Commercial laundries play an essential part in helping the hospitality industry function, and we need to ensure our industry survives this crisis to be able to support the re-opening phase plus the longer term requirements for our hospitality customers in the post-corona economy, says Kevin Godley, CEO of Clean.
Godley, who is also a board member of the Textile Services Association (TSA), fully supports the excellent work done by the TSA and UKHospitality to provide a voice for the many different suppliers supporting the hospitality industry, to ensure the industry is ready to reopen in July.
“Now the government has confirmed the reopening of the hospitality from 4 July, there’s a lot of discussion about how hotels will approach those important first few weeks,” says Godley. “We are acutely aware that our customers are entering uncharted territory as they look to adopt all the necessary procedures to reopen and that strain is magnified by the uncertainty around occupancy levels and consumer confidence. Our role is to be there for our customers and ensure that as their linen suppliers we give them one less aspect to worry about.”
The UK laundry sector is worth around £1bn a year, comprising over 250 hospitality laundries and employing an estimated 24,000 staff members. This is in some ways a hidden industry – many people are not aware that the bedlinen, towels, tablecloths and staff uniforms have often been provided by a textile rental company, and they are sent off site to be cleaned and pressed. The linen cost itself is a huge capital investment for laundry companies – an investment with no return when laundries have had to be closed.
Godley adds that without the necessary government support and timely guidelines for laundries in place, the hospitality industry as a whole will face huge challenges in being able to reopen, as the businesses themselves will not have the required equipment in place to fully comply with the expected hygiene governance. “When the hospitality industry was forced to close its doors in March, the laundries that supplied those locations closed with it. It has been said that the closure of businesses at the beginning of lockdown was easier to manage than the reopening I can certainly see some of the logic in that statement. We are already speaking to customers as we believe it will require at least two weeks’ notice to plan the new procedures for each property.”
Reopening multiple laundries in a business like Clean is complicated, and a lot of consideration has been given to developing plans for the safe cleaning, delivery and collection of the required stock to businesses reopening at different times.
“The considerations have been many fold,” continues Godley. “Internally within Clean our first priority is to keep our staff safe and we have introduced measures ranging from temperature checks, the use of social distancing through to staggering shifts and break times, plus changing the way people flow and move throughout the laundry. I have been repeatedly impressed with how our colleagues have approached these challenges and one of the solutions I was really pleased with was our new disinfecting fogging system in place to ensure all vehicles and laundry cages are cleaned at the end of each shift. It really does show our teams are thinking about our customers and how we are doing everything we can to reduce the potential of the virus living on surfaces during regular collection or delivery.”
When asked about how to allay customer fears about virus transmission Godley explained: “We are using the science and a combination of the right treatments, temperatures and handling procedures means we have taken all suitable precautions. These procedures are documented and are being shared with our customers so that in turn, they can share them with any guests who may have concerns.”
Godley continued: “The industry must be prepared for change as customer confidence in hygiene standards will be of paramount importance. The laundry sector plays an integral part in allowing hospitality businesses to function and one cannot operate without the other. I envisage that those businesses that operate a collaborative approach will be the ones to thrive and I intend for Clean to be a key supporter of customers.”