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

7 trends shaping commercial laundry in the Philippines in 2019

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Big laundry operation. Image from Gulfnews.com

The commercial laundry industry in the Philippines over the last few years has grown immensely. Self-service laundry shops have mushroomed within our neighborhood, while big laundry companies have benefited from hotels and restaurants increasingly outsourcing their laundry operations. The laundry care business alone (fabric softener, bleach and detergents) grew by 9% to a PhP52 billion industry in 2017, according to Euromonitor International.

Here are the trends that will drive the sector this year:

 

1. New equipment that do more with less

With barely 4 in every 10 households owning a washing machine (according to Euromonitor for 2017), it’s no wonder why commercial laundry is popular. Urban dwellers not only wish to avoid paying so much for a washing machine, but they’re also looking for the convenience offered by commercial laundry — quick and quality wash.

New equipment for commercial laundry today provide sophisticated moisture content capacity and energy, labor and production efficiency. This is particularly important for big laundry companies where cost savings are critical. New equipment are also faster in washing and require less water and heat. Make sure to check these features the next time you invest in an equipment.

 

2. Water will be more valuable

Cost of good water — an essential ingredient to good laundry — has risen. Whereas laundry shops will find cheap water from deep well, hard water and water with iron, these actually harm linen more than they make them fresh anew.

With rising costs of utilities and fuel, companies are looking for practical ways and technologies that will result to cost savings, especially on water. These range from sophisticated innovations such as recycling of water to simple and practical methods such as rainwater harvesting.

 

3. Environmental compliance will be a growing issue

With the rehabilitation of Boracay and Manila Bay, laundry businesses will be looking more at environmental compliance. A pressing question among commercial laundry players today is investing on waste water treatment, which doesn’t come cheap.

Big laundry companies will also be concerned about Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD). BOD and COD should pass government regulations, otherwise there are heavy penalties for violators. The DENR also now prohibits phosphate content in waste water, thus affecting the type of chemicals laundry shops will purchase.

 

4. Less dependence on chemicals

Like how laundry technology is trying to make use of less water, it is also moving towards efficient utilization of chemicals (preferably, zero phosphate as well). This makes the resulting waste water more environment-friendly and easier to recycle.

 

5. Outsourcing laundry — and linen — will continue

Laundry in the hotel industry is a sizable operation, employing dozens of staff and incurring maintenance cost for various equipment. Recently, a number of hotels have closed their in-house laundry operations and resorted to outsourcing of even linen (to save storage cost and maximize their real estate). This will definitely continue as hospitality companies focus on their core strength (service) while outsourcing non-essential processes such as laundry operations to specialist companies.

READ NEXT: Hotel laundry: outsource or in-house?

6. Higher standards of quality

As the number of commercial laundry players increase, customers — whether retail or institutional — will look for service providers that can deliver the best quality wash and prolong linen life. Not many companies use quality management tools such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Total Plant Maintenance (TPM) and whiteness test in the commercial laundry business to ensure best-in-class services are provided. These tools will become more important to satisfy the requirements of institutions and the public.

 

7. Data analytics in laundry

Not many companies and laundry shops today collect metrics on the performance of their business and laundry operations. As competition grows, data analytics will certainly help them survive. What is the production vis-a-vis capacity? What is the peso per kilo wash load? What are the monitoring systems in place?

I have always thought laundry is an efficiency game. After collating information, we can use the Ishikawa principle or fish-bone analysis to answer important questions.

For questions, email me at rhapolega@yahoo.com or editor@isitcleanph.com

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.