Some hotel guests are slobs, some are neat freaks, but when it comes to housekeeping at Canada’s hotels — whether it’s a locally owned boutique inn, a motel on the highway, or a luxury downtown location — cleanliness isn’t an option; it’s a must.

How does a hotelier know housekeeping is up to scratch? “We have a cleanliness and quality-control checklist with a score out of a 100,” says Andrew Leech, director of Housekeeping at Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton. “Anything below 95 per cent is not up to standard.” If a score is below that threshold, there’s a follow-up with the cleaner to find out what went wrong and what can be improved. Supervisors also check in on a regular basis. “Individual attendants can release an inspected guestroom,” says Leech. “The supervisors are also doing quality assessments all day on both occupied and vacant rooms.”

A checklist can apply to smaller hotels, too, such as the Peterborough Inn and Suites in Peterborough, Ont., where the hotel’s two-cleaner shift doubles to four cleaners on weekends to cover its 32 rooms. “Ours includes dusting, basic cleaning, towels,” says Jasleen Sahny, manager. “Housekeeping needs to follow those rules every morning.” The checklist may be a useful tool for hotels of all sizes, but it has its limits. A degree of flexibility and a complete commitment is essential to make sure nothing is amiss.

“Service value is built into our culture,” says the Ritz-Carlton’s Leech. “I have 60 people working for me and 267 guestrooms; I can’t see everything, and it’s expected all of us will pick up and dispose of the smallest things.” That means staff look out for candy wrappers and spills, in keeping with the hotel’s culture of accountability.

It’s about putting the time and effort into getting the right people and training them well. “What separates properties is staff training and coaching,” says Irwin Prince, president and COO of Realstar Hospitality, master franchisor for Motel 6 in Canada. “Whether it’s a standard 30-room independent hotel or a five-star behemoth, cleanliness is a must.” Prince says part of the housekeeping training involves encouraging staff to think like a guest. “They have to come out of the room and, figuratively, change shoes, then return as if they were a paying customer,” he says. “With the fresh eyes of a guest they’ll typically notice something out of place.”

Training becomes an investment in personnel who do more than clean; they also become ambassadors for the brand. For the Ritz-Carlton, that means starting with the big message, before focusing on the details. It begins with a “two-day orientation on Ritz-Carlton culture and history,” explains Leech. “Then there’s two weeks with a learning coach who shadows them. It then takes another week or more to ease them in.”

After training, Ritz-Carlton staff members enter a 90-day probationary period before they’re considered fully qualified. And, for a smaller hotel like the Peterborough Inn and Suites, which has a five-day training program given by an experienced staff member, the focus is on special touches.

“We train for details that we’ve attended to for years, right down to a certain way to fold a towel,” says Sahny.


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