CHICAGO — With large-capacity washers and dryers more common in today’s coin laundries, offering some type of commercial service seems to make more sense than ever before.
But taking on commercial accounts is a much different animal than running a vended laundry. There are staffing and equipment issues to consider, contract and billing matters to attend to, and you can’t sit back and wait for customers to come to you.
“(Running a) Laundromat is more of a consumer business, a retail service, whereas commercial is more business to business,” says Andy Wray, sales manager for ACE Commercial Laundry Equipment, a full-service commercial laundry distributor headquartered in Westminster, Calif.
And a coin laundry owner must be intimately involved for their commercial service venture to be successful, advises John Sugg, president/CEO of SAMCO, a Fayetteville, Ga.-based commercial laundry distributor serving the coin laundry, multi-housing, hotel, education and healthcare markets.
“You have to be hands-on,” says Sugg, who is a store owner and route operator himself. “If the owner is actively involved in that segment of the business, it can be very profitable.”
To fine-tune your commercial laundry service, it’s important to coordinate it properly from the get-go.
You must have the proper equipment and facility to handle such an endeavor, the distributors say.
“Some of these places are so tight and cramped, to bring on any more work, they might have to adjust to (working) after hours,” says Wray, a third-generation laundry professional. “Obviously, where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Most of the standard 40- to 60-pound washers will “get you by,” he says. “Depending on some of the cycles that you require, you can make it up a lot in chemicals, using quality products.”
Equipment design and operational capabilities also factor in, according to Sugg.
“You can’t do one size fits all and make it work,” he says. “You need versatility as far as your equipment is concerned. … If you just have a basic machine that has hot, warm and cold as a selector, then you don’t have a very effective model for doing good commercial account business.”
“It might be that you have idle machines sitting there, but if they’re all top loaders, it’s going to be difficult to do some of the requirements from some of the hotels and stuff like that,” Wray adds.
With the right equipment in play, there should be no need for you to segregate machines for commercial accounts, Sugg says.
But there are limitations to the scope of commercial service that a traditional self-service laundry can offer. When you make the decision to take on commercial work that involves ironing or other special treatment, it’s probably time for you to branch out.
“Then you really are getting into a whole other segment of business,” Sugg says. “We’ve seen it done, but at the point that you’re going to bring in a roll ironer, you probably should be looking at setting up an industrial laundry to do that.”
“When you start getting into pressing and stuff like that, you step into the commercial/industrial arena,” Wray says.
From a management standpoint, serving commercial accounts requires knowledge in contract negotiations, invoicing and other areas. You may also want to review your insurance coverage to make sure it’s sufficient for the changes you’re looking to make.
“Somebody who doesn’t have organizational tools in the first place probably should shy away from (commercial work),” Sugg warns.
Monday: Identifying opportunities that make sense...