to move into within that next year, so Springfield Laundry had that, thank God.  

“Second is transportation to the helping facility. Also, scheduling, managing inventory and communicating with the customer. 

Another main key, according to Carrico, is having the right insurance and the appropriate coverage amount. 

“You need to have adequate insurance to cover the physical loss and loss of revenue,” agrees Johnston.

Once an independent laundry creates a backup plan, it’s important to do everything possible, from regular conversations to whatever testing is possible, to help ensure the plan will work if needed. 

“Other than having a fire, I don’t know how you test it,” admits Snyder. “I think you need to stay in contact with the backup companies to make sure their capacity hasn’t changed significantly.”

“(Test the plan) by having consistent conversations with your peers on what might need to happen,” Johnston adds. “Do this every 12-18 months and update thoughts and ideas.” 


As the laundry and linen services industry continues along the path of mergers and acquisitions, it seems inevitable the backup plans for independent laundries will change in the future.

“The changes are fewer independents to help out,” says Snyder.

“The concern I would have is no one would be willing to help out,” adds Carrico. 

As he mentioned earlier, a vital component of independent laundry backup plans is to maintain relationships with other independent operations.

“Again, relationships and being proactive with the right fit, including competitors or other regional companies that may be just outside of the company’s service area,” Carrico points out. 

“You need to have agreements between those companies to help each other out.”

Does Your Independent Laundry Have a Backup Plan

(Image licensed by Ingram Image)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].