The team at Hampton Inn & Suites Moncton understands the importance of laundry service. The property recently changed its laundry practices and procedures to become more efficient and cost-effective.

“We opened in 2008 and began with laundry outsourcing,” says Cindy Bourque, general manager of Hampton Inn & Suites Moncton. “However, we noticed not all of the linens and bedding we sent to be cleaned would be returned to us. Whether that was due to damage done during cleaning or getting lost en route, we don’t know, but when we hit the $50,000 mark of lost product, we knew we had to find another way.”

Bourque says the savings were noticeable immediately, with laundry costs for the 126-room property decreasing by approximately 50 per cent after bringing laundry operations in-house. However, since the hotel’s laundry loads increased, it also had to increase its appliance stockpile. “We only had one machine when we started and we used that to clean our towels,” Bourque says. “Once we started doing things in-house, we purchased three 60-pound industrial washers and three 75-pound driers to handle the process.”

According to Ryo Utahara, executive director, Business Performance at Toronto-based K-Bro Linen Systems Inc., outsourcing is the preferred industry option. “There are always exceptions, however, the best practice is hotels outsourcing their laundry services,” he says. “Given the state-of-the-art equipment and the high degree of automation K-Bro utilizes, our customers achieve cost savings and a higher quality finished product by outsourcing to reputable laundry providers.”

With nine processing facilities and more than 1,600 employees, K-Bro services more than 200 hotels, including Marriott, Shangri-La, Trump Hotels, Four Seasons, Westin, Delta and Sheraton brands. “Between sheets, pillow cases, towels and other room linens, food-and-beverage and uniforms, K-Bro processes hundreds of thousands of pieces of linen every day,” Utahara says.

Best Western Hotels Canada also outsources its laundry needs. “Outsourcing services works, in general, due to lack of storage, equipment and human resources at the hotels,” says Morgan Stemler, public relations account executive for Best Western. “The biggest drawbacks are the quality of the linens that return to us, as well as not having them done on a daily basis. If laundry were done in-house, the hotels could control quality — stain removal, re-washing and the amount of chemicals being used in the wash. This would result in the linens lasting longer and not having to coordinate linen pick-up and delivery.”

“Many of our suppliers are introducing new products which allow us to be eco-friendlier,” says Stemler. “Individual Best Western hotels do everything from having in-room recycle bins and linen re-use programs to geothermal and solar-powered hotels that actually sell power back to the grid. Several hotels are switching over to cold water Tide to reduce energy costs and further green initiatives allow guests to opt-out of housekeeping and earn extra loyalty points or discount coupons at the hotel.”

Trends in hotel amenities are having a direct impact on laundry services, says Utahara. One noticeable difference, he says, is hotel beds are getting bigger. “We now have extra-wide ironers, which allows us to clean larger sheets and bedding. If you go to some of the higher-end hotels, you’ll notice some of the beds are even larger than king-size beds. By having an extra wide ironer with three rolls on it to press the sheets, it allows us to process high-end, extra-large sheets fairly efficiently.”

According to Mark Halberstadt, president of the GTA-based Faster Linen Service Ltd., the biggest challenge to laundry service providers is water. “There are a lot of rules now for the hotel industry [and their laundry practices with regard to] water,” Halberstadt says. “I’m in the process right now of putting in a $1-million water treatment system at my facility, which takes out oil, grease and chloroform. The city of Toronto is cracking down on every big water user and testing [them] for water going down the drain. This industry is no longer ‘go buy a big machine and you’re in business’”.

Halberstadt says Ontario is cracking down on businesses not abiding by the new water regulations — inspectors make surprise water inspection visits to his 40,300 sq.-ft. Etobicoke facility regularly. “The city has sent inspectors every four to six weeks and they do tests on the water,” he says. “They take samples and notify you if you are above the city limits of Biological Oxygen Demand, PH balance, fats, oils, greases. It’s getting very technical now.”

Utahara says being environmentally friendly is both an industry and company standard these days and K-Bro has adapted with the times. “Our hotel customers place significant importance on minimizing their environmental footprint, which is in line with K-Bro’s philosophy on environmental stewardship,” he says. “We have large modern plants which typically consume less than half the heat, water and energy of an in-house or small commercial laundry. Our commitment to reducing our environmental impact has netted K-Bro the coveted ‘Clean Green Certification,’ which recognizes companies in the laundry industry that demonstrate responsible leadership in sustainability and conservation to protect the environment.”

K-Bro has also developed its own enviro-initiative — the Pooled Linen Program. “With five Fairmont hotels in Vancouver and Whistler combined, a unique opportunity to ‘pool’ the participating hotels’ linen was realized in 2014,” he says. “The participating hotels’ linen is treated as linen from one large customer and linen from the pooled inventory is delivered to each hotel based on weekly orders and forecasted occupancies.  As a part of the program, K-Bro manages the inventory and ensures there are up to five PAR of linen in circulation.”

Utahara says program benefits include the elimination of linen shortages, which results in more productive and happier housekeeping staff, as well as lower linen acquisition costs. This is accomplished by directly purchasing linens through the textile manufacturer and eliminating warehousing costs. “K-Bro has been able to secure better pricing on linen, which has been passed on to the participating hotels,” he says. Bourque also stresses cleaning in an environmentally conscious manner is good for business and good for the planet. “We do cold washes so we don’t rely on and use hot water to clean our fabrics. We use Diversey from Sealed Air Corporation.”

As for chemicals, Halberstadt says green is the only way to go. “We use soft water [which is better for the environment] and all my chemicals are green,” he says. “We’re as green as we can be. Our chemical providers have to abide by the laws, too. We use bleach in our washes because it sterilizes the product. Then they get pressed so that they’re nice and white and crisp.”

Halberstadt says while there are changes in the sector, the bottom line remains the same. “In this business, you gotta have grit and you gotta have desire because at the end of the day, the laundry’s got to be done.”

Volume 28, Number 5


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