A Case Study in Hotel / Laundry Relationships

Perspectives on How hotels can Effectively Work with Their Laundry providers

By Joseph Ricci President & CEO, TRSA | June 05, 2016

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.

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Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.