RIPON, Wis. — Let’s face it, in the hospitality industry, the laundry isn’t exactly sexy. It has long been viewed as a back-of-the-house cost center; something you don’t worry about unless there’s a machine leaking water, or something that should be turning has stopped turning. In short, if it isn’t broke, or in the process of breaking, don’t worry about it.
Obviously, that’s a broad generalization, but it is also based on a certain amount of experience. Hotels are normally in the market for equipment when the need is immediate. Often, those in the hospitality industry limit their exposure to laundry equipment shopping to their specific brand or association shows. But with limited brands and technology represented at these shows, staff may not be getting exposed to all the technology available to make their lives easier and property more profitable.
What if there were a show focused solely on laundry equipment, laundry technology, and laundry products? There is such a show. It’s called the Clean Show, and it’s happening in June in Las Vegas.
So, what’s the value of going to a laundry-industry-specific event for a hotel laundry or facilities manager? The obvious benefit is a one-stop shop for everything laundry-related. Quite often in this area, staff is used to working with one distributor or brand and never truly gets a view of what else is on the market. There may be a better solution that management is unaware of. But how does the hospitality industry approach the show?
A good first step is preplanning your visit. That starts with an overall assessment of your laundry’s current status. Collect as much data as possible. What is the age of current units? What are the current capacities? How many shifts (hours) is the laundry running? What types of linens is the laundry processing?
Jot down what you see as any challenges the laundry is facing—equipment repairs over the last year that have led to downtime; overtime; utility cost spikes; rising rewash rates, etc. Also, be thinking about expansion or anything that may impact the laundry—new linen packages that might add to per-room poundage, or the addition of a restaurant or banquet center that could add new pieces and demands to the laundry.
While you may not necessarily need to come to the show armed with all this information, the exercise will help you zero in on some key areas and serve as conversation starters with exhibitors.
Don’t forget to include the guest laundry in this preplanning exercise. Is theft an issue? Is equipment aging and breaking down more frequently?
PLANNING FOR THE SHOW
Now that you have a wealth of information, highlight or rank what you see as the most important concerns impacting your property’s laundry. It may be as simple as the washer-extractors are dated and need to be replaced in the next year, or the laundry staff overtime seems to be spiking and you need to get better control of these costs
These are your priorities to go into the show with—challenges you are seeking to come away from Clean with clarity in the direction or products that may help you solve these issues.
I think it’s important for those in hospitality, or any industry for that matter, attending their first Clean Show to not go into the show with a laundry list (pun intended) of goals.
The show can be daunting enough without adding to the stress of solving every laundry problem you have in four days.
ATTENDING THE SHOW: DAYS 1 AND 2
Once at the show, structure your first day as more of a reconnaissance mission. Make that initial walk-through of the show floor a high-level view. This first pass is all about identifying what brand booths may hold the most promise for solving the challenges you came to the show to solve. Note that it also may take you into the second day to see the entire floor.
It definitely helps to bring a highlighter to identify on the show map the booths that stand out. Jot down notes from your conversations with staff. For instance, if your problem to solve was about finding a replacement washer-extractor, jot down capacities for models that stood out, high-level pricing to begin to compare and contrast against other competing machines.
The goal here is to see as much of the show as possible. Too often, attendees only see a fraction of the exhibits because they spend valuable time having deep conversations in a few booths that may or may not be targeting their main purpose for being there.
Remember, stay focused; don’t be distracted or spend too much time in booths that deviate from your main mission(s).
Day two can be reserved for any sections of the show you missed and for beginning to identify booths to visit in focusing on your secondary goals and areas of general interest, should you have time left over toward the end of the show.
Perhaps a secondary goal is expanding guest laundry services—could the hotel offer wet cleaning as an additional source of income and guest service? With the proper equipment and programming, some equipment could serve both the laundry’s high-volume needs, as well as specialized wet cleaning of guest garments.
DEEP DIVING FOR SOLUTIONS
On day three, it’s time to get serious and have deeper conversations at your highlighted booths. Here’s where you begin sharing some of that info you collected about your laundry’s current status and get into the solutions each company can present.
Be open-minded at this point. You are still in the information-gathering phase, so don’t limit your options on what you think you know about each brand/company you speak with. Make sure you ask about service and support, in the event you run into any breakdowns or have technical questions. Your hotel property needs to know that it will be supported. Be sure to take notes during these conversations, as you will want to revisit the information when you begin comparing solutions.
The whole idea is to gather as much information about the solutions available and have detailed notes to revisit upon returning home (we all know how easy it is to forget things we learned at the show upon returning home). It is also worth noting that you should not make your purchasing decision at the show.
FINAL DAY, FINAL QUESTIONS, FINAL THOUGHTS
On the last day, ask any follow-up questions of the vendors you met over the last few days. Also, use this time to explore other booths to acquaint yourself with other product innovations, accessories to help gain revenue, and other cost-saving products.
Upon returning home is when the fun part starts. Here’s where you weigh the solutions, identify the best fit for your facility (and budget). Don’t be afraid to chat with internal stakeholders and run possible ideas past peers, who can comment on their experiences with particular brands. You can also do this at the show. Events like this are wonderful places to network with others and bounce ideas off each other.
The bottom line is that laundry managers serving hospitality properties have ample reasons to attend the Clean Show, regardless of whether or not they are in the market for new equipment. It’s important to see the latest in technologies that can help them reduce costs. However, it is also important to go into the show with a well-defined plan of attack. This gives the trip focus and prevents you from wandering the show floor aimlessly.