It's a common industry standard that the par level for hotel bed linens and terry should be 3:
- 1 set in use in the guest room
- 1 set being processed at the laundry
- 1 set in housekeeping closets
IS THAT THIRD SET REALLY NECESSARY?
Theoretically, a hotel could cut costs by keeping a par level of 2 and sending linens straight from the laundry to the guest room on the same day. But in practice, the result is additional expenses from a variety of causes — shorter linen life to customer service delays.
REASON #1: COTTON FABRICS NEED TO "REST"
One reason for the day (or more) on the shelf is to allow fabric to recover from the laundering — and more specifically the drying — process.
The reason lies in the cellulose structure of cotton fiber. Much of its strength comes from its water content, which normally is 8%. When that water content is removed, the fiber becomes weaker and more brittle, losing up to 20% of its strength.
Dried-out cotton fabrics not only feel harsher to the touch, they are more vulnerable to breakage, abrasion, tearing, fraying and other damage which would terminate their useful life. That would mean replacing the item more frequently, thus driving up costs.
Exacerbating the problem, shorter turns between the laundry and guest room necessitate more frequent washings. If items are to be placed back in the room the same day they are laundered, they would have to be dried on higher heat settings in order to meet housekeeping schedules. All this accelerates deterioration even more — and the vicious cycle continues.
Fortunately, there's a simple solution. Another property of cotton fiber is that it's hydrophilic, meaning that it attracts water (humidity) from the atmosphere. Simply leaving it to rest on the closet shelf for at least 24 hours allows it to rehydrate and regain its strength.
REASON #2: INCREASED LAUNDRY COSTS
As mentioned above, lower par levels mean that items must be washed more frequently. Degradation of the fabric is just one of the associated costs. The hotel will also require additional labor because the staff must wash several smaller loads instead of one larger one. Energy and water usage will also increase, as well as the consumption of cleaning chemicals.
The hospitality business must factor in these costs when deciding whether a reduction in par levels will ultimately save money.
REASON #3: CUSTOMER SERVICE FAILURES
A fast turn between laundry and guest room does not allow for the inevitable snafus, such as malfunctioning machinery. Just one small hitch in the workflow can snowball into rooms not being ready when guests check in or return to their room.
In an even more far-reaching case, one hotel didn't seem to have a problem with its short par 2, but there was a big issue with room service breakfasts not being delivered on time, resulting in guests having to miss breakfast or be late for the day's meetings or activities. The cost of comping so many meals added up fast. Following the delivery chain from kitchen to room, hotel management discovered that the delay occurred at the service elevator. As housekeeping staff frantically tried to fill the closets on each floor for the morning's needs, they positioned the cart to hold the elevator so that nobody else could use it.
If closets remain fully stocked while another set of linens is being laundered, you have a one-day cushion to solve any problems that arise, such as utilizing an outside laundry service in the event of equipment failure. And housekeeping can continue to service guest rooms in a timely manner.
Should Every Hotel Have the Same Par Level?
No, some hotels will require a par level of 4 or even 5. The most common reason for this need is if they outsource their laundering. Having linens delivered daily from another location requires an extra allowance for delays such as traffic jams or vehicle breakdowns.
Many hotels add an extra 0.25 to the standard 3 par to allow for any losses or damages that may occur before the next reorder.
Should Every Linen Item Have the Same Par Level?
Again, the answer is no. Different items need replacing at different rates. For example, fitted bed sheets receive more wear than top sheets. Towels are more likely to disappear in guests' suitcases than blankets. And pillowcases are more likely to be permanently stained. Each hotel should track its replacement orders history to determine an appropriate par level for each item.
It's also important to remember that inventory levels are only as good as their weakest link. You always need a complete set of linens in order to make the guest room ready for occupancy. So you may have plenty of sheets, but if you're short of pillowcases, the room will still have to wait until they're available.
How to Save Money with Inventory-Taking
Taking inventory only once per quarter, or in response to shortages, engenders unnecessary costs. For one thing, you need to put down more cash up front to build enough inventory to last that long. In addition, housekeeping will lose efficiency since it will take months to realize what losses you've suffered and need to replace.
Clearly, buying more linen isn't the answer to avoiding shortages; taking inventory more often is. The optimum schedule is a monthly inventory checkup and purchase order.
How to Save Money on the Laundry
Start with the soiled laundry as it gets transported from the room to the laundry. It should go into a collection bag where it won't contact any clean linens, requiring that they be rewashed.
Heavily stained items should be kept separate, so they don't transfer their stains to the rest of the linens on the cart. Once they arrive in the laundry, they can be pretreated and run in a stain load, which may save some of them for additional use.
Irreversibly stained sheets and towels can be recycled as cleaning rags for housekeepers, kitchen/beverage crews and engineers. You'll save on buying new cleaning cloths, and do your bit for the environment, too.
Ensure that laundry machinery is well maintained. Computer software can help with this task, tracking recommended maintenance schedules and showing technicians at a glance what service needs to be done that day.
How T-Y Group & Harbor Linen Can Help
Affordable pricing options make it easy for hotels to maintain their inventory par levels. And our sales consultant have the expertise to help you decide which linens are right for your guests and budget.
Because you certainly don't need any delays in delivering your order, we also provide a second-to-none logistics system with nationwide distribution centers and a multi-million dollar inventory of items guaranteed to be always in stock and ready to ship.
You can also call on our expertise for laundering consultations to help extend the life of your linens. Longer life means lower replacement costs.
We look forward to being your one-stop-shop resource for hotel linen products and information.