Most select-service and full-service hotels take different approaches to laundry services, and the factors to make those decisions include the property’s space, market type and more.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hotel laundry operations aren’t a one-size-fits-all process at every property, so hoteliers are streamlining it to fit the needs of both full-service and focused-service properties.
A big part of the process is determining whether laundry is done off-site with a third-party vendor or in-house, sources said.
Dan Freeland, regional VP of Concord Hospitality Enterprises, said his smaller hotels keep laundry services in-house but for the larger, full-service hotels, laundry is majorly outsourced. Some of the decision is up to the individual owners, he said.
He said some of Concord’s developers today want to maximize the space within hotels in order to drive revenue—meaning laundry room space could be axed. Space is one of the determining factors for outsourcing laundry, as is the amount of capital outlay.
“For our focused-(service) hotels, the standard setup has been pretty traditional, it hasn’t changed much,” he said. “However, our large-site facilities off-property have changed greatly.”
Freeland has taken tours of several off-site laundry facilities and noticed more of them are using newer technologies such as tunnel washers with multiple chambers and automated folding systems. More facilities are also using trackable delivery systems, he said.
“It’s more sophisticated and you see a lot less manual labor within those units,” he said.
Gavin Philipp, VP of operations at Charlestowne Hotels, said in an email interview in most of the new-build projects his company is working on, developers are encouraged to include laundry facilities in spatial planning because Charlestowne prefers to do it in-house. But for its properties in larger markets where third-party laundry operators are an option, his company will consider it, he said.
Patrick Short, corporate VP of operations at Peachtree Hotel Group—which primarily has a select-service, limited-service and extended-stay portfolio—said laundry is mainly done in-house. A lot of Peachtree’s acquisitions are existing hotels and not new-builds, so his company will utilize the in-house laundry rooms already at those properties. For the new-builds that are under construction, Peachtree is building in-house laundry facilities, he said.
“I think a lot of that (decision) depends on the market,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily go to the size of the hotel; however, with ours smaller, we don’t do outsourcing.”
Short said Peachtree’s properties are also in smaller towns, and the ability to outsource isn’t always available. He’s had experience with outsourcing and said there’s pros and cons for both options, but outsourcing can be pricier.
“Half of your expense is your labor to do the laundry and another big chunk of that is utilities, but when you start outsourcing there is a secondary cost,” he said. “When you outsource laundry, you typically need more par (the amount of inventory).”
Freeland said other challenges that come with outsourcing laundry include third-party facilities losing a hotel’s linens, distance from the hotel and the facility and weather conditions affecting delivery time. On the flip side, benefits of outsourcing include a reduction of labor in the hotel and the liability of potential accidents, he said.
Short said most hotels like to be between the two-and-a-half- and three-par levels, but in an outsourcing situation it’s more costly to get daily delivery, so hotels should be between four- and five-par levels. Although there’s a lot more control over inventory in-house, owners are aware that general labor costs have risen.
Controlling labor, laundry costs, energy
Short said about 50% or more of laundry expenses goes toward labor. A key part of controlling some of that expense is cross-utilizing staff and job sharing.
“If you do the laundry—wash, dry and fold it—you potentially have downtime, and in that downtime you can maybe be running linen to (housekeepers),” he said.
Freeland said Concord is cross-utilizing staff now more than ever, especially in high-demand times. Some of his smaller properties rely on front-desk associates to help fold laundry in the evenings.
“It’s a total team effort these days,” he said.
Philipp said a lot of associates enjoy working in multiple departments because it helps keep monotony out of the workday.
As far as cutting costs on utilities and saving energy, Freeland said Concord’s in-house laundry facilities use cold water instead of hot. This results in a 40% savings on water, 50% energy savings and approximately a 20% reduction in linen replacement because cold water isn’t as hard on the linens.
Philipp said products that don’t require hot water for cleaning are increasingly becoming more common and these products are typically powered solutions.
Ensuring chemical injectors on the machines are calibrated regularly is also important, Freeland said, as using too much chemicals becomes costly and damaging to linens.
At the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, which does all team member and linen laundry in-house and outsources guest laundry, Daniella Foster, senior director of corporate responsibility at Hilton, said in an email interview the brand’s requirements include tracking and measuring all environmental footprint and social impact through its LightStay program.
The DoubleTree Bloomington in Minneapolis replaced its commercial laundry machines with more efficient models that use 50% less water, resulting in savings of 1 million gallons of water per year, she added.
Hilton overall has saved more than 417 million gallons of water using water-efficient laundry and cleaning technologies, Foster said.
Freeland said his guests are now more conscious about saving energy and hotels are looking for ways to be more efficient. He said Concord is a big supporter of programs that brands have been rolling out that allow guests to opt out of housekeeping, which helps reduce the laundry load and labor.
“Sustainability is going to continue to be a focus for our company as well as for our partners,” he said.