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Finding Success by Sidestepping Pitfalls (Part 2)

Hand: ‘The obvious miss regarding maintenance and cleaning? Ignoring it’

CHICAGO — For the investor considering self-service laundry ownership, there are lots of questions to be answered while on the path to opening a store. And the last thing he/she wants to do is fall victim to a stumbling block that could have been avoided.

Sidestepping common pitfalls such as inadequate maintenance, poor cleanliness and ineffective marketing can be crucial for sustaining success.

Regularly seeking insights from seasoned professionals, staying up to date on industry trends, and actively addressing customer feedback can also contribute to long-term profitability and customer satisfaction.

American Coin-Op invited representatives from some of the industry’s vended laundry equipment makers to identify some missteps or errors they frequently see occurring as newcomers try to establish themselves and their businesses. These experts offered their insights specific to certain steps along the store creation and development path.


Mike Hand, vice president of North America Commercial Central and East for Alliance Laundry Systems: A major pitfall is waiting to increase vend prices even though your utility costs have gone up. I cannot overstate how frequently this mistake is made. Every day or week that goes by without keeping pricing in line with costs means revenue lost that can never be recaptured.

Allen Berndt, a regional sales manager for Dexter Laundry: Do not worry too much about your competitors’ wash-dry-fold (WDF) pricing. Focus on differentiating your business from others with superior quality and service. Customers will pay more for a better experience. Don’t take on WDF just for more volume; you need to be profitable for this business segment to be sustainable.

Tod Sorensen, general manager of Girbau North America distributor Continental Girbau West: Know your cost basis on every cycle to arrive at your vend price.


Al Adcock, vice president of sales and marketing, B&C Technologies: Vended laundry equipment, like any other machine, contains many moving parts that need attention from time to time. If the machines and property are not looked after and maintained properly, the return on investment will be poor. Instead of profits, expenses for repair and downtime will loom large, reducing efficiency and profitability.

  • Read the manual — Doing simple things like keeping the machine clean, tightening loose fasteners, lubricating at correct intervals, and performing routine inspections can alert you to problems before they become expensive and difficult to manage.
  • Talk to the manufacturer — Before ordering, make sure to contact the technical service department for your commercial laundry machine and ask them about routine maintenance. A short phone call can provide a wealth of information about critical maintenance as well as the availability of help when you need it.
  • Talk to your local dealer — Be sure to ask about maintenance training that should be done, even if you don’t have a dedicated maintenance staff. There are still things that you can do to help keep your machines like new. Simple things like wiping a machine down at the end of the day can greatly extend its life. Most distributors also provide routine maintenance plans which will save time and money on maintenance and repairs.
  • Take photos — Our amazing brains are excellent at spotting differences. Comparing the photos of the machine when new to when there is a problem can provide valuable information when there are problems.
  • Talk to the attendant — Since they are in the store when customers are operating the machines, they are typically the first to hear that something isn’t quite right, or that there is a performance issue. Speaking to attendants also involves them in the process, making them feel more valuable to the team. Believe your employees when they say something isn’t normal.
  • Find a service technician you can trustWhile trickier than it sounds, finding a tech that you trust to maintain your laundry properly is critical. Typically, the most competent technician will not be the least expensive in terms of labor cost, but will save you time and money by diagnosing the problem correctly the first time.
  • Develop a preventative maintenance program — Nothing creates uptime like correct and timely maintenance. The idea behind a PM program is to track problems and proactively fix them before issues become costly and time-consuming. While there are many software packages available, a simple checklist or spreadsheet will often suffice.

Berndt: Regular maintenance will ensure your machines continue to run properly and efficiently for years to come. This in turn may catch minor maintenance issues before they become more expensive long-term issues. Keeping your dryers lint-free maximizes efficiency and safety. Checking drain valves and pressure switches periodically will ensure that your washers are using the proper amount of water.

Hand: The obvious miss regarding maintenance and cleaning? Ignoring it. Your bottom line depends on your equipment running. Do the preventative maintenance. And when it comes to cleaning, ask yourself a simple question: Would you bring your laundry to this store? If not, you and your staff have cleaning work to do.

Sorensen: Develop a maintenance schedule at start-up. Establish a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual schedule for equipment maintenance and store cleaning. Most equipment manuals have maintenance guides to follow.

In Thursday’s conclusion: Payment methods/acceptance, extra profit centers, and advertising or marketing

Finding Success by Sidestepping Pitfalls

(Photo: © Nomadsoul1/Depositphotos)

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