How a few minutes add up to big dollars.
by Ray Terry
Having spent my adult life in the hospitality industry, I am still
amazed that the more things change, the more they really stay the same.
In this high tech age, the basic tenets of profit and loss are no
different from when I first began as a management trainee.
I have reviewed many hotel profit and loss statements
over the years covering full-service, limited-service and extended-stay
operations. On average I found that about 70 percent of all controllable
expenses were directly related to labor costs. In nearly all cases,
housekeeping labor and room cleaning time provide the greatest
To put it into perspective, a hotel with 130 rooms
and a 70 percent annualized occupancy, paying an average room attendant
wage of $7.50 per hour with a 25 percent tax and benefit cost would save
$20,759 a year by reducing their room cleaning time four minutes. You
can do the math to determine the ultimate value of that savings when a
cap rate is applied for purposes of valuing a hotel. There are numerous
variables that would have to be applied in each individual situation
including wages, benefits and contracted labor.
When I first began my career, most hotel rooms were similar in nature
and it was accepted that it took 30 minutes to clean a room. Because the
hotel industry has experienced multiple downturns in business over the
years, the result is the need to reduce operating costs, promoting the
creation of efficiency-based, lofty goals. Today, I would consider a
26-minute labor standard, or expectations set for housekeeping
attendants, a typical target time for that same room. More aggressive
operators have reduced the labor standard time even further. Multiple
factors can increase or decrease the labor standard including room
engineering, customer base, length of stay and even some of the new
brand standards for bed linens. In any case, determine a reasonable time
and set up a plan to realize it.
Some might argue that reducing labor standards to a
26-minute or less constrained timeline creates too much stress and
workload on the room attendant. Others might say the room cleanliness
will suffer. This cannot be farther from the truth.
Invariably, poor room cleaning times are due to
inefficiency and wasted time.
If you don’t think so, go into your hotels and
just observe what happens in a typical day.
Here are a couple of things to consider:
Average Day — Start-to-Finish for Housekeeping Labor:
When a room attendant reports to work, this person should be able to
punch the clock, get his/her room assignments, pick up his/her cart and
head to the room. Small talk, delayed room assignments by management and
non-stocked carts can put a housekeeping attendant behind before he/she
even gets started. When taking breaks, the times and locations should be
coordinated to keep an attendant’s breaks within the intended
length of time. Upon completion of the last room, attendants should
immediately report back to housekeeping and leave for the day.
Wasted Steps: The difference in time
management between a room attendant who has proper training versus one
who has not can be dramatic. Simply stand back and watch how many times
some attendants will go back and forth between the cleaning cart and the
room. You often train your people how to use a cleaning product, but how
much time do you spend “choreographing” the actual cleaning
process? Many of you may be familiar with the “once around”
method of making a bed, but how many actually expand the process by
reducing the trips between the room and cart?
Specifically, what can you do to eliminate the
inefficiency and wasted time and reduce labor costs?
Consider the following helpful hints:
1) Ensure room forecasting is accurate and that labor standards
are utilized in scheduling.
2) Keep store rooms and linen closets adequately stocked.
3) Supply cleaning carts the night before or in the morning prior to the
room attendants’ arrival. One person can handle the process to
save time and ensure consistent replenishing of the cart’s
4) Stagger arrival time of room attendants based on customer base or
departure patterns (i.e., corporate versus transient or weekday versus
5) Develop a company policy and handbook to train attendants on the
sequence of steps to be followed when cleaning a guest room.
6) Develop a plan to restock carts during the day around staffing
levels, break periods and linen room locations.
7) Cleaning time must be tracked on a daily basis. Remember that times
will vary according to customer base, checkouts versus stay-overs and
single versus multiple occupancy. Labor standards are based on an
8) Compare cleaning time between attendants to determine where
additional training is necessary.
9) Do not get caught in the trap of having inadequate linen inventory.
In the end, there is no cost savings on the linen and doing same-day
linen will drive up labor costs.
10) Do not be afraid to set up an incentive plan for your management
team and attendants for helping achieve your goal. It is money well
11) Give some thought to one of the conservation programs promoted to
the guest as an elective way to assist the environment. Most entail a
limited linen exchange versus a full change. Owners who aggressively
promote the plan have been able to reduce cleaning time as well as
chemicals and utilities.
While this might seem like a lot of work, it is
simply a matter of investing a little time on the front end to set up
some guidelines and procedures for the long term. There are numerous
companies and hotels today that operate at a high level of efficiency.
Keep one simple thought in mind: good labor cost makes for a good profit
and loss statement!!
Ray Terry is the president of
Orange Beach, Ala.-based Ray Terry Company, Inc., a hotel consulting
service. He can be reached at 251-981-4520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.