CHICAGO — When designing a self-service laundry, have you ever downplayed customer comfort? After all, the customer is just there to use your equipment, right?
Well, think again. With the average laundry visit lasting more than an hour, comfort is key if you want to retain customers. Owners are constantly faced with the challenge of creating a successful balance between comfort and equipment.
MAKING IT WORK
“The self-service laundry operator who has limited space but wants to best serve the customer, and still work within the limitations of space, needs to consider several factors when providing the furniture,” says Hal Bergeron, Sol-O-matic (CACO Mfg.) sales manager.
“The operator should think about how his [furniture] choice will meet the demands and daily rigors of constant use and abuse in the laundry.”
When considering seating units, folding tables and patio tables, look at selecting a size that will offer adequate comfort with minimal footprint, yet be able to withstand daily use/abuse while remaining attractive, Bergeron says.
To do this, you need to ask yourself several questions:
Like many other decisions, demographics must also be taken into consideration, he suggests. For example, If the laundry serves customers who bring in larger items such as comforters, the tables need to be a bit larger.
While some operators don’t want to put the time in to research such matters, the good news is that operators can choose from site-built items to products that are designed specifically for the self-service laundry industry.
“Almost any type of furniture can be used in the self-service laundry, but most items should not be used because they will not withstand the daily laundry demands for a long period of time,” Bergeron cautions.
“Furniture that is made for this type of rigorous demand needs to be attractive, comfortable, strong and durable.” In addition to durability, he says owners don’t want furniture that soils or absorbs moisture, which results in it losing its luster.
Appearance does matter in the competitive self-service laundry business. With all the challenges of running a store, owners don’t have the time to focus on the furniture. There are furniture options that require minimal owner maintenance, yet are visually appealing, he says.
Has limited store space affected your furniture decisions? If so, owners can select tables that range in size from 24 feet by 48 feet to ones that are 30 feet by 72 feet. There are tables with sides and backsplash guards, as well as upper and lower shelves. Operators also have the choice of indoor/outdoor patio tables that are designed to handle food and beverages, as well as double for small folding tables when needed.
Since some people don’t want to be cooped up in a store or have to go outside to smoke, adding a table or seating outside can prove to be a relatively inexpensive feature that separates your store from the competition.
“The trends for the coin laundry operator today lend themselves to bright and exciting colors that make the laundry an environment that the customer enjoys going to. The laundry that makes the customer feel good because of the interior, as well as the equipment, will be the laundry that has a ‘capture effect’ on its marketing area.”
Bergeron warns operators about falling into a common business trap: trying to save money by selecting furnishings not designed for laundries.
“The coin laundry operator still needs to remember that the furnishings will be in an environment loaded with a variety of customers [with different needs], and will need to withstand the daily rigors of constant use/abuse.”
Operators can choose fiberglass tables and seats, attractive and colorful bench seats made from fiberglass or steel, stainless-steel tables and storage shelves/baker’s racks for wash-and-fold services. There are even custom replacement tops and panels for existing bulkheads made out of fiberglass in a wide variety of colors.