CHICAGO — Housing rentals through Airbnb, Vrbo and similar marketplaces have skyrocketed in popularity these past few years, meaning guests’ dirty laundry regularly piles up for the owners of these listed homes, condos and more. It’s a growing market opportunity for laundromat owners willing to stretch beyond their self-service customers.
To learn about serving these “home hotels,” American Coin-Op interviewed a trio of business owners sprinkled throughout the country about their experience with vacation rental property customers and how they go about securing business from this niche market.
Instead of doing guest laundry themselves, owners of vacation rentals are looking for services to clean each unit’s bedding (such as sheets, pillowcases, comforters and duvets), bath towels and more in a timely fashion so these homes, condos or other dwellings can be rented out as soon as the next day.
How the service is provided ranges from individual properties dropping off and picking up goods themselves to a multi-property owner desiring its loads of dirty laundry be picked up and cleaned goods delivered.
A prerequisite to serving these accounts is the ability to perform wash/dry/fold service, sometimes in large volume. That necessitates personnel; available wash capacity; the ability to receive, route and track orders; and processing/storage space. If a service offers pickup and delivery, then obtaining those vehicles is an added necessity.
A BIGGER SHARE COMING?
Todd Ofsink founded New York City’s Todd Layne Cleaners & Laundromat in 2006. Calling his business a “customized wash and fold center,” the laundromat has served vacation rental properties “on a smaller scale” for quite some time but detected “sort of an explosion (in interest) within the last 12 to 18 months.”
As a tourist destination, Manhattan is home to a bevy of Airbnb and other vacation rental properties, Ofsink says. His laundromat has received business from individual apartment owners and building managers that offer all of their units as vacation rentals. In some cases, Todd Layne Laundromat processes a unit’s linens plus the guest’s personal items.
Using a staff of three, the laundry shares its equipment with self-service customers but sets aside certain machines as needed during peak times.
“One of the things that we like to have is consistency, clients that are using us on a regular basis,” Ofsink says. “So if you have someone with a building and they're signing us up to do, you know, this towel and sheet service, we’re doing it on a basis of, let’s say, three times per week, and we have a very steady schedule. So it's definitely helping, you know, bring in additional revenue for us.”
Because everything is so dense and concentrated in New York City, a good portion of pickup and delivery is done by foot using carts, Ofsink says. But his business also sometimes utilizes a courier service, as well as DoorDash for deliveries that further away.
Just a couple months ago, Ofsink directed his web developer to devote a segment of Todd Layne’s website to target Airbnb building owners as well as visitors who will be staying in one of their rentals.
“It’s been a short period of time but we’ve definitely had some interest, calls, texts, emails,” he says. “People just inquiring about how it would work.”
Ofsink also sends a representative to meet personally with reps of the larger “doorman buildings” in the area about their laundry needs, and to seek permission to market the laundry service to individual guests.
Vacation rental work accounts for 5-10% of Todd Layne’s wash/dry/fold business but he’s hoping that could be on the rise soon.
“People traveling to the New York City area, there’s been an incremental percentage increase in the amount of people that are visiting,” Ofsink says. “It’s sort of returning almost to 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels. So I see a lot of opportunity with that.
“I was in Central Park this weekend and it was flooded with tourists, and I haven’t seen that. You know, a lot of these things, there are kinds of measures and KPIs, but the ‘Todd measure’ was Central Park is packed with tourists. We’re not really in a peak time of year for visiting here. It’s just a very good sign.”
Check back Tuesday for the conclusion: Growth hasn’t occurred by ‘happenstance’
Miss Part 1? You can read it HERE
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].