When something’s not up to par, it’s simply not meeting expectations. Which is why those controlling the literal ins and outs of the linen and terry that populate a hotel’s guestroom—whether it’s for a daily turn or not—know the absolute importance of having the right PAR level.

A PAR (shorthand for Periodic Automatic Replacement) represents the total amount of linen needed to fit out one guestroom, according to Standard Textile Co., and typically consists of: (per bed) one set of sheets and comforter/duvet; four pillows and covers; one mattress protector; and four bath towels; four hand towels and four wash towels per room (although not every item in a daily turn is changed out).

It’s been suggested the optimal PAR level is four for hotels and resorts—i.e., stored, in use, removed, being laundered—however, property needs differ among the various segments, brands and independents, and owners and operators of multiple assets rely heavily on their housekeeping executives and teams to make the best PAR-level assessments.

“At Raines, we understand the importance of carrying the correct turns of linen on hand because of its effect on our labor, laundry and life of linen efficiencies,” said Raines’ Task Force Executive Housekeeper Aaron Wayne Jones. “Depending on facility size, available storage and laundry equipment, we will determine the needed sufficient turns of linen. An average turn for our portfolio is three (in guestrooms, working in service and one stored as back-up).”

At the 483-room Royal Sonesta New Orleans, Director of Housekeeping Maria Robles noted the French Quarter property’s PAR level fluctuates according to business needs. “We do certainly account for seasonal considerations such as Mardi Gras, when we have to order enough to accommodate extra-high volume request items, such as washcloths and hand towels. During carnival season it is imperative to operate at 4 PAR level due to requests,” she said.

Two key events have caused shifts in PAR level assessment: a rise in consumer/hotelier consciousness over the past two decades regarding the need for, and environmental impact of, daily housekeeping; and the coronavirus pandemic, which changed how often housekeepers serviced guestrooms.

Raines offers daily housekeeping but respects guests’ wishes not to participate every day of their stays. In terms of meeting brand standards, Jones said the company has a “refresh rule” and rotates all linen that needs to be taken out, adding fresh linen to keep the guest experience “top-notch” at its 48 branded hotels. “No one should pay their hard-earned money for a hotel room with uncomfortable linen,” said Jones.

Similarly, Robles said guests have the option to decline daily services, supported by a small, in-room notice regarding the brand’s green initiatives to conserve linens and water. “However, at our New Orleans property, we find ourselves servicing guestrooms more often than not. This is due to our frequent festival seasons and [the] percentage of leisure guests who are here to enjoy parties and celebrations. As we’re located on Bourbon Street, this certainly brings out the fun—and, in turn, a higher rate of servicing guestrooms,” she said.

How the Pandemic Created Challenges for PAR Levels

As the industry knows, the pandemic did a number on occupancy, labor and the supply chain, all of which made calculating PAR levels difficult. Looking back, Jones recalled the challenges he—and most of his peers—faced.

“We had boxes of brand-new linen that arrived the week before the world seemingly stopped. That linen sat in storage rooms, on housekeeping carts, waiting to be put into the rotation as business returned to ‘normal,’” Jones said.

Additionally, there was an inability to get branded linen and terry in stock due to lack of supply, causing Raines to insert off-brand linen into the rotation. “This has caused efficiency challenges as we continue to work off-branded linen and terry out of rotation and replace it with the now-available branded requirements in stock. A great learning lesson occurred with the mixture of linen between brand and off-brand, causing us to stock certain floors with the off-brand and store off-brand away from brand supply,” Jones said. “In some hotels that carried the correct turns of linen, we’re just starting to unbox linen that’s never been used.”

“The pandemic absolutely caused a backorder crisis across the board on supplies,” agreed Robles. “We resorted to in-house laundry for certain items and frequent audits on linens received from third-party companies. We also eased back into fully servicing rooms due to the uncertainties of the pandemic and general guest feedback. As of last year, we have been attending to our guests as full cleans and providing full stayover services. Our team is happy to finally be back in the rhythm that we missed so much.”

For 25-year industry veteran Yomara De Jesus, regional director/hotel operations for Rochester, N.Y.-based Essex Hotel Management, which has more than a dozen hotels, there were similar challenges.

“Before the pandemic, hotels were able to keep proper PAR levels and each property would order monthly linen and terry based on their occupancy levels, budgets and monthly inventories,” De Jesus said. “At the beginning of the pandemic, occupancy in most hotels dropped to very low levels and hotels did not need to order any linen or terry.  Once the vaccines were approved and distributed, hotels began to see a sudden spike in occupancy. Hotels began to see an increase in room revenue and a large need [for] ordering linen and terry to maintain PAR levels; however, the supply-chain distribution nightmare made it very difficult.  Sometimes, orders would take three to six months.”

During this time, she said, PAR levels would continue to drop and placed a strain on the operations. “Management had to work together with the laundry attendants to establish the daily needs based on occupancy levels [and] to determine the daily flow of the operations; pretty much what needed to be washed first to be able to turn rooms as soon as possible. Once the supply-chain-distribution disruption began to stabilize, laundry operations began to experience a relief,” De Jesus said.