JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — While the laundry and housekeeping departments of a hotel have unique roles and face differing obstacles to perform their tasks, they share a primary goal: to make their guests feel comfortable and to encourage them to stay at the property again.
Good internal communication is integral to making that happen, advises Rafael Castro, textile services production manager for the Disneyland Resort in California. Castro was a guest speaker for the Association for Linen Management (ALM) during its national conference here.
“Laundry and housekeeping are the key factors for a hotel to run efficiently, so always keep that in mind,” he says.
Castro manages production at two Disneyland laundry facilities. One serves the two theme parks and three hotels (averaging 40,000 pounds daily), the other is dedicated to processing food-and-beverage linen (averaging 20,000 pounds daily).
He sees a laundry’s responsibilities as establishing linen quantities and usage guidelines; providing the personnel and equipment needed to process the textiles for guests; establishing linen distribution procedures; and maintaining security over linen storage.
Meanwhile, the housekeeping department is responsible for using the linens and other resources provided to clean and service the hotel as a whole and guest quarters in particular to maintain a safe, comfortable environment, he says.
The laundry relies on housekeepers to properly collect and return soiled linen, while housekeepers rely on the laundry to provide the proper linen items in adequate amounts to meet their needs.
“In our facility, we handle all our linen with carts,” Castro says. “For example, today you deliver 45 carts of clean linen to housekeeping, then all your soiled linen comes back but you don’t have enough carts, then you’ve got a problem. It’s critical that you communicate to housekeeping that they’re sorting the items properly.
“If housekeeping doesn’t collect those items and return them to your owner facilities, then you’re going to have a problem trying to meet their goals the next day.”
In turn, the laundry must be diligent about ensuring that clean linen is stored in close proximity to where housekeepers need them, so they can make the best use of their time on the floors, he says.
Keeping an open line of communication with the housekeeping staff can help the laundry identify situations in which guests or even the housekeepers may be unknowingly abusing linen, Castro says.
“Let them know that you’re seeing an increase of a certain item and you need to find out the reason,” he explains. “Maybe instead of using three sheets on the bed, they’re using five sheets. Or maybe a housekeeper sees a stack (of items) that might have one dirty and decides to throw everything down to the chute room.”
And there should be some flexibility to meet a guest’s unique needs. For example, he suggests keeping a par level set aside that has been specially treated should the hotel have guests who are sensitive to certain chemicals. He explains that after undergoing a normal laundering cycle, this linen is rinsed three times to remove any chemical residue.
“Never say no to your guests,” Castro says. “Always try to do the impossible to meet their needs. The goal is to work together, laundry and housekeeping.”
A solid partnership will go a long way to limiting guest complaints, but take such feedback seriously and use it to improve your operation, he suggests.
“When you hear a complaint, we don’t look at it as a complaint but we look at it as a challenge,” Castro says of the Disney philosophy. “Challenges are always good. That way, you always know what you’re doing right and what you’re doing wrong.”
If equipment repair or maintenance or some other change is going to impact operations, don’t keep other departments in the dark.
“If you plan on doing something that’s going to affect your productivity, you want to let engineering and housekeeping know you’re going to be down for a certain time,” he says.
Honest communication sometimes leads to conflict. What then?
“Everybody has difficulties, everybody has problems, but make sure you keep those problems backstage,” Castro says. “On stage, make sure everyone sees that things are running smoothly.”