Whether a hotel should change bed sheets in every occupied room every day leads to many other questions. Most hotels these days have no concern with riding the environmental movement's coattails. Many hotel managers are asking housekeeping executives to change sheets on alternate days. But is this an acceptable business practice? With increasing guest expectations for cleanliness on one side of the debate and environmental awareness and responsibility on the other, can hotels create a win-win situation for everyone?
As a Hotelier, you must decide what policy to adopt. Some hotels will change linen in every occupied room every day. Others will place a card that hangs on the doorknob and will let the guest decide. The guest can indicate on the card if he or she wants the sheets changed. Other hotels will not request input from the guest and require linen changing on every second or third day of their stay.
This article asks a series of questions to help you understand the pros and cons of changing your hotel sheets as you craft your own policy decision.
- What does the guest want? Since serving your guest's needs is essential to creating return business and positive reviews is your first mission as a hotelier, measuring guest feedback is critical. Many Hoteliers believe that changing sheets is an easy decision. Most of your guests presumably support the effort to limit water and chemicals to save the environment. However, it's not that simple and, if done incorrectly, can cause more headaches than savings.
- What procedures will you implement to ensure that the room-cleaning process remains satisfactory and ideal to the guest while maintaining its quality controls?
- Will the expense savings in labor, chemicals, or energy cover any extra costs in guest complaints, labor to redo early checkouts, or other efforts to maintain the operation? Some hotels have realized as much as a 1.8-room improvement in productivity per day, but many report no change.
Further, what are those operational points you need to understand to increase productivity?
- Housekeeping staff trained to change bedsheets daily must get retrained with the new policies in place. Thus creating procedures for communicating which beds should get changed and which ones should get left alone is critical, especially with the non-English speaking staff.
- The system must devise a record of which beds have been changed and have only got made up. The system must provide a code that labels the status of each bed in each unit. This system must also provide for the event a guest who checked out early. If the housekeeper is still on the property, They should return to the room to make the bed again, but with fresh linen. If the room attendant has clocked out, someone else must remake the bed in the room before it's put back on the market.
- If bedding sheets are changed only every other day, establish a system to comment on the room attendant's daily assignment form on which beds to change that day and which ones to only make. By putting this on the daily assignment, your supervisor can use the morning report to review each stayover and highlight which rooms need to change sheets.
- Since some hotels give the guest a card to indicate whether they want the linen changed, you'll want your housekeepers to note the assignment sheet regarding whether it got the sheets got laundered. If a guest comes back to the room after the housekeeping has gone home and complains that the bed did not get changed, an employee on call will have to remake the bed and as fast a possible and then later check the day's records to investigate the complaint.
- Your housekeeping department will have to learn how to decide whether to change sheets on days when it is not required but not acceptably clean. For instance, would makeup on a sheet mean changing the linen? What if there were a makeup stain on the pillowcase?
- Because most hotels want the guest to feel like the bed has been changed, they tuck the bedspread over the pillows. A different approach might be leaving the bed with a turndown look welcoming to guests, and this signals to Housekeeping that sheets have not been changed in the room.
- If the staff chooses to let your guests decide whether to have the sheets changed, the language describing the cleaning policy on the door hanger is best when written in at least 2 different languages. Some groups will provide collateral materials, such as the American Hotel & Motel Association. One card offered in AH&MA's materials is designed for towels and asks guests to put the towel back on the rack if they are willing to use it again. The second card is for bed sheets. Usually, the cards are laminated for longer life and contain English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish translations.
The percentage of sheets left unchanged may vary among hotels, depending on the average length of stay and guest type. If, for instance, the hotel's average length of stay is 2.8 days, and the policy is to change sheets every three days, in effect, the procedure is to change sheets in checkouts only.
General managers want to know how this change in policy affects the bottom line. While room-cleaning productivity may remain relatively unchanged, some hotels project that linen life may be prolonged by 15 percent. Outside laundry costs may be reduced by 9 percent. In fact, real savings come from the laundry. In a national survey conducted by Ecolab, the average cost of cleaning hotel guestroom linens is $0.232 per pound. These cost factors were compiled with laundries operating at maximum efficiency. Considering that a king sheet weighs about 1.8 pounds, a double sheet 1.2 pounds, and a pillowcase .3 pounds, there is a mini-mum potential savings of 3 pounds or almost a dollar per room.
The most important factor is for the staff to be honest with themselves and the guests. Is saving the environment the issue? Or is it saving the bottom line? Guests are quick to see a hotel's motivation for policy changes. They may not appreciate a reduction in service if they do not see consistent environmental actions in other areas as such as light bulbs, recycling, or motion sensors to control HVAC). Will guests stop staying at a hotel just because their sheets are not changed? Can we expect guests to ask during reservation calls, "Do you change your bed sheets every day?" Will we see advertisements with the tagline "We change sheets daily"? Probably not.
In fact, if a hotel provides proper training, thorough operational procedures, and related environmental efforts, it can save many gallons of water, tons of detergent, and vast amounts of energy. If guests are supportive of the actions, it is a win-win situation.