Mr. Ricci

Eco-Friendly Practices

A Case Study in Hotel / Laundry Relationships

Perspectives on How hotels can Effectively Work with Their Laundry providers

By Joseph Ricci, President & CEO, TRSA

Good relationships with all vendors in a hotel's supply chain are critical for smooth, efficient operations. With laundry, the stakes are higher than with many others; encountering stained linens or being forced to wait for towels can sour a guest's experience of a hotel. In this article, we take a close look at what a great hotel-laundry relationship looks like through a case study of the relationship between a large hotel and their commercial laundry contractor. We identify the principles underlying this successful partnership and what it means for hotels looking to close an on-premise laundry or select a new laundry provider.

Hotel guests don't usually spend a lot of time thinking about laundry-unless, of course, they have run out of towels. But they enjoy that luxury because housekeeping managers and other hotel managers devote resources to keeping soiled and clean linens flowing seamlessly in and out of the housekeeping closets and carts. For an increasing number of hotels, the secret to this success is a relationship with a commercial laundry services provider who launders, inspects and manages linens, sometimes under a rental agreement.

For a clean and seamless guest experience, that working relationship needs to be a strong, collaborative one. It requires shared quality standards, consistent communication and a mutual commitment to sustainability. To demonstrate that sort of relationship, I spoke with hotel leaders and the laundry providers that serve them. I hope the results can provide a roadmap to other hotels looking to close on-premise laundries (OPLs), change laundry providers or simply make the most of their outsourced laundry services.

Case Study: Westin SFO and Sacramento Laundry

Before he was a customer service manager for Sacramento Laundry Services, Marc Kuder was a housekeeping manager at a large California hotel. Before he was the housekeeping manager at the Westin SFO near San Francisco, Jason Lustbader worked for a commercial laundry. Their professional histories helped them find common ground that set a solid foundation for a collaborative working relationship that minimizes linen loss and maximizes sustainability efforts.

Located less than a mile from San Francisco International Airport, the bayside Westin SFO is has 397 guest rooms and 29 meeting rooms. Thanks to their location, they serve many business travelers, and they also host events in the form of corporate meetings and weddings. Sacramento Laundry Company serves a customer base in the hospitality industry. They use water-conserving machinery and eco-friendly chemicals and processes to launder about 80,000 pounds of linens per day in their 60,000 square foot facility. The two businesses began working together in September 2013.

As they were in the process of selecting a laundry provider, Jason and his colleagues at the Westin visited the Sacramento Laundry plant for a tour. They were impressed by the machinery, level of cleanliness and efficiency. "Our biggest thing is that a plant should be very clean and very well organized," says Jason. "With my background in laundry, I knew I would be extremely comfortable with having them as my laundry company."

Sacramento Laundry was able to provide the Westin with consistency in linen management and reductions in linen loss. With a previous laundry solution, the hotel would often get back stained linen, and not enough of the linen was returning to the hotel. Sacramento Laundry has helped solve that problem: "Everything is organized, bagged and labeled. That was the most important thing-getting a real idea of what we need to change out based on rewashes," says Jason. "We offer included rewashing and spot cleaning of stained goods through a dedicated team of spot cleaners," says Marc. "This provides significant cost savings to our clients because instead of throwing away stained products, we are able to salvage and reintroduce an average of 80 percent of items into circulation."

As a member of the Starwood group of brands, the Westin SFO has to live up to their parent brand's expectations around sustainability. The hotel is eco-friendly in many ways, including donating unused soaps and shampoos to local charities. They look to laundry to conserve water and energy. "It does help to be able to account for the laundry," explains Jason. "Especially in this time when everyone is trying to save water. People do know California is in a drought." Guests are told in writing about linen similarly to the way they are informed about safety issues, management's top priority in communicating with them.

Sacramento Laundry has several significant practices that conserve resources and reduce waste. The company's tunnel washer recycles the vast majority of the water it uses; water is filtered and purified between loads of wash and is cycled back into the washer. "I remember my first week on the job, during the orientation, learning about how the tunnel wash can reclaim and recycle a ridiculous amount of the water it uses," Marc commented.

In addition, water that cannot be reused in the laundry cycle is reused for their landscaping. Detergents are eco-friendly and dispensed in a way that makes the most of them. This allows the laundry to use smaller amounts of of those detergents. Finally, when linens are damaged, Sacramento Laundry handles textile recycling for their customers.

Both Jason and Marc describe the relationship between Sacramento Laundry and Westin SFO as collaborative. "Jason has a great understanding of the challenges we face when processing an average of 80,000 lb. of laundry each day," explains Marc. "We meet at least once a business quarter, or monthly if necessary. We offer plant tours to any new housekeeping managers that have joined Westin's team so they have a perspective for our quality control and sorting systems. As a previous director of housekeeping, I work to ensure that we are taking every measure possible to ensure our client's success."

Principles That Underlie a Successful Partnership

Not every laundry your hotel works with is going to have a former housekeeping manager on staff, but much of the relationship between the Westin SFO and Sacramento Linen can be replicated by other hotels and laundries. Whether a hotel is looking to close the OPL or improve the efficiency of day-to-day laundry deliveries, they can foster a successful partnership with a laundry provider by following these guidelines:

  • Collect and Expect Data - If your hotel is considering closing an on-premise laundry and finding a laundry services provider, start collecting data on all costs associated with running the OPL including: equipment purchases, equipment maintenance, linen replacement, labor, utilities, laundry chemicals and pollution mitigation. Often, if you are vetting a laundry provider to take over your laundry operations, they will help you collect this data. When you do choose a laundry provider, they should provide data that helps with housekeeping planning. For example, Marc noted that Sacramento Laundry tracks certain benchmarks and provides regular reporting on their performance. Your laundry provider should be relatively transparent with you.

  • Work with a Provider Who Understands Hospitality - As is evidenced by their consistency and solutions for dealing with stained and damaged linens, Sacramento Laundry is sensitive to the high turnover and linen loss characteristic of hospitality laundry needs. Ask a prospective laundry provider for evidence of its hospitality-friendly practices, such as operating seven days a week.

  • Learn About the Laundry Process - You can get the best results from your laundry provider by taking the time to understand the laundry process and listen to their feedback. Take a tour of the laundry facility to see first-hand how linens are handled; new housekeeping managers that have joined the Westin team get tours of Sacramento's facilities. Some good laundry practices begin with hotel management. Repairing broken laundry chutes will prevent tears. Having a strategy to prevent housekeeping staff from commandeering linens for cleaning tasks will also keep you from constantly replacing washcloths.

  • Make Sure the Laundry Provider Understands Your Goals - Jason knows that Sacramento Laundry values sustainable, eco-friendly operations as much as Starwood did. If your property is in the middle of green initiative (or drought, in the case of Western hotels), talk to your laundry provider about it. Find out about the chemicals they use and how their machines recycle water. If your goals relate to seasonal cycles, make sure your laundry provider knows when you have the most bookings so they can respond to your needs. "There are always hiccups as far as learning the product and learning what is most important to us," Jason explains, "When the laundry stands by their commitment to communicate with us, that really helps."

Working with a laundry provider should allow you to focus your energy on providing a great guest experience. When closing your OPL or simply selecting a new provider, make sure your laundry partner is as focused on that goal as you are.

Joseph Ricci is President and CEO of TRSA. Since joining TRSA, Mr. Ricci has logged more than 150,000 miles visiting laundries worldwide. His leadership has led to unprecedented membership retention and growth, as well as increased investment in research and benchmarking. Before joining TRSA, Ricci served as Senior Association Executive with SmithBucklin, the largest international association management firm..Mr. Ricci is a Certified Association Executive (CAE), is an active member of in the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Association Leadership Council and serves on the American Society for Association Executives (ASAE) Political Action Committee Board of Directors. Mr. Ricci can be contacted at 703-519-0029 or jricci@trsa.org Extended Bio...

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