An article came out yesterday that warns business travelers to watch out for an impending hotel crisis. The author mentions several large hotels that have in the recent past run into challenges. “Radisson guests were turned out into the New Hampshire winter one February morning when the then-owner abruptly shuttered the property as a negotiating ploy.” 1
He feels the situation will get worse next year. It is “estimated that $21.7 billion in mortgage-backed securities on 232 hotels come due in the next 12 months. Robert Sonnenblick, a hotel developer, suggested that only about a third of that amount will be successfully refinanced. “You’re going to see a huge increase of hotel foreclosures,” he predicted. It is “going to be a close-to-catastrophic problem.” 1
Switching gears a little now. I am currently working with a hotel that wants to streamline their housekeeping and laundry processes. There is no real system in place. No method being followed. The linen is not dropped as early as needed. There is no continuity to how carts are stocked. No specific order for how rooms are cleaned so some housekeepers finish later than others. Etc.
I see an opportunity here. Foreclosure is not an option! Instead, we’re going to increase efficiency, cut out unnecessary expenses and find creative ways to draw in customers. Phew! Off my soapbox now.
Below are a few of my housekeeping/laundry department recommendations for those of you who are determined to keep your doors open.
Housekeeping department tips
- Create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the room cleaning process.
Actually, create two. One for an occupied room and one for a recently vacated room. The SOP should be on a single form but double-sided. Turn it into a task list. For example, Side A will list out the order in which a newly vacated room should be cleaned. Side B will discuss the way you would like an occupied room cleaned. When creating this checklist, consider it from the guest’s perspective. 2 What would you notice when walking into a room? Does the remote work? Is the clock time correct? What do you see when you lay on the bed? Cobwebs or ceiling stains? Are the walls scuffed up? Add a bed bug check to the list. Remember, no hotel is immune to this new epidemic. Make the list easy to read and easy to follow. Does it need to be multi-lingual? Then put one on every cart and communicate to your staff this is the way you want the rooms cleaned. A few training sessions should be considered also.
- Create another form that gives a graphic representation on how amenities and small appliances should be placed in the room. This will make it easier for the housekeeper to take a glance at the area in question and know if something is missing. 2
- Ensure the housekeepers have access to maintenance tickets so they can write requests down immediately. If they wait too long, the issue may be forgotten. That can cost you a point or two in your survey.
- What about the carts? Is each one loaded in a uniform manner? Is it organized in a method that makes it easiest for the housekeeper to get to the needed items in the shortest amount of time? Do you have a visual guide available for the stocker with a specific count of needed inventory items? Speaking of that, who stocks the carts? The hotel I am currently working with utilizes the night auditor. I think that’s a great idea. It keeps that person occupied and ensures the carts are ready for use the next morning.
- Consider utilizing technology by implementing a Room Inspection system such as the Touch system through Stark Service Solutions. This affordable mobile-based software schedules and tracks the housekeeping process saving time and money.
In regards to the laundry department, consider the following ideas:
- Look at the workflow of the room. Consider it from a manufacturing perspective. “Dirty linens should come in one way and continue to move down the line logically, leading to the folding and ironing stations, which should be setup to allow staff to complete several tasks at once.” Watch out for backflow. If the dirty linen has to cross over the clean linen, it’s time to change your layout. 3
- The article I found gives an example of folding efficiency. “Sheet folding often requires two people to feed the machine and one person catching on the other side. This three-person setup needs to be adjusted when it comes to folding napkins, pillowcases and other small linens. “To optimize [staff and machine run time], have three people feeding and one person catching.” Without that fourth person “you are losing 50 percent production, which drives up labor cost and machine costs.”” 3
- Show your laundry staff some love and place anti-fatigue mats on the floor. They’re designed to reduce fatigue, slips and falls and increase productivity and comfort.
Have you considered outsourcing your housekeeping? A major advantage is the monetary savings. In the article I reference, a hotel realized a 25% savings in labor costs after switching that department to a staffing company. Additionally, since housekeeping has such a high turnover rate the dollars spent in recruiting and training have been saved. 4
What are the disadvantages? There may not be any continuity in who shows up to clean your rooms. This means a new person could miss a task you consider absolutely essential. Additionally, you don’t know the people coming in. How stringently does the staffing company check the background of those they hire?
Look at it from this perspective. Consider the core competencies of your hotel. What do you want your hotel to be known for? If perfection in cleanliness is top on your list then consider keeping housekeeping in-house. Instead, what else can you outsource? Payroll or accounts receivables? Maintenance? Banquet staff?
As you can see, with some creative thinking, process efficiency and improvement can be effectively implemented in many areas of your hotel. A few simple changes can reduce your expenses which will keep your doors open longer. Good luck and let me know how you do.
How has your hotel used process improvement to reduce expenses?
Amy Bair is an expert in hotel process improvement. Her specialty is helping hotels improve their scores, increase their revenue and reduce their expenses. Learn more about the services she offers and download her free report “5 Top Ways Hotels Can Increase Revenue and Improve Customer Satisfaction” at www.bpenow.com.