CHICAGO — Have you ever been curious about how the “other half” lives? In this case, the “other half” is the multihousing (or multifamily) laundry industry.
The multihousing laundry industry services apartments, condos, dorms, government facilities, barracks, hotel/motel guest laundries, town houses and RV/trailer parks, says Rex Braden, Whirlpool national sales manager (Southwestern United States), commercial laundry.
COMPARING STORES, LAUNDRY ROOMS
A successful laundry facility should be clean, well-lit, secure and have working equipment, he says. Sound familiar?
The biggest difference between the multifamily laundry room and the Laundromat is the equipment, he says. Laundry rooms feature single-load equipment. This causes problems for customers with large loads or who want to wash large items.
Top loaders and smaller, high-efficiency front loaders (2.5 to 3.2 cubic feet) are popular. For dryers, it’s also single-load equipment (6 to 7.5 cubic feet) or stacked units. Users can match one washer load to one dryer load. There’s also no bolt-down equipment, he adds.
The industry is benefitting from top loaders and front loaders having become more efficient in the last five years, he says.
Laundry rooms are also smaller, which poses a challenge. “Where a laundry room is located can’t be changed easily. That’s the way the building is laid out. You can try and make the room nice, but if it’s small and in the basement, that’s it.”
Going cashless is gaining in popularity, he states. “Since most laundry rooms are not attended, security and vandalism are concerns. [Going cashless] helps.”
The drawbacks with card usage are cost and space, he explains. “The laundry room needs to be large enough to absorb the cost [of a card system]. This is hard to do with only two washers and two dryers.” Plus, a certain amount of room is needed for the add-value station.
“This can work with a large property, with one or two add-value stations, but not in every laundry room. Card systems seem to be slanted toward larger laundry rooms and dorms, especially when vend prices rise. On the East Coast, [card] usage is growing because vending prices are rising.”
Card systems are a natural for dorms, he opines, because a student can often charge his/her laundry on a campus card that may also be accepted in the dining room, bookstore, etc.
Debit/credit card usage is just starting to impact the industry, but he expects this to gain in popularity because the financial convenience makes sense. Adding debit/credit card acceptance is another way to reduce vandalism, he adds.
A PEEK INTO THE FUTURE
The multifamily laundry industry is optimistic because of technological advances, especially the ability for operators to “communicate” with machines remotely, he says. “If you have hundreds of locations, the only way to know if there is a problem [is by hearing from the resident]. Technology will be able to get you a money count on a machine, let you know if a machine is down, or when you need to send a service tech.”
Click here for Part 1 of this story.