Location is the culprit in many of your housekeeping and laundry headaches

The boom of tourism over the last decade has had major implications to business, including the hotel and resort industry. New destinations (like Siargao, Panglao and Palawan) became popular; international guests increased in number in the islands; more hotels and resorts were built; and — for the housekeeping and laundry professional — more everyday challenges surfaced.

I often visit hotels and laundry companies outside Manila for work and have had the opportunity to frequent Boracay, Bohol, Tagaytay, Davao, Bataan, Cebu and Siargao. In each of these destinations, the problems for general managers, laundry managers and executive housekeepers are a bit unique and different.

This is interesting and important because knowing this fact prepares any manager migrating to a different city of what to look out for – from the dreaded henna tattoos of Boracay to the perennial cold climate of Baguio.

Customer behavior is different in each destination

One of the obvious drivers of that difference is customer behavior. In Boracay, for instance, many hotel guests tend to stay inside their rooms, which impact linen use. As for those who like to hit the beach – how many times a day do you think they’ll jump into the crystal blue waters, come back to rinse, then repeat? There is also the notorious henna tattoo, which can ink linen.

All these activities mean housekeepers need to wash linen almost everyday (or more frequently). Forget about encouraging guests to recycle their towels. Hotels also have to bring up their par level of linen to replenish guestrooms.

It’s a different story in cities, where businessmen almost never stay in their rooms.

Environmental challenges

The environment has major impacts in the laundry industry. This covers challenges with climate, water quality and waste treatment.

In Baguio where the climate is cold and damp, it is more difficult to dry linen than in Manila. Is your hotel near the sea? Watch out for corrosion in your kitchen and laundry equipment.

Meanwhile, places like Tagaytay are facing their own water security challenges due to increasing demand brought by the booming commercial and residential sectors.

Even if there were sufficient water, one must check its quality. Hard water, which often comes from deep well sources, contains minerals such as magnesium and calcium. Hard water leaves deposits on linen and rings in the toilet bowl. Soiled linen is also generally harder to wash with hard water than soft water.

Water also impacts kitchen sanitation – from equipment maintenance, to stains, to the taste of beverages.

READ: 7 things to know before opening your laundry business (No. 2 is water)

On a related topic, water treatment is becoming an increasingly important subject. Last year, the biggest news in the tourism sector was the closing of Boracay. As the DENR puts more scrutiny on tourism destinations, hotels must increasingly look at water treatment to comply with environmental regulations.

Water recycling and rainwater harvesting are good ways to increase the usability of water and save on water bills.

Availability of service providers and suppliers

More existing and upcoming hotels today would rather outsource their laundry than do it in-house. The challenge though is not all destinations have big laundry companies that hotels can tap for their laundry requirements. And even if there exists such big service providers, due diligence must be applied in order to understand whether this supplier would meet one’s standards. Outsourcing must never compromise good wash.

READ: Hotel laundry: Do you need to outsource?

Another location-based headache is the presence of chemical suppliers, especially of quality and affordable products. Chemicals are essential in kitchen, laundry and general sanitation. They must also provide technical services and advise to help hotels and laundry companies with their challenges.

Employees

Employees drive the hospitality industry, even if many processes such as laundry are now outsourced. In driving performance and motivation, leaders must think about the culture of the area, profile of the employees, their needs and wants, behavior and attitude, goals, politics, hierarchy and a lot of factors. Do employees need to travel long distances (e.g. Caticlan to Boracay) everyday? Are they too tired when they arrive at work? Are they motivated?

Many leaders also miss providing sufficient training to employees. I’ve been into a lot of hotels and resorts where housekeeping staff use soiled towels to clean toilers and where they wrap soiled sheets with one of the used sheets, dragging them to the delivery area where the laundry team can pick it up. This happens everyday and eventually cause the fast deterioration of linen.

For questions on housekeeping, kitchen and laundry training and challenges, email rhapolega@yahoo.com

The case of using hot water in laundry

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Over the last 46 years that I’ve been working in the cleaning industry, I’ve always believed — and repeatedly proven — that hot water is the best ingredient to generally clean and sanitize soiled linen in a commercial laundry context.

If you’ve been studying the science of cleaning, you will have encountered the four principal factors of a successful wash all described in the Sinner Circle. To achieve a good wash, one must control chemicals, mechanics, time and temperature. Bringing up water temperature is one way to make an effective wash.

Advantages of hot wash

While one might argue that today’s detergents have been designed to work on cold water, detergents still generally activate more efficiently and effectively in hot temperature.

Hot water is also an effective way to kill off bacteria, which doesn’t happen in cold wash.

Many hotels use polyester, which is cheaper than cotton, for their linen. Polyester is best washed in hot water; otherwise, the linen will gradually turn gray.

Disadvantages of hot water

But there are also disadvantages, especially if you don’t use good quality water.

Hot water only works if you use soft water or water with low mineral content. In general, water from deep well (hard water) are the worst kind to heat and use in laundry. Magnesium and calcium, which are prevalent in hard water, crystalize into visible flakes on linen when heated.

Hot water also eats up a lot of energy that many small commercial laundry will not be able to afford.

In using hot water, the type of fabric must also be checked as some fabrics do not withstand high temperature and could potentially be damaged.

Do you have any challenges in your laundry business? Email: rhapolega@yahoo.com

READ NEXT: 9 Essential Costs in Commercial Laundry

9 essential costs in commercial laundry

19442137_475836746083268_1201733967700342937_oThis is the second of a two-part article on utility costing. For questions, email editor@isitcleanph.com

On the last article, I tackled about the hidden costs in commercial laundry, such as re-wash and rejects, pilferage and leaks. Understanding these costs allows the business owner to put in measures to minimize or avoid these events.

Now, let me enumerate the “known costs” and the standard expenses that any laundry business will encounter. While these are essential and therefore difficult to avoid incurring, owners can implement smart tactics to manage them and maximize the bottomline for the business.

 

Labor 

The headcount of staff needed to operate a laundry varies. A luxury hotel in Makati once had a ratio of 1 laundry staff (whether outsourced or in-house) for every 10 rooms. There are also business models such as self-service laundry which are designed to be low-cost in labor.

In general, businesses (hotels, hospitals, and institutions) avoid hiring in-house and will prefer to outsource their laundry to a service provider.

 

Rent

Real estate is tricky if you don’t know how to make it work for you. Laundry shops must have the best and most strategic location, but rents can be too expensive in central business districts. One tactic employed by laundry shops today is to have a centralized plant (much like the commissary concept in F&B) where soiled linen from various receiving stations in different branches are compiled and washed.

 

Chemicals 

Commercial laundry requires a number of chemicals. By order of their application, these are: alkali or booster; detergent; bleach (chlorine or oxygen); and sour or neutralizer, and fabric condition.

 

Water 

For laundromats and self-service laundry shops, regular tap water is often enough to sustain operations. But commercial laundry operators are usually more discerning of the water quality (for instance, preferring soft water) for efficiency and to avoid damages to the linen. Better quality of water sometimes mean higher cost.

 

Depreciation and maintenance 

Machines depreciate in value over time and require regular maintenance. It is best to look for suppliers with good after-sales service. Remember: A machine that doesn’t run is a huge opportunity cost for the business.

 

Electricity 

Electricity powers the laundry shop’s machines and other appliances. Between the start of 2006 and end-2017 (nearly 12 years), electricity prices in the Philippines have gone up by 39% based on the Electricity Price Index. While seemingly high, this is lower than the Consumer Price Index (+54%) of the same period. The CPI is the basis of inflation figures.

 

Steam

Industrial laundry operations usually involve steam as a way to heat water (Hot water is the best kind of water to kill bacteria and remove most stains). Steam can be powered by LPG or electricity.

 

Packaging

Newly washed linen are packaged nicely in plastic or branded canvas bag, ready for delivery to the customer.

 

Logistics 

Delivery (and sometimes pick-up) of linen to the customer is a different animal. Logistics would involve vehicle, gas, and personnel who has a good sense of time, direction and record keeping.

READ NEXT: 7 signs to tell your laundry business is failing

Understanding costs is key to a laundry business’ survival. If you’re interested to learn more about training and advisory on costing (especially utility costing), email rhapolega@yahoo.com

[SUCCESS STORY] Drip & Dry wants to change the way we see laundry

A lot of lessons can be learned from the laundry industry. In this new section “Success Stories”, I will feature people, brands and businesses in the industry – many of whom are longtime friends, students and clients – to ask about their entrepreneurial journey: birth pains, challenges, growth and success.

Of the many fast-growing laundry shops in Metro Manila, Drip & Dry Professional Laundry & Cleaning Services is among those worth remembering.

Launched in 2015, this full-service laundry opened its first branch in Sta. Mesa, Manila by owners Joan Ravello and Noelle Jose while having full-time jobs during weekdays. They opened the second branch on its second year at SM Cherry Shaw and a third one just last year at One Eastwood Avenue Condominium.

Joan and Noelle were my students before and it has been incredible to witness their business grow. Is It Clean? approached them to ask five questions about their laundry and tips in making a successful venture in the business.

Describe your business/company and what is your role here?

I’m Joan Ravello, one of the managing partners of Drip & Dry Professional Laundry & Dry Cleaning Services. I’m currently overseeing the administrative roles from human resource, accounting & marketing of Drip & Dry.

How did you start in the cleaning, sanitation and laundry industry?

We started the concept of Drip & Dry way back in 2015. We saw that there was an opportunity to introduce a full-service laundry business that will provide laundry services in a more professional way. Back then, the laundry business was seen as a backyard industry. Our company decided to stand out to take it to the next level and serve better.

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Drip & Dry’s Sta. Mesa branch – its first store. Photo courtesy of Drip & Dry

What were the primary challenges you faced in the business in the early days and how did you overcome these?

The primary challenge in the laundry business is sharing your passion with your staff. Since there was a backyard impression on the laundry business, we decided to train all our employees to adopt and implement standard operating procedures. We did this together with Mr. Romeo Apolega who is well-known in the laundry industry for his contributions, helpful professional advice and training for laundry owners. We wouldn’t be confident enough to overcome our challenges without his help. Mr. Apolega was our mentor since the first day of our business operations.

What’s the No. 1 business advice that entrepreneurs and managers need to survive and succeed in the industry?

If you know you provide the best service available, do not be afraid to set the right value and price for it. Setting your price too low to compete will not only hurt your business but also the industry itself. Cost your services at the right price, but make sure to give customers the value for their money.

“We saw that there was an opportunity to introduce a full-service laundry business that will provide laundry services in a more professional way. Back then, the laundry business was seen as a backyard industry.” – Joan Ravello, Drip & Dry

What’s next for the cleaning, sanitation and laundry industry?

If you will read articles on the laundry industry, there are now a lot of innovative ways to do one’s own laundry. There is even a bicycle laundry where you do both the exercise and the chore simultaneously. On the market side, we understand that clients today are smarter thanks to technology. With all the increase of prices everywhere, they are more discriminating to where they put their hard-earned money in. Given that, I think the laundry industry should look at the business beyond just a washing-machine rental. I think we should also think of providing the service our clients deserve.

 

If you have questions on the story or about putting up a laundry business, email me at rhapolega@yahoo.com.

 

Featured image shows Drip & Dry’s Eastwood branch.

The secret to a profitable laundry business

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Romy Apolega: rhapolega@yahoo.com

In my 46 years of experience as a Chemical Engineer in the cleaning and laundry industry, I have always been a strong believer of quality. If you can consistently provide services and products of good quality that make your customers happy (without losing money), then you’ve built a good business model.

There is an art and science to this case called Total Quality Management (TQM). TQM is a management philosophy that looks at a company as a collection of processes (marketing, sales, operations, production, finance, etc.) whose ultimate goal is to meet customer needs and the organization’s objectives.

Sadly, TQM is rarely used used in the industry.

Whether you’re an in-house launderer (hotel, restaurant, power plant, manufacturing, etc.) or an external service provider, it’s important to realize the benefits of adopting this business philosophy.

Here are some reasons why:

1. TQM is about Customer Satisfaction

TQM’s goal is to consistently meet customer needs. All functions of the business must converge and lead to this outcome.

In our industry, this compels launderers to provide services that meet these requirements:

  • Timeliness

  • Completeness

  • Whiteness

It’s not just the cleanliness of the items, but also the service that should be examined:

  • Laundry items should be delivered, properly folded (no crumpling) or hung

  • Reconciliation on losses, shortages, damages and mix-ups with the customers should also be cleared

  • Small damages and tears must be mended

  • In case of overage, these must be reported and returned

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Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

READ: 7 Considerations Before Opening Your First Laundry

2. TQM puts emphasis on Continuous Process Improvement

No laundry is perfect, but you’re at least expected to learn and enhance your laundry business’ functions to deliver more superior services and products.

TQM puts emphasis on Continuous Process Improvement. It’s the way companies make an ongoing effort to improve, either incrementally over time or via breakthrough projects at once.

Laundry companies should have “Quality Circles” — an internal group that meets regularly to discuss and improve processes and production in the company.

Quality points should be identified and are functioning. Identification of the process from pick up to delivery

Management also need to regularly revisit the company’s mission and vision. SWOT will be a practical instrument to assess and improve.

3. In TQM, everyone is involved

The top management to the line person are involved in total quality. This means that to maintain competitive advantage, members of the organization must receive regular training.

TQM is not itself a competitive advantage, but it is a tool that can lead your laundry business to differentiate yourself from competition. For laundry businesses, the concluding quality question in every TQM initiative is, “Is it really clean?”

READ NEXT: 3 common headaches in commercial laundry (and how to fix them)

If you want to know more about TQM in laundry, email me at rhapolega@yahoo.com or editor@isitcleanph.com. Follow my Facebook page and LinkedIn page for more updates on the laundry business.

Checklist: 8 factors to consider to win in the business

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Image courtesy of Abstract-living.com

Competition is winning the business game — attaining the needed sales, leading the market, comfortable edge in the sales figure, and of course, getting to be popular in the line of business.

But winning is easier said than done. Times have changed along with technology, revealing new ideas, ways of communication, and equipment. This is especially true in the hotel, restaurant, and institutional industry, even among suppliers and players in related sectors of laundry, food safety, and sanitation. There are new tools to use to pursue objectives, new services coming up, and new approaches for these industries to win old and new customers and even to maintain them.

On this regard, are we prepared in the following considerations to fulfill our objectives?

Vision/Mission – Have you been visiting your vision and mission regularly to gauge whether they are still synced with the times and objectives? Are the customers’ wants and needs still the same? Have you realized what new segments can provide better figures?

Total quality management – Is this in practice and in conjunction with total plant management?

Marketing and sales – Are these two groups well coordinated for the common goals and sales target needed? Are the new customer types, services, and products considered very well?

Operation – Will it be able to deliver the sales and marketing group efforts?  Are the commitments, terms, standards, and quality tailored fit for the customers fulfilled?

Services – After the necessary products are delivered, will the corresponding, expected after-sales service be provided on time?

Suppliers/Supplies – Have the quality standards been established to the point of reliability in all aspects?

Contracts – Different contracts are drawn with customers and suppliers, too. How about the advantages or long- and short-term  contracts? Will such contracts bring down costs, increase productivity and quality?

Pricing – After all has been said and done about quality, availability, standards, operation, and terms, pricing is established. This is the final measure in the competition game — will it result to bigger sales but lower profit or lower sales yet bigger profit? Take your pick.

What do these all mean for the hotel and restaurant industry, specifically the laundry, food safety, and housekeeping sectors?

Customers are happy with clean crisp linen and being served with quality safe food in sparkling and spotless dining wares. These are easy to be promised but they also require a lot of backroom effort to produce the quality and standards needed. All the eight issues above will have to be dealt with carefully to succeed with the competition game.

Are you performing well in all these factors? Let’s talk: rhapolega@yahoo.com or send me a tweet @isitcleanph

5 challenges hotel and restaurant professionals will face in 2016

It’s that time of the year again when we go back to our drawing boards to review the past year’s performance and look ahead to the coming year, which includes reading through predicted market trends in the industry.

Instead of trends, though, I’ll be identifying the main problems that professionals in the hotel, restaurant, and institutional industry will face. It is only when we prepare ourselves to address these challenges can we fully maximize what the market holds in 2016 in the Philippines.

Whether you’re a supplier, business owner, or manager of hotels, restaurants, and institutions, you may likely face 5 key challenges in 2016:

 

Competition

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Conrad Manila under construction, designed by WOW Singapore. Photo grabbed from wow.sg

The industry is booming in a way that sees more hotel and food players – and subsequently suppliers, too – coming in. For instance, there are 6,773 hotel rooms under construction in the Philippines, according to STR Global in February. Competition is the No. 1 concern among managers these days, and it is a challenge for companies who aim to increase sales turnover.

In the face of competition, managers must ask: Will it be price-driven wherein more innovation are introduced thereby increasing the product price? Or continue with the current system thus utilizing the old price in exchange of bigger sales turnover?

 

Quality results

Granting that sales turnover increases, how about customer complaints? Without giving enough focus on quality, you may also find the number of complaints increasing, which will be eventually bad for your business.

 

Equipment and production line

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Managing maintenance and labor costs, and mulling the question of outsourcing, must be confronted in 2016. Photo grabbed from Facebook

Along with the increase in number of new hotels and restaurants, suppliers in the outsourcing business such as laundry and linen rental are rising as well. Older properties find themselves with aging equipment in their laundry, kitchen, and housekeeping. Should these be replaced with newer, more efficient ones?

Re-layouting, retrofitting, and retooling these equipment for better services and lesser operation cost must also be considered. If you’re a hotel, you may likely be mulling about completely outsourcing laundry to save on maintenance and labor costs.

 

Labor

Labor is one of biggest expenses in the service industry, leading managers to streamline processes to manage labor costs. In 2016, reducing labor cost must support efforts to improve sales.

 

Utility Cost

The industry is heavily dependent on electricity, water, and gas; kitchen facilities and water heating are reliant on electricity or fuel, while laundry on water and electricity. These costs have been rising over the past years. Maintaining or reducing the cost with better services or products on a foreseeable higher utility price must be considered.

 

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at rhapolega@yahoo.com

How Today’s Philippine Cleaning and Sanitation Technology Came to be

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A laundry facility of Rice Hotel in Rice University, Texas, U.S. in the 60s. Photo was originally uploaded by Ricehistorycorner.com.

Have you ever wondered how dishes were cleaned and linen were washed 40 years ago?

Four decades ago when I began in the industry, there were already very few big-sized hotels, fine dining restaurants, and commercial laundries. Things were so simple for the kitchen and laundry side of the hospitality business.

The hotels and restaurants utilized good silverwares – the real silver cutlery and flatware with burnishing equipment on hand to maintain the silver’s shine and spotless standards. Of course, chemical detarnishers were very helpful too.

The smorgasbord? Hotels and restaurants used liquid alcohol as warmers for the chafing dishes.

Dishwashing machines were rare and, if they were even present, their only function was for rinsing after the dishes have gone through manual washing by the dishwashers.

Meanwhile, hotels used ordinary detergent powders for laundry. They used liquid chlorine for bleaching whites. The washers were manually-operated, belly washer type, or commonly called conventional washers, with a separate machine for extracting the water called hydro extractor.

Commercial laundry was called steam laundry since they had boilers that would produce steam for washing, drying, and flatwork ironing. They were the true steam laundries. For hotels, boilers functioned to heat water too.

Today

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Typical hotel laundry machine, which, because of the growing trend of outsourcing, is becoming less common in properties today. Photo courtesy of Alibaba.com

Technology has changed the roles of man, machine, and chemicals. Cleaning and sanitation processes evolved dramatically.

Plastic water glasses that stain fast, combi ovens, electric chafing dish, and soft ice cream machines are just few modern machines that came into the kitchen scenery.

More dishes to be cleaned and sanitized means better dishwashing machine for faster production of clean dishes per rack per minute. The standards have gone up too with the hot-wash, hot-rinse sterile dishes that need to be dried automatically after less than a minute out of the dishwashing machine. Wiping glasses to clean them is today a no-no. The cleaning process now is strictly hands-free wash to the storage until it reaches the guests’ dining tables.

The manual dishwashing cleaning and sanitizing chemicals before came in powder forms, almost all of them are now liquid, pre-measured sachet or used with the liquid chemical dosing pumps. For manual sink dishwashing, all-purpose chemicals for manual washing have to be dispensed by a proportioner that delivers the desired concentration with water.

Food safety is now the lingo for the foodservice industry, and HACCP is not anymore for the food but also into the modern laundering. These are the new technologies we now see in the kitchen. These are the new technologies we now see in the kitchen. The second part will tackle laundering.

Now, let’s turn towards the laundry and housekeeping sector.

Linen rental is creeping into the hospitality industry. The rentable linen is either owned by the linen supplier or the laundry itself. Linen rental companies utilize their owned laundries for washing or a separate laundry service provider.

We’ve introduced new linen types like the duvet that is now popularly used. New fabric blends more polyester combinations. Cheaper fabrics have become alternatives to expensive cottons.

These linens are washed in machines that are today completely automatic. Very few laundry washer extractors use manual feeding of chemicals since automatic dosing pumps or dispensers are widely utilized. Since dosages are exact, there is no hit-or-miss and there is less labor chemical feedings. Similar to kitchen chemicals, the dusty powders are now a thing of the past. In the modern laundry, we use five to six chemicals – a better way than the past but one that is also expensive.

More washing problems came up. There are new forms of food stains because of new food preparation types and sauces. For island resorts, henna tattoos are a problem. Blood stains are always around and even newer lipstick types are harder to remove. Dyes are getting prevalent not only on the linen but on the cups and drinking glasses.

Boilers are now are thing of the past in most laundries since liquefied petroleum gas has been a cost-effective source of energy for drying and ironing purposes in the commercial laundries. Automatic sheet and towel folders can conform to the fold types or standards of different hotels. Don’t forget the automatic spreader feeder before the bed sheet or flat sheets are ironed, introducing the almost hands-free system. These machines have not only lowered labor cost but are also more efficient systems. Less handling means less bacteria spread for the finished laundry.

The low temperature wash for the laundry and dishwashing machine are the banner marketing statements of the chemical suppliers. Low temperature systems means low cost in energy use.

Outside the kitchen and laundry, I will not forget the emergence of the water-less urinals and new stone floors that use less floor finishing chemicals.

What’s in store for the future? Shorter washes, automated was formulas, lower was temperatures, and safe environmental washing systems – these are the things to come.

This is a modified version of my column for Hospitality News Philippines that appeared in two parts.