Housekeeping Today UK visited Regency Laundry in Bath to find out how they deliver their first-class laundry experience for customers. Janice Raycroft reports.
There are the obvious attractions which lure customers to the very best of our hotels – they include the ambience, attention to detail, pristine rooms in the perfect setting and all those little touches that say this is undoubtedly a first class experience which will create precious memories.
But, as we all know, it’s what goes on behind the scenes which makes all this possible. Guests appreciate the difference without realising, or even wanting to consider, what makes it all so special. But in the housekeeping world of fourand five-star hotels this is the ‘day job’, indeed where focus lies round the clock.
When it comes to linen, bedding, towels, table linen and spa requirements, the highest standards are a necessity and it was this market that the new owners of Regency Laundry in Bath decided to espouse when they bought the business towards the end of 2017. They deliberately set themselves a very high bar – of only serving the finest four- and five-star establishments with a bespoke product range, round the clock personal attention to fine detail and a very flexible service. This means they had to be willing to turn away chains and budget hotels if necessary while ensuring they retained those clients who fitted the brief.
Today they can look at an order book that is 25 per cent bigger than it was then, and managing director Stuart Calder has managed to personally meet all 30 ‘top customers’, taking in clients from Oxford to Exeter and lots of visits in between. The growth has not come from extending the geographical area but attracting more top class hotels seeking the utmost personal care for their linen, in keeping with their own operating ethos. Heading up Regency alongside Calder is Julian Carr, chairman, a stalwart of the industry who had recently retired from Berendsen as a statutory director. He says: “After retiring I had a lovely break cutting the hedge as much as you can, but I couldn’t see me ending my days at home. I was bored. What to do?”
He discovered that Regency might be available and felt that the right team and ethos could breathe new life into what was a decent, but ticking along business. As for Calder, he brings his own experience of the family business (New Wave), moving on to Berendsen in 2010 as general manager and then regional director before joining CLEAN as service director. But the challenge of the Regency project was irresistible: “It was a fit for me, too, with that background of starting from a family laundry. This was doable and I thought ‘let’s give it a shot’.”
The third owner is technical director Chris Foulkes, bringing his 50 years of industry knowledge, starting in the family business on the Isle of Wight.
Once the unique selling point was established it was time to roll it out to staff. Carr reveals: “Talking the people here into the gameplan went really well and we had great feedback. They recognised that there would be some changes but that all of this would be inclusive, with responsibilities shared together. A few felt it wasn’t for them, but overall the response was fantastic.”
The new management team took on board that the service they would offer – perfect laundry and utmost care throughout the process for top end four- and five-star hotels – meant that they would ‘carry’ more staff than many operations, as so much of the process would involve checking by hand and eye. At Regency any experienced industry eye might – at first glance – wonder about the number of staff on site. But it’s all about attention to detail and the laundry team are highly focussed on maintaining this high level of scrutiny, whether feeding linen into ironers or processing orders for despatch. They expertly hand finish all duvet covers and table linen, and avoid high-volume automation during production stages which can decide the quality of finish.
Items, often with immaculate embroidery, are individually marked with each client’s unique ID and tracked throughout the process to ensure stock is ‘personal’ and always returned in perfect condition to that particular user. From the start all recognised that time would get eaten up, but the new owners don’t worry about spending an extra couple of minutes drying towels to ensure their customers get an unbeatable finish.
A tour of the laundry premises is definitely an eye-opener. You notice the sheer whiteness of the linen and the significant proportion that is ‘top end’ such as customised embroidered 400- thread count Egyptian cotton duvet covers. Alongside the ‘quality counts’ theme is one of environmental and ethical standards which is valued by hotels whose own clients ask an increasing number of questions before booking. Regency has something of a natural advantage here as, while some laundries are now using boreholes or wells, the site sits beside one of the Avon’s numerous small tributaries so water can be stored in a pond-style tank onsite for filtration and usage.
No plastic wrapping is used as their customers appreciate receiving their fresh clean laundry back in brown paper wrapping with a hand-tied label. Yes, more time-consuming, but fitting the brief once again, together with ethically sourcing the highest quality textiles from all over the world.
When Calder admits: “We are loving this life” you cannot help but suspect that all those working alongside him at Regency feel pretty much the same.
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