Comparison Guide to Outsourcing Commercial Laundry Service vs OPL

outsourcing-hotel-laundry-service.jpgIf you’re considering making the switch from on-property laundry (OPL) to a commercial laundry service, you’re probably weighing a mountain of financial and non-financial factors that weighs almost as much as a day of linens at your property. You may have heard that outsourcing can save your property money, but how can you be sure?

Here, we’ll take the guesswork out of comparing outsourcing versus on-property laundry with recommendations for calculating your current costs, the best ways to gather estimates and tips for weighing the pros and cons.

Before you make the leap, take a look at our comparison guide to outsourcing commercial laundry service versus on-property laundry.

Calculate How Much Laundry is Currently Costing You

It isn’t uncommon for hotels, resorts and spas to underestimate the true cost of their laundry because they don’t have a system for separating out the expenses for things like: 

  • Water
  • Fuel
  • Equipment
  • Repairs
  • Laundry machine depreciation
  • Square footage
  • Labor

If you don’t have good data on exactly how much on-premise laundry is costing your property every year, you have a few options. You can search for OPL cost calculators online, contact a consultant who specializes in hospitality cost calculations or benchmark with properties that are similar to yours.

When you or a consultant is calculating your costs, make sure every laundry-related expense gets included, including utility bills, salaries, the maintenance for your commercial laundry machines and the cost of the space your equipment is sitting on. Over time, all of those things add up.

Gather Well-Informed Estimates on How Much Outsourcing Costs

Now that you have an idea of how much your current OPL set-up is costing, it’s time to get estimates from a few services. Not every outsourcing provider is the same, and they each have their own pricing structures, approaches, strengths and challenges.

When you’re comparing estimates and talking to sales reps, here are some questions to ask:

What’s included in the price…and what isn’t? If one vendor’s proposal comes in much lower than the competition, make sure you understand exactly what the contract includes and what it leaves out. You’ll want to be clear on whether they charge extra for services such as delivery and sorting, and whether they pass on costs to customers such as fuel.

Do they charge for clean pounds or dirty? Sopping wet bath mats and towels, pool towels and other linens used by guests weigh more when they leave your property than they will when they’re delivered clean. That means that the right vendor will charge you for clean linens, not dirty. They should also have a system for segregating out heavily soiled or damaged linens for special handling.

Do they provide scales? Both your property and the vendor should agree on exactly how many pounds of laundry are picked up and delivered during each interaction, and properly calibrated scales are the best way to make that happen. Find out if the vendor will provide scales to you and find out what kind of weight measurement policies they have in place on site.

How efficient is their equipment? The commercial laundry equipment at your hotel or resort dwarves the washers and dryers found in most homes, and the right commercial laundry service will have high-tech equipment that’s several times larger than that. The larger machines can not only handle bigger loads, they do so using less water, fuel, time and labor. They also have methods in place that will protect your linens and lengthen their lifecycle.

Can you take a tour of their plant(s)? If you’ve been running an OPL, you already have a clear idea of what a laundry operation looks like that will meet you and your guests’ high standards. To figure out whether a laundry provider meets those standards, take a tour of their plant or plants. Check out their sorting process to allay any fears you might have about your property’s linens mixing with other hotels, and gauge whether their machines and processes are as efficient as they say.

Do they make recommendations for transition planning? Getting out of the laundry business saves hotels and resorts money and creates all kinds of opportunities, but like any change, it can be difficult, too. There’s the question of what to do with your existing machines and how to transition your current laundry staff to other roles. Commercial laundry services routinely help properties make the switch, so see if they have recommendations for how to manage the change well.

Weigh the Non-Financial Pros & Cons

You’ve got the financial factors out of the way, now how about the intangibles? You’re not only trusting a commercial laundry service with your linens, you’re handing over an important aspect of guest and staff satisfaction.

Some non-monetary pros and cons to weigh:

Quality: You’ve invested a lot in getting the best linens, and you want guests to rave about your luxurious sheets and towels, not be underwhelmed. The right commercial laundry service will have equipment that is tough on stains and easy on your linens over the long term.

Customer Service: Your relationship with your laundry vendor should be a partnership, and you should feel confident that they’re as committed to your property’s success as you are. When you’re considering who to do business with, talk to their current customers to get a sense for how they handle any issues that arise and how responsive they are. Find out how often service reps plan to meet with your general manager and see if they’re available to have periodic meetings or trainings with your staff.

Backup Plans: Any number of issues or calamities can take your OPL machines off-line, including repairs, unexpected increases in occupancy or power outages. If your machines aren’t available or you don’t have enough pars on hand, you’re stuck. But a large laundry service will have redundancies built into their systems to ensure they’re always able to deliver.

From Laundry to Lounge: Shutting down your OPL means you could use that square footage for something that makes your property money or raises your profile. Hotels and resorts that have outsourced their laundry have turned their laundry spaces into spas, retail stores, coffee shops and guest-pleasing common areas.

Deciding whether to keep your laundry on premise or outsource to a commercial laundry service can be time-consuming, but in the end, your investment in doing your due diligence will pay off. No matter what you decide, you’ll finish the process knowing exactly how much your current OPL is costing, whether outsourcing will save you money and what your options are.