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Hospitality Laundering: Rear Guard of the Bed, Spa and Chef Wars (Part 1)

Matthew Alexander |

The Bed Wars, Spa Wars and now Chef Wars have created enormous challenges for textile service companies and managers. The impact on hospitality laundry operations has only been exceeded by the impact on the guest experience. Demands have been excruciating, all at a time when hotels are coming under increased scrutiny to best manage assets and become “green.”
Textile service companies and managers need to provide greater levels of quality, produce hard-to-handle textile products and reduce environmental impact and energy consumption. On-premise laundry (OPL) managers need to accomplish these objectives while demonstrating the laundry is making the first and best use of facilities, money and people.MORE POUNDS OF LAUNDRY
Pounds of laundry per occupied room have long been the benchmark for measuring laundry production. Pounds processed for full-service hotels have in many cases quadrupled since Westin’s “Heavenly Bed” fired the Bed Wars’ opening salvo in 1999.
With virtually every major luxury hotel now featuring elaborate, full-service spas, and with world-class restaurants taking center stage in most hotel and resort marketing efforts, the proliferation of hospitality textiles has become so pronounced that it demands a rethinking of the traditional benchmark of pounds per occupied room.
There are now so many areas where a resort or hotel employs textiles that when planning to design, build or operate a laundry, if you attempt to plan based solely on room count and use a traditional measurement, you may come up short in the process.
Poundage in full-service hotels has increased due to enhanced dining and spa services, heavier towels, bigger beds, robes, plunge pools, foot towels, enhanced turn-down service, triple sheeting, duvet covers and pillow shams. In some cases, spa, beach and pool services are creating greater demands for laundry services than the traditional room linen that normally represented the lion’s share of hotel textiles.THE LUXURY BED, SPA AND FINE DINING – HERE TO STAY
Great mattresses, cotton-rich – high-thread-count – sheets, down comforters, duvet covers and pillow shams are standards of the luxury hotel room, as are robes and heavy, premium towels.
With the proliferation of spa treatments and fine dining, complete with textile table tops and skirting, napkins and uniforms, the amount, type and quality of textiles used in the modern luxury hotel has in many cases exceeded the ability of the OPL or commercial laundry supplier to meet the expectation.
This has sent many hoteliers back to the drawing board to reinvent how it is they do laundry or who they partner with to achieve the task.FINE TEXTILES: SHORTER LIFE, INCREASED COST, INCONSISTENT PRODUCT QUALITY
The proliferation of fine textiles in hotels has, in many cases, resulted in a decreased life expectancy compared to the more durable products they replaced. By changing textile processing procedures, including colder-temperature washing with less chlorine bleach, reduced mechanical action and improved quality-control procedures, textile service departments and companies have improved the performance of fine textiles for commercial applications.
However, poor consistency of manufactured products plagues the luxury linen industry. Inherent defects that can include damage to the textile fiber in the scour bleach process of the yarn manufacturing and contraction techniques that increase thread count but result in poor tensile strength are creating headaches for purchasing and
laundry management.
The consistency of textiles being supplied to the U.S. market appears to have declined proportionally with the elimination of U.S. textile manufacturing.
The industry-standard textiles that were common in hotels for decades were relatively easy to process and remained relatively consistent. Today, we see at times great variation in the fiber quality, construction and manufacturing process among various shipments that are delivered under the same brand name and to the same specifications.CALL FOR CHANGE
With luxury beds and bathrooms requiring high-cotton-content textiles being processed to the highest level of quality, along with luxury spas and fine restaurants demanding a high volume of expertly finished products, hotels that operate laundries and textile service companies have had to:

  • Train staff.
  • Provide textile testing and inspection to drive product consistency.
  • Implement and supervise improved quality assurance programs.
  • Develop standards and best practices for processing luxury products.
  • Develop rigorous inventory management systems.
  • Refine wash processes.
  • Plan laundry expansion.
  • Install a flatwork finishing system with a minimum operating width of 130 inches.
  • Implement robust linen inventory procedures.
  • Initiate textile conservation programs.
  • Develop effective textile distribution programs.

 

About the author

Matthew Alexander

Pertl & Alexander LLC

President

Matthew Alexander, MHS, is the president of Pertl & Alexander LLC, a laundry consulting company based in Chappaqua, N.Y. The firm designs laundry facilities and provides management consultation for companies around the world, and counts many leading hotel and healthcare companies among its clients. He can be reached at 914-238-4247 or by e-mail.

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