The pros and cons of laundry outsourcing

There are positives and negatives behind the decision to outsource laundry operations, and it makes more sense in some situations than others. Here are three pros and three cons your hotel may want to consider.

Pro: A return to core competency

Hotels are built for hospitality; they aren’t in the laundry business. According to Joel Hommes, director, business development for Wash Cycle Laundry, 20 years ago the industry trended toward on-property laundry operations, but now with the hyper-competitive nature of hospitality driving operators to seek any and all avenues for cutting costs and their growing flexibility with subcontractors, outsourcing has seen a comeback.

It was this attitude, in fact, that led to the creation of Wash Cycle Laundry. The company signed a deal to work with a hotel in Philadelphia that had an existing laundry facility that was deteriorating due to age. Rather than personally reinvest in on-property machines, new facilities and training, the hotel worked with Wash Cycle. 

“We decided to upgrade the space and run it for them, essentially insourcing while still outsourcing,” Hommes said. “It won us the business of another boutique in the city, and for every property they bring in they get a credit for the invoice. It’s a win-win: The property outsources its laundry to a provider under its feet.”

Con: A reliance on partnerships

“You lose control of your linens, so to speak,” said Jamison Conrey, corporate director of engineering and project management at Hospitality Ventures Management Group. According to Conrey, outsourced laundry operations are only as effective as your partner, and mismanaged linen pars can put both teams in a tough position.

Outsourcing can free up more resources for hospitality's core competencies.

Pro: Cutting major costs

Labor and utilities rank among the highest costs associated with hotel operations, and unless hotels are willing to spend big on automated equipment, their best alternative is outsourcing. Seth Willer, national sales manager for Continental Girbau, said that one person can fold and stack anywhere between 100 and 120 linens per hour, whereas automated folding equipment can handle 600 to 800 linens in the same time frame. “Do the math backward to see how many people you need, and it justifies the price of upgrading,” Willer said. If upgrading isn’t in the budget, then outsourcing can be the answer.

Con: Slower turnaround

No matter how you crunch the time, even if there are daily deliveries, the fastest way to turn around laundry in a pinch is if a hotel has the capability to process it on premises. This allows for better management of pars and a quicker overall laundry operation.

Pro: No training required

Willer sends his staff to the Association for Linen Management for specialized training and accreditation, something many hoteliers are willing to do but struggle with because of concerns about turnover. “Managing the linen process from washer to dryer, ironer to linen shelves—everyone has a stake in this,” Willer said. “It travels all the way up the hotel; it’s top-to-bottom training that needs to happen.”

Con: Necessary additional purchasing

If operators have linens leaving the property, they will need to purchase additional pars in order to compensate for potential disasters. These purchases can be offset in savings made on operations, but according to Conrey, in many cases they cannot be avoided.