Hoteliers know that there is a constant balance to be maintained between quality, guest satisfaction and cost management, especially when it comes to operational and utility costs. One key example is laundering. Most hotels will have sizeable laundry requirements and require exacting finishes and a timely turnaround of the service. This is vital to get right, as guests view a clean and attractive bedroom as one of the most important aspects of their visitor experience.
So with this in mind, should you take the job in-house or outsource it - and what are the pros and cons of each approach?
The technology argument
Outsourced services can provide access to cutting-edge laundry technologies that may be too expensive for hotels to have in-house. For high-end brands and those with premium guest accommodation, this can be a key consideration. However, modern commercial laundry white goods do tend to be of excellent quality and will usually be available with comprehensive service agreements. This means that it is entirely possible to create an efficient and effective in-house laundry with reliable and affordable commercial machinery that meets your needs.
This has to be a primary consideration and will vary according to each business. Hotels with spacious utility areas may prefer to retain their service in-house to maximise utilisation and to ensure the desired level of results on a consistent basis. Those without existing utility space (or existing space which can be otherwise utilised for higher returns) may be more inclined to consider an outsourced service.
An outsourced service will promise a certain quality level, but this will need to be regularly monitored and checked to ensure that it is maintained. An in-house service can choose the appropriate level of quality for the hotel's own client base and more easily monitor results as part of the hotel's daily process.
An outsourced service will naturally charge a premium for the end-to-end service, in return for convenience and results. An in-house laundry provision will be able to better manage costs and potentially deliver the same level of service and cleanliness. Of course, technology investment costs must be factored in, as well as the more hidden costs of staff time. However, the internal option will typically be more cost-effective if it can be efficiently staffed and managed as part of existing responsibilities.
In-house staff are likely to pay more care to hotel linens and look after them. Those working for an agency service may not exhibit the same degree of care, leading to a higher degree of wastage. If considering the outsourced approach, find out what the policy is for damaged linen replacement and factor it into your decision-making process.
When you use an agency, they will do your stock checking for you as part of their overall service delivery. When you manage your laundry in-house, your staff will need to monitor stock levels. This is unlikely to be a make or break factor in your overall choice, but it's worth considering as part of your resource assessment and cost calculations.
When you use an external service, it is likely to be of superb quality to begin with, but there can be issues with this customer service degrading over time. A survey by Sapio found that only 37 percent of outsourced laundry customers were satisfied with their service and just 54 percent found the linens sufficiently clean. Additionally, your hotel staff will need to take time out from their schedules to deal with any issues. With an in-house service, you can manage and monitor internal services to your usual high level of expectations and in line with your internal policies and training.
Which approach wins?
In conclusion, the laundry question will depend on a range of variables, but for hotels that want to retain full control, have space and are prepared to invest in quality commercial machinery, the in-house argument may work best in their favour. For others, a blended approach may be wise and the balance can then be monitored to establish the best longer-term strategy.