TRSA Event Wrap Up: 2nd Annual Hospitality Conference Looks at Market Change, Innovation
Attendees of TRSA’s Second Annual Hospitality Conference received a detailed overview of shifts in the hotel trade from keynote speaker John Burns on Feb. 4 at the Westin Las Vegas Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas. Burns, president of Hospitality Technology Consulting, shared with the approximately 100 attendees how hotel chains and independents, like the rest of the economy have grown steadily over the 11-year expansion that followed the Great Recession of 2008-’09. Of course, hotels, like all businesses that require massive amounts of manpower to provide expected services for guests and other aspects of their operations, are finding labor pools elusive. Whether this issue will encourage hotels to move toward outsourcing their laundry needs or whether hotels will simply expect their vendors/partners to do more with less remains to be seen.
Additional hotel industry disruptions include the rise of Airbnb and other similar vacation rentals and alternatives that compete with conventional hotels. The decentralized nature of Airbnb makes it a challenge for laundries to service their linens on an outsourced basis, but new opportunities in that area could arise as the business grows, advised keynoter Burns. To succeed in this era, hospitality laundry operators must be nimble and quick to show such vendors they’ll meet their requirements.
Other market shifts that Burns emphasized included the millennial and Gen Z attitudes towards business travel, which has fueled the rise of new hotel concepts that focus on issues such as “wellness,” “adventure,” “micro” and other niches associated with their hotel stays. To meet these demands, hoteliers are having to leave behind some longstanding traditions of the past in order to survive. Laundry operators will find themselves working with larger, more sophisticated clients with broader, more specific and more stylized requirements.
Burns closed on a somber yet thought-provoking note. While the economy continues to show strength, inevitably the market will experience a downturn, probably sometime in the next two years. There will be a shakeout that will impact the hotel industry in ways that are hard to predict. One aspect that’s unlikely to shift even if the economy stalls badly is the hotel industry’s commitment to sustainability. This trend is driven in part by the international movement toward the “circular economy,” particularly in Europe. Again, as recyclers of linen, environmentalism could and should play to laundry operators’ strengths – provided they’re aware enough to demonstrate their commitment to conservation.
Other education programs during the full day Hospitality Conference on Feb. 5 included:
- An overview of growth statistics and trends from consultant Ali Hoyt, senior director of consulting and analytics for STR, a hospitality research firm.
- A series of facilitated roundtables in which operators discussed issues such as outsourcing, customer relations, recruitment/retention and similar issues of common concern.
- A review of legislative and regulatory issues from TRSA Vice President of Government Relations Kevin Schwalb.
- A presentation by consultant Larry Wilhelm and TRSA’s Ken Koepper on a new benchmarking effort designed to encourage outsourcing by assembling financial information on a confidential basis from hotels.
- A presentation by Steve Miller, vice president of Victor Kramer Co., on linen-loss prevention methods and strategies.
- Information on customer attitudes in a panel discussion dubbed “What Customers Really Want.” The panelists included Chris Breed, vice president of resort operations, Soleil Management, Eric Eisenberg, director of Hotel Operations, Boyd Gaming, and Diane Gandy, president of the Nevada Hotel & Lodging Association. Terry Satchwell, executive vice president, PureStar Linen Group, moderated the discussion.
At the conclusion of the educational sessions, attendees enjoyed a networking reception and on the following day, traveled with attendees of the inaugural TRSA Food & Beverage Conference (hosted at the same location) to visit two high-profile laundries, Alsco Linen & Uniform Rental Services in North Las Vegas and Boyd Gaming Linen and Uniform Service in nearby Henderson, NV.
On Feb. 3 a pre-Hospitality conference roundtable gathering of 16 hotel laundry operators gathered at the Westin to discuss a wide range of issues affecting their businesses.
Facilitated by TRSA President & CEO Joseph Ricci, operators cited strong growth in the hotel market, coupled with concerns over challenges ranging from labor shortages to determining a model for providing services to “market disruptors,” in the hospitality trade, such as Airbnb and a range of comparable vacation and business rental-service programs.
The tight labor market, affecting the availability of hourly and skilled tradespeople such as maintenance engineers, is a complicating factor. The rise of the minimum wage in many states, plus compliance costs such as “living wage” rules in certain communities such as Santa Monica, CA; and St. Louis, make it hard for laundries to meet hotels’ demand to hold down the costs of outsourced laundry services.
Operators discussed a range of creative options to increase their recruiting and retention possibilities, such as recruiting prison labor through work-release programs in various areas of the U.S. TRSA Vice President of Government Relations Kevin Schwalb told the attendees that TRSA is developing a program with the prison system in California that would educate prison laundry employees to qualify for the Certified Professional Laundry Manager (CPLM) status. Gaining this credential would, in turn, make it easier for them to find a full-time job in the linen, uniform and facility services industry upon release. A similar program is in the works to train prison laundry managers in order to hone their skills and enhance their knowledge of laundry best practices.
The notion of laundry outsourcing is making headway in the U.S. but it lags behind progress in this area made in Europe. Hotels there have largely phased out in-house, on-premise laundries (OPLs) in favor of outsourcing. Part of the challenge of educating hotel managers is a rapid turnover of hotel management staff, which complicates efforts to build effective partnerships with hotel counterparts who are in charge of managing linens for their facilities. Other concerns discussed included the reluctance of hotels that own their own linens to maintain sufficient PAR levels (number of days’ worth of linens available when the hotel is at full capacity) in order to avoid shortages and premature wear due to overuse of linens.
Roundtable attendees included:
- Cory Acton, Vice President of Operations, Magic Laundry Service Inc., Montebello, CA
- Brian Beere, Owner, President and CEO, Single Source Plus, Bellmawr, NJ
- Michael Benik, President, People’s Laundry, Keene, NH
- Ann Berry, Chairman, PureStar Group, New York
- Eric Brady, Chief Strategy Officer, PureStar Group, Las Vegas
- Bob Brill, Vice President of Operations, American Textile Maintenance, Los Angeles
- Vicky Cayetano, President, United Laundry Services Inc., Honolulu
- Ray Hayes, CEO, South Pacific Laundry, Bundoora, Australia,
- Harry Kertenian, Owner and CFO, Magic Laundry Service Inc., Montebello, CA
- Richard Marzo, Vice President, Lace House Linen Supply Inc., Petaluma, CA
- Steve Miller, Vice President and General Manager, Victor Kramer Co., Seaside Heights, NJ
- Julia Pooler, President, Sacramento Laundry Co., Sacramento, CA
- Keith Pooler, Vice President, Sacramento Laundry Co., Sacramento, CA
- Lee Stotts, Edina Laundry Co., Owner, Minneapolis, MN
- Tim Williams, President and CEO, Crown Linen Services, Mexico, MO
- Les Williams, CEO, Starr Textile Services, Foley, AL
Additional TRSA professional development opportunities scheduled through 2022 can be reviewed at www.trsa.org/calendar. For more information on TRSA Executive roundtable gatherings, contact Joe Ricci, president and CEO, TRSA at email@example.com.