Hospitality Laundering: Rear Guard of the Bed, Spa and Chef Wars (Part 2)

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.EFFECTIVE ASSET MANAGEMENT – HELPING TO CHANGE THE GAME
OPL operations are under more vigorous review than ever before to demonstrate the value produced for the property owners. Traditionally, luxury hotels built and operated laundries to service the properties without necessarily subjecting them to a rigorous economic feasibility review. Often, this was a result of a belief that there wasn’t a suitable outsourcing supplier in a given market that would deliver to the hotelier’s expectations.
Adding to this belief was the practice of many textile service companies resisting a seven-day service schedule or declining to process COG (customer-owned – branded – goods) textiles, preferring to rent textiles from a consolidated inventory that was shared among numerous clients.
The advent and proliferation of real estate investment trusts (REIT) have helped to shape the way hotels – and their laundries – operate.
Because a REIT organizational structure causes property companies and operating companies to be separated, it has facilitated the formation of property companies that own hotels under management by many different operating companies. The result is that a REIT asset manager can now evaluate the performance of multiple hotels across a broad range of brands.
They can identify savings and reduced cost of operations in certain areas that a single hotelier may have traditionally thought to be an acceptable cost based on any one brand’s standards.TEXTILE PROVIDERS ADAPT
The result of more vigorous economic review of OPL operations and the need for high quantity and quality of textile services has challenged traditional thinking about how to deliver services.
This scrutiny usually results in valuing the space the OPLs occupy in addition to the cost of money to construct and equip them. Hoteliers had traditionally overlooked these issues, and many OPLs have now been closed. Many more underperforming laundries designed to run five days a week on a single shift have been pushed into manning extended shifts and running seven days a week, resulting in economies of scale that have reduced cost per pound.
Commercial laundry companies have improved and expanded services, and have built new, modern facilities to meet the growing demands of the hospitality industry – providing hoteliers more alternatives to operating their own laundry operations. In order to stay competitive and maintain operations, hotel companies have turned to consulting and management firms with extensive experience in textile processing, systems design, energy and inventory management in order to reduce cost and improve quality and throughput.
Textile service professionals are more desired and appreciated in the hospitality industry than ever before. The Bed Wars, Spa Wars and Chef Wars have all increased their prestige and recognition.GREEN INITIATIVES
Hotels are increasingly interested in going “green” and are keen to reduce skyrocketing energy costs. Many more hotels are moving toward continuous batch-washing systems. The technology of these systems has improved such that water consumption is at an all-time low, resulting in lower demands on municipal water treatments and sewer systems. There is also a continued interest in adapting ozone, enzymes and low-temperature chemistry in the wash process.
Ozone has a demonstrated ability to augment the wash process, which can result in lower wash temperatures, reduced formula times and some reduction in chemical usage. Unfortunately, there are few industry-accepted standards relating to the required concentrations of ozone to maintain effectiveness, and few established methods for chemical suppliers to measure and adjust chemical concentrations to adapt to changing conditions.
Further stymieing the proliferation of ozone technology is the sporadic performance of providers in consistently delivering the level of services end users typically require to maintain systems in good operating order. As the technology continues to improve and as chemical suppliers gain greater comfort, ozone will continue to gain market share and deliver positive results in hospitality laundries where the great majority of textiles processed are lightly soiled.
Chemical technology has improved to where lower-temperature washing should be the norm for most hospitality laundries. Paying a little bit more for chemistry to reduce energy costs and environmental impact is good, smart business that can also prolong textile life.IS THE CELEBRITY LAUNDRY MANAGER NEXT?
Hospitality’s demands for better technology and better-trained textile service professionals aren’t going away and are straining industry resources. Perhaps with the limited number of well-trained professionals working in the hospitality industry, it won’t be long before hoteliers are competing to recruit laundry managers with such vigor that it will create the era of the celebrity laundry manager – one who can help a hotelier make his rooms, spas, restaurants and associates look their best.

About the author

Matthew Alexander

Pertl & Alexander LLC


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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