CHICAGO — Many elements contribute to the success of a self-service laundry but it’s hard to ignore the impact that the equipment mix has on a business. While there may be no universal formula, putting together and maintaining the ideal equipment mix will go a long way in ensuring that your laundromat is reaping the maximum revenue per square foot.
American Coin-Op invited representatives from vended laundry equipment manufacturers to answer some questions about assessing washer and dryer choices and what stands to be gained by offering customers what they want in capacity and capability.
Q: How important is it to balance drying capacity with wash capacity? What can happen if that isn’t done properly?
Matt Conn, Director of Product Development and Marketing, Commercial Laundry at Whirlpool Corporation: Balancing drying capacity with wash capacity is important to keep a store running smoothly. With the proper equipment mix, you can avoid bottlenecks and ensure your customers have a positive and efficient laundry experience. With the right equipment mix, owners can ensure dryers will be available when customers need them, minimizing wait time between washing and drying and keeping customers satisfied.
Jason Fleck, Lead Sales Development Manager, Alliance Laundry Systesm: This is a very important edict of the laundromat industry. It’s critical to maintain a minimum of 1 to 1.1 of wash/dry capacity in a laundromat to allow efficient flow of traffic and minimize bottlenecks, especially on peak days like weekends.
Kevin Hietpas, Director of Sales, Dexter Laundry: Offering ample drying capacity is something that has gotten harder as washer capacities have gotten larger. Investors who are getting solid advice on a new location generally get the wash/dry ratio right. It’s more often that we see problems with locations that have been updated over time and due to the addition of larger washers, the location is now short on drying capacity — as well as short on folding space. … Having the right amount of drying capacity, in the right dryer sizes, with the right number of dryer pockets helps locations avoid the bottlenecks that can happen at busy times when customers are waiting for dryers simply because wash capacity at the location exceeds the available drying capacity.
Joel Jorgensen, Vice President of Sales for Girbau North America: A lot of stores back in the day were built with improper ratios at the time, so to go in and add wash capacity without any consideration of dry (capacity) would certainly be a mistake. It’s done a lot but you’re going to very quickly run into logjams during peak periods of business on weekends. When stores are doing a large percent of their volume, all of a sudden you have a logjam at the dryers. Customers are dissatisfied, arguing over which dryer they’re in line for and then it even trickles down to folding tables and the ability to move them through that customer circuit.
Q: How have the technological advances we find in our industry today—high-speed performance, programmable controls, networking, mobile payment, etc.—influenced equipment mix?
Fleck: Today, we can look at a store through an online dashboard through (certain) systems and see which machines are outperforming the others, and how many turns we are getting by capacity. This can certainly help influence the layout of future projects and retools the store owner is considering.
Technology can also help us drive more wash/dry/fold (WDF) business or commercial pickup through CRM, advertising, geofencing — but now that you’ve successfully targeted this business, how will your mix accommodate it? Should you designate an attendant-only area of equipment for this business, or have it washed, dried and folded in the general area with your self-service customers? It really depends on the volume you intend to do.
Hietpas: New payment options like mobile payment have made it even easier for customers to use large-capacity equipment. Instead of a handful of coins, customers just use their own mobile phone. Mobile payment apps … also allow customers to track their load progress so they know when their load is ready. And the increased amount of machine usage information and revenue collection data from (management) systems ... allows owners to clearly see which machines are getting the most usage, which allows them to adjust vend prices between models to maximize usage and revenue, and to also plan future equipment upgrades to better meet customer capacity preferences.
As equipment capacities get larger and the capital investment gets bigger, something we take very seriously at Dexter Laundry is the ability to make existing machines better with new features and capabilities. Since 2014, Dexter machines with (certain) controls have had the ability to have the operating firmware updated. This has allowed us to add new capabilities like cloud connectivity … and mobile payment acceptance … to models already installed and operating. Customers who have taken advantage of free and ongoing firmware upgrades have a better machine today than the one they originally purchased.
Jorgensen: It’s clear that smart business owners are always going to accommodate customers in any practical way they want to pay. I haven’t seen anyone accepting bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies but who knows, that might be around the corner. It’s crazy the way and speed of payment and the options and the way people want and expect to be able to pay and satisfy our ever-growing vend prices. … You’re talking 50 to 70 washers, four or five washer capacities and varied vend prices, and that is what’s driving us further and further away from a quarter-based transaction.
The other part of that, store management, alternative payment and POS systems, you’ve got attendants handling cash, over the counter sales, you’ve got POS tied to drycleaning partnerships and textile care, pickup and delivery.
Conn: Technological advances give store owners the opportunity to increase ROI potential with an equipment mix that includes new machines. The intelligent controls on Maytag® Commercial Laundry machines let owners easily set time-of-day pricing and other cycle modifiers for potential added revenue. A washer’s flexible controls can help owners manage profit opportunities with cycles and options including temperatures and rinses that can be priced individually. The axial airflow dryer can help manage utility costs while still providing consistent, effective drying for efficient machine turnover.
Whether owners are planning a replacement or opening a new store, investing in new machines can have a significant impact on business success. Owners should take the warranty and full life cycle of a machine into consideration when evaluating their equipment, because parts and repair expenses may end up outweighing the money saved by purchasing a lower-priced model.
Check back Thursday for the conclusion: Other equipment to consider, how do carts and changers fit in, and some final tips
If you missed one of the earlier parts, you can read them here: Part 1 - Part 2