Most hotels and hospitality businesses do not own their own bed linen and towels; they hire it from specialists companies who operate a tied-in laundering service. Not only is linen hire used for bedroom linen, table linen can also be hired for restaurants.
Linen hire firms should be able to offer commercial grade linen products across a range of linen items. Any good linen hire firm will offer a range of linen goods such as plain white duvet covers or satin stripe; 500gsm towels or 400gsm towels; regular cotton bed linen or percale. The key items available from a laundry hire company are Bed sheets, duvet covers, pillowcases, towels, bath mats, tablecloths and napkins.
The way the linen hire service usually works is that several sets of linen per bed are agreed and delivered to the hotel. The number of sets is often called a 'par'. The par can vary based on the amount of times a bed is likely to be changed in a week, but typically is set between 3 and 5. After the beds have been changed the dirty linen is bagged ready for the laundry company to collect. The laundry company will collect the dirty linen and redeliver the laundered items collected at the previous delivery. The delivery frequency will also vary from hotel to hotel but is usually also based on the activity levels of that particular hotel. The par and delivery frequency work together to ensure the hotel never run out of stock.
The advantages of linen hire are:
• Avoids tying up cash invested in linen.
• More flexibility to change profile of stocks should you change your beds.
• Cost effect service.
• The linen will be replaced when it is worn out at no cost to you.
• Ensures your linen is commercial grade and of a high standard.
The disadvantages of linen hire are:
• Minimal charges - it is likely the hire company will expect you to wash all the items several times each month. If this level is not achieved then you will be billed for the minimum level of activity even though you haven't used the service.
• Unusual peaks of activity can mean you run out of stock, such as a sporting event.
• You will have to pay for damaged and lost items.
• Watch out for extra charges such as stocktakes or extra deliveries that you request.
So, is linen hire suitable for your hospitality business? It really comes down to your year round levels of activity. If your business is really seasonal with a long low season then linen hire could be an expensive choice; In this case you would probably be better buying the linen and negotiating a really keen price for laundry only. Remember, the laundry company will not have an investment in linen so a 'laundry-only' price should be lower than for a linen hire service. If your business will meet the minimum use criteria most months then linen hire is a great way forward if approached properly.
Often you will find smaller independent linen hire businesses will offer a more flexible service and deliver hirer quality because their processes are less automated. Read the terms and conditions for the service carefully to make sure there are no hidden charges. Discuss with the firm how they operate and understand what level of linen and delivery frequency you can expect. Remember the more linen you take on the higher the minimum usage level will be. Also understand how reliable the deliver window will be. You should also find out from the company whether you will be required to count and record the dirty linen you are returning to them. For smaller hotels this is a good stock keeping practise as proof of how many items have been dispatched is recorded, although it is likely to be impractical for larger hotels.
In summary, providing you are a busy hotel and follow the above steps when setting up the service, linen hire can take a great deal of hassle out of a hotels daily operation.