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Blueprint for Self-Service Laundry Success (Part 2)

Design/layout considerations for equipment maintenance, folding areas, seating and more

CHICAGO — Like many service businesses, it benefits a vended laundry to be designed such that it’s comfortable for customers to move around in yet functional so they can easily and quickly wash, dry and fold their laundry. But there’s much more to laundry design than just scribbling locations for washers and dryers on a piece of paper. Visibility, workflow and security are just some of the variables that impact store layout and design.

This month, American Coin-Op invited representatives from several industry manufacturers and distributors to address the issues that an investor building a new store or an owner renovating a current store must face before “breaking ground.”

Q: Do equipment maintenance needs impact store design? If yes, how so?

Dion Marcionetti, owner, Laundry Concepts, a Continental Girbau and Huebsch distributor: Maintenance on washers is normally done from the front and top. But we also have reasons for getting to the back of this equipment. Allowing a comfortable walking room between the bulkheads makes it much easier to clean washer drains.

Kyle Pethke, laundry design specialist, Speed Queen: Yes. Typical service space to the rear of washers and dryers is around 24 inches minimum. You must take this into account when designing a store, as the enclosure for tumblers needs to be large enough for the machine and the space. Likewise, washers will require enclosed bulkheads to house electrical, water and sewer. Adequate space must be factored in so that proper maintenance can be completed.

In stores less than 2,000 square feet, the service areas of machines can greatly affect the aisle spacing. If you don’t allow for adequate service areas, you won’t be permitting adequate service, either. Sometimes you need to scale back the equipment, even if ever so slightly, so that you can provide proper service areas to keep your equipment running and your store functioning.

Kenny Hebert, vended laundry specialist, Pellerin Laundry Machinery Sales Co., a Milnor distributor: There will be a day when leaving adequate service space will be needed. If possible, have 3 feet behind the dryers and 2½ feet behind washers. Having this space will make servicing machines easier and service calls shorter.

Chris Brick, regional sales manager, Maytag Commercial Laundry and ADC: Proper equipment installation will provide ample space behind washers and dryers for easy servicing and maintenance, which can assist in keeping long-term machine costs down.

Russ Arbuckle, president, Wholesale Commercial Laundry Co., a Continental Girbau distributor: Maintenance requirements will absolutely impact overall store design. Minimum space requirements behind equipment will shrink the usable floor space for the retail operation. That being said, I advise store owners to not cut down on the maintenance space requirements in order to create more retail space. The overall impact of this makes maintenance and repairs much more difficult, resulting in more time spent performing maintenance or repairs. In some cases, stores delay or even eliminate scheduled maintenance due to the difficulty of access to perform these necessary functions.

Q: What should a store provide its customers in terms of folding areas?

Pethke: Adequate folding needs to be provided for customer use. Typically, the folding areas should be located across from the dryers for customer convenience. The number of tables or folding area greatly depends on table size or counter length. For common 24-by-48-inch tables, you want to have at least a 1:4 ratio of tables to dryer pockets.

Hebert: If you don’t provide a sufficient folding area, customers will fold out of the dryers, causing bottlenecks. If possible, have one table per three dryer pockets. The folding areas should always be clean; provide garbage cans for dryer sheets and customer-accessed lint drawers.

Brick: A good rule of thumb is to provide one folding table per every three to four dryer pockets. 

Arbuckle: Store owners should incorporate as much folding space as possible, with at least one folding table for each four dryer pockets. Keep in mind this is the last operation your customers will perform in your store, so that is the last impression in the customer’s mind.

Marcionetti: Folding areas are as important as the right amount of equipment. This is a wash, dry and fold business; any of these not being adequate will adversely affect your gross profit. Tables need to be calculated based on the store capacity. At best, every customer that visits your store requires at least one table. We are a peak-period business and need to have the ability to handle the peaks in order to maximize the income.

Q: Should there be clear separation of distinct areas (washing, drying, folding, amenities, etc.) or is it OK for them to “meld” into one another?

Hebert: The layout should herd people from start to finish. You don’t want customers lugging their clothes all over the laundry.

Brick: To ensure optimal traffic flow and to maximize overall customer experience, it is recommended to have distinct areas dedicated to washing, drying and folding.

Arbuckle: We prefer to keep these areas separate, as “melding them together” can create traffic flow issues and impact customer comfort and satisfaction.

Marcionetti: There will be some natural separations just based on aisles and walking areas. There are separations for most vending areas and drop-off counters.

Pethke: I wouldn’t say there needs to be a “clear” separation like commonly seen in on-premises laundry operations. You will have natural separations, as your dryers will commonly be located in a row(s) due to utilities and servicing. The washer area may be more spread out but will typically occupy the middle of the laundry room (or in a row for long, narrow stores). The folding will meld between the two of them and double as sorting tables. Amenities will have more distinct separations due to lack of utility or servicing needs.

Q: How much seating should be available for waiting customers? And should there be seating outside?

Brick: There should be seating available at the front of the store, allowing patrons to keep an eye on their laundry and car in the parking lot, if desired. It is not recommended to provide outdoor seating.

Arbuckle: Outside seating is always a plus. The number of interior seating units really depends on available space, number of machines and store volume. Even smaller, low-volume stores should have a minimum of six seating units, while larger, high-volume stores should have 20 or more.

Marcionetti: Customers are normally sitting and waiting when their clothes are washing. After that, the customer’s involvement in drying and folding the clothes keeps them on their feet. Chairs are easily placed around a store, and if you find you need to add some, that is easy to do.

Pethke: One thing to remember when adding seating into your design is personal space. If you have three seats together, more than likely you will only be able to fit two people on this set (at opposite ends). There is no exact amount of space, but you want to make sure that you don’t underestimate the need for comfortable seating and solid availability. Use the space wisely.

Hebert: Since customers spend so much time in the laundry, seating is important. A reasonable rule of thumb is one seat per 100 square feet.

Check back Monday for the conclusion: Store lighting, security, and exterior influences

If you missed Part 1, you can read it HERE.

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Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].