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7 questions to ask your laundry service provider

August 19, 2015

In a previous article, I made the case that outsourcing your laundry to a sustainable provider is a great way to reduce your restaurant’s ecological footprint and enhance your environmentally responsible image. Because their core business depends on judicious use of energy and water, commercial laundries do not need to hike up their prices to offer sustainable services; they have a built-in incentive to conserve resources.

Even when you consider laundries with a sustainable track record, choosing providers can be difficult, especially in areas where many options exist. Price is an important consideration, but it does not tell you how much water the laundry conserves. It also gives you no information about the quality of the laundry’s customer service. So how can you determine if a laundry is committed to both sustainability and providing outstanding service to restaurants? Ask them the following seven questions. Their responses can tell you much about the qualities of their businesses:

  1. Can outsourcing really help reduce my water and energy consumption? A commercial laundry should be able to make the case for this with metrics on the amount of water and energy they use.
     
  2. Would it be more economical for us to handle (or continue handling) our own laundry? A reputable provider will help you calculate both the direct (e.g., laundry chemicals) and indirect costs (e.g., workers’ compensation claims) of handling your own laundry as well as the cost of renting or owning your linens. This will give you figures to compare against most laundries’ costs per pound. Laundries implementing sustainable practices can often pass the savings of their sustainability efforts on to you with lower prices for service!  
     
  3. How much experience do you have with restaurant linens? Restaurants are often concerned about stains and other waste materials being removed from their tablecloths, napkins and uniforms. Though you do not need to rule out a laundry that lacks extensive restaurant experience, they should be able to reliably make a quick turnaround on linens heavily soiled with grease, red wine and food solids.
     
  4. How do you protect the lifespan of my napkins, uniforms and other textiles? Your restaurant not only needs someone to clean and sanitize your linens, but also someone to care for them with careful attention to detail. Commercial laundries are careful about quality control, ensuring wash formulas and water temperatures are optimized for linen care and longevity.
     
  5. Do you recapture water or heat in the wash process? Some laundries retrofit their facilities with closed loop systems that can filter, purify and reuse water over again. Those systems may also have methods for recovering the heat from hot water. Over time, they generate cost savings that the laundries can pass on to you. (how?)
     
  6. What else do you do to be sustainable? Commercial laundries have found many ways to save resources beyond the wash cycle. Some use rainwater catchment to source their water; others have installed solar panels. Laundries may also reroute their deliveries to use less fuel or convert their trucks to natural gas.
     
  1. How do you quantify your sustainability efforts? Laundries should be able to offer hard numbers on how resource-efficient they are, like how many gallons of water are used per load. They also have information or certifications you can use in your marketing (for example, the Clean Green certification for sustainable laundries) to help demonstrate your own business’ commitment to sustainability.

 

The answers to these questions can give you a portrait of the laundry, beyond basic service offerings and price. If you are going to have a long-term business relationship with a provider, you want their culture to align with yours. That is particularly important when sustainability is a priority for you and your customers.

Joseph Ricci is the president and CEO of the Textile Rental Services Association located in Alexandria, VA.

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