CHICAGO — Gathered at the roundtable of self-service laundry industry expertise, a group of seasoned professionals engages in a virtual conversation that delves into the heart of current industry trends and future forecasts.
In this exclusive assembly of minds, American Coin-Op brings you a front-row seat to insights, analyses and predictions that may shape the trajectory of your business realms; responses were edited for length and for magazine style.
From cutting-edge technologies to capitalizing on shifts in consumer behavior, thought leaders from some of our industry’s equipment manufacturers and distributors offer a kaleidoscope of ideas and concepts, providing you with a compass to navigate the uncharted waters of tomorrow’s marketplace.
Q: The hiring and retention of attendants has become a tremendous challenge for laundromat owners everywhere. How can an owner successfully hire and retain good personnel, especially when competing with other businesses that are able to offer higher starting wages?
King Lee, senior regional sales manager, Dexter Laundry: We talked about customer service and how that translates into loyal customers (Improving the Industry Roundtable: Customer Service/Relations). The same can be said about your employees. Are you looking to hire someone to just give out change and clean up, or employees who are an extension of your vision and work ethic? Good customer service can lead to loyalty, and the same can be said for good employee service. A good employee and a bad employee both become the face of your business.
Matt Miller, president, Coin-O-Matic: Spread the word via social media, trusted friends, and customers. Hire the good ones and treat them like family. A positive work environment is very attractive these days. Compensate based on attitude and performance. Communication is important, so be involved in your business.
Don Tomasian Jr., vice president, DT Equipment Co.: Employee retention is easily supported by partnering with them on your wash/dry/fold service. By sharing the revenue of the WDF ticket, at a minimal cost of 10 cents per pound of clothes, your employee will have a vested interest not only in their employment but the services that you offer.
Al Adcock, vice president of sales and marketing, B&C Technologies: People love to be able to pay their bills and be a part of a successful team. If employees are treated well, paid reasonably, and treated like part of the team, they tend to stay. For the younger generations entering the workforce, work/life balance is extremely important. This can be accomplished through more flexible and forgiving schedules as well as things like support for parents, allowing volunteering time, and, most importantly, leading by example.
Joe Fleming, national sales manager, Yamamoto North America: I don’t have a one-size-fits-all answer for this question. But I would argue that an updated store that is in good condition, markets itself well to the community, provides quality customer service, and has plans for growth and opportunities is much more likely to hire staff, even while competing with the other businesses around.
Gary Gauthier, national sales manager, vended laundries, Pellerin Milnor Corp.: There’s more to keeping employees than just wages … but money is pretty darn important! Wages have to be competitive, but hiring someone from the local area who knows the customer base well is a good way to get a person in your laundry that might hang around for a while. Life is too short for bad jobs, so getting a person who wants to be in your store and enjoy what they do is the real trick.
Mike Hand, vice president, North America Commercial Sales, Alliance Laundry Systems: Unfortunately, there’s no panacea for this. Owners can build in incentives for attendants to grow wash/dry/fold business or sign up customers for rewards/apps programs. The incentives can be a win-win for owners and attendants. In addition, little things can go a long way toward feeling appreciated. Rewards like a coffee, gas card, or a dinner can all be used when you see an employee going the extra mile.
David Hoffman, sales manager, Gold Coin Laundry Equipment: If you have good attendants, then you need to pay them good wages to keep them. Many laundry owners have increased vend prices several times in the past few years, which should help them be able to offer higher hourly wages to valuable employees. In this industry, there are mostly female attendants, so owners should try working with their schedules a bit to maybe help with child care. It is also helpful to promote tipping for good service for wash/dry/fold, as this will make the job more appealing. If you want good employees, then be a better boss. Get to know your employees and see how you can make the job more appealing to them.
Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales, Girbau North America: They might present growth and profit-sharing opportunities to the employee. So, as the business grows, they can be part of it. Or an owner might offer the employee a piece of a revenue segment like wash/dry/fold or pickup and delivery. Owners might also offer flexibility with hours and days worked, as well as time off and vacation.
Q: How might the self-service vended laundry industry continue to evolve over the remainder of this decade?
Miller: Very hard to predict, but I see a lot of laundries changing hands to a new era of ambitious investors—some with deep pockets and lofty goals—in the near term. Laundry equipment technology, AI, and additional revenue streams will grow exponentially. At the end of the day, those that deliver exceptional customer experiences will be the big winners.
Tomasian: The industry may evolve by continuing to offer laundromat customers the ability to get in and out of a store quickly, by having high-capacity equipment and the latest technologies while providing a positive customer experience.
Adcock: In the short term, growth in vended laundries will make it more convenient to help people clean their personal goods. This current growth trend will generate reactions in the marketplace: potentially higher impact fees from municipalities; higher real estate and investment costs; and increased competition as more and more vended laundries appear, potentially impacting predicted profitability.
Fleming: Equipment is getting better, but so are the operators. For lack of a better term, “records” in some things we use to measure a store’s success will be broken by the constant pursuit of innovation and the continued practice by the day’s current owner/operators.
Gauthier: Evolving payment options are probably one of the biggest changes to hit our market in decades. It’s helped modernize a “mature” industry while also allowing skilled owners to invest in and manage multiple locations. We need to continue to evolve with these new technologies to keep customer satisfaction rates high.
Hand: We are going to see technology continue to evolve and make operations easier. At Alliance, we are accelerating work on new innovations to solve problems.
Hoffman: I think you are going to see more multi-store owners and investors owning bigger and better stores that are more creative regarding the look of their laundromats. You are going to see much more larger-capacity equipment and fewer small machines in the stores. As technology continues to advance in this industry, you will see fewer and fewer coin-operated stores, and more stores with several payment options, as well as washers and dryers offering more cycle options similar to a home-style machine.
Jorgensen: Vended laundries will continue to move toward the “laundry center” concept: places that offer a full suite of laundry-related services designed to capture more market share. Efficiencies will grow, as will market acceptance of full store provisions for cleaning products and sanitation additives with the wash cycles for an affordable price or convenience and quality.
Lee: Evolution or progress is always a good thing. The days of the wringer-washers and the backyard clotheslines have given way to 100-pound-plus high-extract washers and reversing dryers that can complete an entire load in under an hour. However, as the world progresses, things also tend to be cyclical.
With the drycleaning industry shrinking, could the vended drycleaning machine make a comeback? In the 1970s, the first coin-operated drycleaning machines made a short-lived appearance, primarily because they did not do a very good job of cleaning and the garments came out unpressed. But if they built a better mousetrap for dry cleaning where garments came out cleaned and pressed using minimal manpower, who knows?
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Bruce Beggs at [email protected].