Ahead of the end of the 5 per cent reduced VAT rate for the hospitality…
As you welcome back guests, be prepared for their interest to go beyond front of desk staff and hand sanitisers to those operations that usually avoid the spotlight, warns Sue Bromley
Prior to 2020, the prominence of housekeeping staff was a matter of discretion. Even most communication was done indirectly through ‘Do Not Disturb’ signs or leaving towels in the bath. Indeed, unless you are in the hospitality sector, so naturally professionally curious when visiting other hotels as a guest, many such workers were part of an almost invisible army, very busy and not seeking our attention.
Talk to any of us outside the core business and you’ll find a set of people who – if they tell the truth – include some who are capable of completely blanking room cleaners and their trolleys of bed linen, cleaning materials and bathroom supplies. We walk down corridors from our rooms, skirting those who keep everything sparkling. Some of us might say ‘Good morning’ if passing a housekeeping team member on our way to the lifts for breakfast or the bar. The response is always there, but usually politely quiet with some shyness.
These are people whose ‘job description’ appears to include hiding from the spotlight, and they’ve been spectacular at it. But all that’s changing as we come out of lockdown. Both they and the team leaders and executive housekeeper must be prepared for a level of scrutiny by guests not previously experienced. It will range from openly watching procedures with interest to a swift ‘check up and down’ glance to record that all is in order.
We’re already used to social distancing rules, so measures like online check-in and enhanced protocols for hand hygiene will be expected, and either welcomed or endured depending on the guest’s outlook. These protocols will cover what housekeeping and staff do but will also make provision for guests to handle their own safety with products such as hand hygiene stations placed throughout the property, not just in bathrooms. The first hotel visitors are ready for all of that, but now many guests will actively look for housekeeping teams and cleaning carts, the signs of visible cleaning. It’s not that we expect to examine the contents of their trolleys, but beady eyes will pick up on the overall appearance. In the same way that scuffed shoes will ruin the most glamorous outfit, a battered and creaking old trolley with chip marks and scrapes will set unwelcome thoughts running.
Away from our rooms in public areas which have managed to reopen, it’ll be the same story if we happen to catch sight of staff carrying out wet floor cleaning or dragging along shabby equipment as they sanitise all and sundry. For perhaps the first time, housekeeping carts and what they carry will become barometers for how seriously a hotel takes their cleaning obligations, however much those wheeling them around the premises try to be as unobtrusive as possible. A fundamental part of hospitality is welcoming guests to a place that stands in for home but offers extra treats to make the visit memorable. The best establishments, large and small, achieve this tricky balance. Now it’s necessary to recognise that many returning hotel guests will have spent significant time at home as a safety measure. That sense of domestic safety must be replicated so guests feel safe and remain healthy.
This means head housekeepers need to take a close look at all the tools of their trade. It may be tough on the budget in hard times, but anything that looks tired or damaged should be replaced. Bear in mind as well that older trolleys may themselves have hard to clean areas. Visible cleaning is at its best when a cart is well stocked. Products such as microfiber cloths, hand hygiene provisions, bin liners and cleaning solutions give guests an insight into the processes, without having to see them being undertaken.
The Rubbermaid Commercial Products (RCP) range of housekeeping carts is available in multiple styles and capacities to provide an essential visible cleaning solution for your property. In addition to cleaning products, the RCP range of housekeeping carts utilises a pocket organiser system to house cleaning tools such as dusters and brushes. A cart housing multiple cleaning aids demonstrates that housekeeping takes their cleaning responsibilities seriously and can deploy the right solution in any situation.
A fully stocked cart must also be suitably mobile for cleaning staff. RCP housekeeping carts are designed for safety and have a high degree of lightweight manoeuvrability. Wheels and casters form a solid base and don’t leave marks on floors and carpets.
At Mercura, where they’ve been manufacturing durable but lightweight trolleys from their Belgium base with specific designs for hotels, cruise ships and care settings, for 60 years they’ve been busy during the lockdown. With raw materials on site (the major component of their trolleys is aluminium) alongside the production centre, Mercura has prioritised supplying trolleys to new hotels and those reopening.
But they’ve also found time to introduce two new products, an enclosed luggage trolley called the Manhattan and a stylish range of stands for hand sanitiser. But the main task remains creating housekeeping trolleys, ensuring that they offer protection to both hotel clients and employees.
Mercura recommend a closed housekeeping trolley which helps to prevent contamination in corridors. Adding a drawer and/or a top tray with lid prevents contamination of the amenities, while doors protect clean and sanitised linen waiting to be added to rooms. Mercura trolleys are made of anodised aluminum and HPL (high-pressure laminate), which is favoured in medical environments.
Both materials are simple to maintain in pristine condition and Mercura reminds that while all hotels are updating the cleaning procedure of rooms, it’s important to remember that housekeeping trolleys must be cleaned and sanitised after every shift. Using one set of trolleys for clean linen and amenities and another for dirty linen and garbage can also help to meet hygiene targets. Tidy trolleys will definitely impress passing guests and Mercura’s come with a range of compartments and storage spaces to carry all the equipment needed for cleaning and preparing rooms, including bedding, clean and used linen and toiletries. There are compact models which can go everywhere, including narrow corridors, and a foldable housekeeping cart.
As we’ve said, guests will take an interest in cleaning operations across the accommodation they’re using, not just the efforts of housekeeping teams preparing their rooms.
Diversey specialise in the Taski trolley system, particularly for wet cleaning and waste collection. Components and accessories can be moved to a variety of different positions and to adapt them to specific work habits and processes. As Diversey reckon the trolleys can be assembled in some 1.3 million configurations (we wonder who worked that out!) it would be impossible to describe every variation, but it does mean you can ‘build’ a trolley that’s perfect for your needs.
Some highlights include the Taski Mini Open mobile work station fitted with everything the operator needs. Cloths, mops and equipment can be positioned on the work station where they are easiest to handle. The lightweight Taski Nano trolley is designed specifically for restroom cleaning and can be customised to accommodate facility requirements.
Another nippy little operator is the Taski Lean trolley, a compact and lightweight platform designed for easy transportation and storage where space can often be a problem. Although small, it is suitable for spray and wipe and prewetted cleaning methods. The Taski Di Enviro trolley for wet cleaning and waste collection is manufactured in Italy from 75 per cent recycled materials. Suitable for all hard floor areas, it’s equipped with two six-litre dishwashing boxes and 15 litre buckets for floor care, with a colour coded red and blue handles to help with correct usage. The waste bag has a volume of 120 litre has a lid to keep waste out of sight. It arrives in kit form and is easily assembled without tools.