Whether it be for work or leisure, human beings have never been more mobile, hence the constant growth in the number of hotels, motels and other types of professional accommodation in the western world.
But no matter how much we travel, the prosaic necessities of maintaining both ourselves and what we wear does not alter. While keeping our bodies clean is as simple as hopping in the shower, when it comes to our clothes it can be a lot more complicated.
Washing and drying our garments takes a good deal longer for a start, and if there is no self-service laundry in the establishment, the guests will have to locate one somewhere. Not so inconvenient if there is one just next door perhaps, but that often is not the case.
Having to find a laundry, and then stay in it while washing and drying cycles go through, is a nuisance, whether it is for busy business people or holiday makers wanting to make the most of their precious break. For those guests only there for a short stay, sending their clothes out to be laundered might not even be an option. And even when it is, it can be relatively expensive, especially for a family on a budget.
For most guests, an in-house facility where they can launder their own clothing for a reasonable price and at a time to suit them, will be a drawcard. It may well be one of the reasons they decide to stay at your establishment – or somewhere else!
Whether it is a hotel, motel, tourist lodge, holiday park or backpackers – the onus is on the management to provide laundry facilities that will attract guests in the first place, and then keep them satisfied. And there is no need to regard this as an unfortunate necessity. A coin operated laundry can provide a very useful source of revenue.
Many guests will want to use it – with certain provisos. It will not only need to be economic and do the job as quickly and efficiently as possible, but also be relatively pleasant to spend time in and provide nice-looking, modern, reliable equipment.
It will be an additional bonus if it has one or more forms of entertainment – particularly for small children whose parents will not want to leave them alone in their guest room, or their laundry unattended. While it may still seem strange to New Zealanders who mostly live in their own houses with laundries, it is not the case in many big cities overseas where renting in small flats or apartments is the norm. There, customer-operated laundries have often become enjoyable multi-service centres which provide such attractions as snack bars and video games. Travellers from overseas will often expect something similar. And as home ownership falls in New Zealand cities, it will inevitably become more common for Kiwis as well.
Watching clothes bouncing around is not going to keep easily-bored children or adults fascinated for very long, particularly if that entails sitting for an hour or more on a hard, uncomfortable seat. Consideration should be given to providing relatively soft chairs that will help the time go by pleasantly.
As well as generous space for the customers, there must be an adequate installation and service area around the machines, reasonable room for a worktop or table for sorting and folding, and perhaps separate clean and soiled work areas to prevent cross-contamination.
While for many years, such places for washing clothes have been known simply as ‘coin laundries’, new technology is increasingly meaning that coins or tokens may not need to be used at all.
As in any such decision involving considerable investment, it always pays to seek expert assistance before deciding to build or upgrade an in-house, guest-operated laundry.
Companies such as Speed Queen and Southern Hospitality are only too happy to provide such advice. They can help prospective clients design their layout and provide experienced counsel against over-capitalizing. They can assist in working out if the space you have allocated is appropriate for your guests’ occupancy and that you have the most suitable type and correct amount of equipment.
accomnews asked executives from the two companies to make some recommendations that should be taken into account. Duncan Garner from Speed Queen and Graham Fox from Southern Hospitality both emphasised the necessity of providing quality commercial equipment.
Southern Hospitality stocks the DOMUS and LG brands of commercial laundry equipment with access to other well-known brands from Europe and the USA. The company’s national laundry manager Graham Fox says coin laundries can come in all shapes and sizes.
“A hostel laundry is different to a hotel guest laundry, which is different to a laundry in a holiday park or a stand-alone laundromat, and so on. There’s no ‘magic formula’ for setting one up but Southern Hospitality provides countrywide support and access to expertise.”
Speed Queen sales director Duncan Gardiner says his company has been providing commercial laundry equipment for a “very, very long time. I believe they have the balance between performance, durability and efficiency down to a fine art. In my mind there is no better laundry investment that you can make.”
Mr Gardiner emphasises the importance of purchasing quality equipment that come with secure coin mechanisms and that is the most suitable size for the usage it will have.
“Good quality equipment is essential because no one likes having down-time in a laundry. Some accommodation providers try to do it using domestic equipment with bolt-on coin boxes on the wall, but domestic machines are not designed to handle commercial workloads. Choose a commercial machine with an all-metal transmission that can deal with the heavy usage, keep maintenance costs low and give you years of reliable service. It will not only keep your customers happy but will give you a good return on investment as well.”
Washing and drying mix
Southern Hospitality’s Graham Fox: “When you’re setting up a coin laundry you won’t go wrong spending time making sure your washing and drying mix is correct. It may seem obvious, but too many people underestimate the importance of drying, making short sighted decisions on the type of machinery they choose and not providing enough of the larger capacity machines that customers like to use. Larger washers allow customers to launder large loads, including duvets. In my experience, people like larger dryers with better tumbling and airflow characteristics.”
Mr Fox also urges caution when looking to increase drying capacity by utilising dryer stacked units: “Not all stacked dryers are created equal. Some of the basic models don’t have reversing drums, meaning the items being dried will tangle and not dry properly. This leads to unhappy customers and problems you won’t want.
“Customers are also quick to learn which dryers work for them and will stop using any units that do not dry properly. They may be cheaper than stacked units with reversible drums, but under-utilised machinery will cost you revenue in the long term. It also reduces your effective working capacity and places more strain on your other dryers,” Mr Fox said.
Security and progress
There has been debate for decades over the advantages or otherwise of coins versus tokens, with some believing that tokens give greater security against theft.
In one way, coins are the simplest option because people still travel with coins anyway, although less so than in the past. But a long-standing issue where a property employs staff who clear the coin boxes and manage the money is that there is always the temptation for some employees to skim a bit off the top. There could also be security issues where vandals falsely believe they can break into the machines and access the coins. While they will be unsuccessful, they can cause damage in the attempt.
A token system minimises the risk of vandalism and provides more flexibility in pricing. It also avoids the problem of people deliberately or accidently putting through the wrong denominations or currencies, or perhaps using ‘slugs’ such as washers to try to fool the machines. This can cause jams necessitating expensive repairs. But the downside of tokens is that that someone has to be available to issue them over long hours, seven days.
Speed Queen’s Duncan Gardiner says sophisticated new technology is helping to eliminate the drawbacks of both coins and tokens. “Modern equipment can electronically record exactly what has happened in that machine, giving the business owner peace of mind.”
And he says even newer technology now being introduced will remove the need for either coins or tokens at all. “These include cashless systems and payment by credit card.”
He gave the example of a recent installation at an apartment complex in Auckland which uses Speed Queen’s new Eftpos vending/coin operated laundry payment method.
“It’s early days and these systems add a level of cost that at present make them more suitable for larger central laundries, but those costs are coming down all the time.”