You’ve never reopened your hotel property like this ever before. It’s not like coming off a slow period or even following a renovation. The stakes are higher this time around. It’s not enough for the property to just look good. Your guests want the type of restful night sleep that can only be obtained when they have confidence and peace of mind that your staff has an exceptional commitment to hygiene. That commitment goes beyond the extra-special attention paid to cleaning surfaces in public areas. There’s no such thing as “back of the house” anymore; laundry and housekeeping are now front and center.
So, as you approach reopening what are some considerations that should be discussed or put into action? Below are a few thoughts.
In–house or out?
Quality is going to be mandatory moving into this new world. Now may be the time to think about bringing laundry service back in-house. In law enforcement, the chain of evidence is key to maintaining the integrity of these important items. The goal is a straight line that limits touches and any chance of it being contaminated or altered. The same holds true for hotel linens. Once they leave your property for processing, a whole new set of variables are introduced. Those variables are eliminated by laundering linens on the premises. Who will be more tuned into quality than your own employees? The additional benefit to bringing laundry in-house is a significant cost savings per pound versus contracting out for the service.
You will need to determine what PPE laundry and housekeeping staff will be provided. Gloves and facemasks are the minimum. Staff also may be provided face shields. You will need to decide if your property will allow employees to provide their own face masks. Staff masks could offer a branding opportunity by adding your logo to them or replicating some element of your hotel’s decor. In-house processing of PPE also should be considered. Doing so ensures all recommended guidelines are being followed. That may not be the case if employees are washing their own gear at home. In addition, it is advisable to take employee temperatures before and after their shifts.
Retrain laundry staff
Laundry and housekeeping staff training has never been more important. Managers need to reinforce the need for proper cycle selection, letting dry cycles run to completion and checking chemical supplies before and after shifts. Additional thoughts include: PPE is mandatory; soiled linens should not be shaken; stress equipment, carts and surfaces wipe-down procedures; identify the specific carts that can be used for clean and soiled linens; how often and when gloves should be changed to prevent cross contamination; and stress the overall need for every employee to be in the quality control department, meaning if they see something impacting quality, bring it forward. Overall, empower each employee to recommend changes to help the operation run smoother and deliver the cleanest linens possible.
Trust staff but verify their actions. Modern laundry management systems can monitor all equipment operations right down to cycle selection, max temperature reached (CDC recommendations are 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill bacteria), chemical injections, whether cycles were manually advanced and more. The bottom line is such systems are managers eyes and ears when they aren’t on-site. The importance of having this data, in the case of some systems, in real time, cannot be overstated. With so much riding on infection control, laundry management systems are essentially the insurance policy verifying no corners are cut and no issues are on the horizon. In addition, they also verify your laundry equipment is delivering the efficiency touted by the manufacturer.
The properties that are doing things the right way and deploying processes and strategies to produce exceptional results should take things a step further. Think about the various ways you can further communicate to guests all that you are doing to keep them safe.
Is there a way to wrap towels and have laundry staff sign and date the bundle? If you are using a laundry management system, is there a way to post a summary of the value of the system and current data on your hotel’s public website? Perhaps a card in the guest room bathroom could be used to communicate the same message – “the towel you are about to use has been washed and sanitized using an advanced system that alerts management to any process breakdowns immediately.”
These are just a few ideas that may spark additional thoughts. The goal is to communicate. You and your staff have worked hard to dial in processes and invest in the latest equipment, tout this messaging to guests (and potential guests).
Clean trumps green?
While it may be a controversial idea to float when we are all trying to do what we can to save resources, but is it time to eliminate the “green” bed and bath linen reuse programs many properties have in place? If we are taking an analytical approach to stopping the spread of various viruses, we must look at how bacteria and germs are introduced. The guest room is sanitized, and the cleanest linens provided. Guests spend the night and possibly introduce to linens whatever bacteria/germs they came in contact with throughout the day. Replacing bed and bathroom linens seems a prudent move for properties. Such a program also would be another illustration of how serious your property is about guest safety. It also, however, will put more pressure on the laundry. So, it is advisable to survey your equipment mix and ensure the laundry is up to the additional demands – high spin speeds of 300+ G-Force become a prerequisite as load volumes increase.
Equally important are fast cycle times and moisture sensing tumble dryers. Spray rinse features also can reduce cycle times as well as do a good job of both removing initial soil in a pre-rinse step and residual chemistry in the normal rinse. Consult with your local laundry equipment distributor to identify how you can streamline operations to manage the increased demands.
End of day activities
Dovetailing on retraining staff, will be expanding on the typical end of shift/end of day activities. Look at your operation with fresh eyes and try to identify any possible hurdles to employee and guest safety. You’ll want to have an overall process for sanitizing carts, machine controls, touchpoints on chemicals, doors, etc. Will staff uniforms be laundered in-house? That may be another change in process to consider at the end of each shift.
To say these are unique, unprecedented times is an understatement. Housekeeping and the on-premises laundry are more important than ever. Thus, the need to have a solid plan for reopening your hotel property. Part of that reopening plan should include visible reminders to guests showing how serious you are about ensuring their safety. The more your property can do to generate peace of mind for guests, the better it will be positioned for success and glowing online reviews.