6 Ways Housekeeping Departments Can Reduce Costs

October 31, 2022
Stephen Alemar

Staffing shortages and rising supply chain costs have put hotels, and their workforces, on the back foot. Housekeeping departments, in particular, feel the sting of these industry challenges as their work can be physical and labor intensive. Finding ways housekeeping departments can reduce costs is crucial to bolster business.

But while it’s important, you need to be careful not to damage staff satisfaction in doing so.

If the right methods, technology, and strategies are employed, hotels can end up saving money while reducing staff turnover. In this blog post, we’ll explore the role of housekeeping and how hotels and housekeeping departments can reduce costs. 

The Role of Housekeeping at a Hotel

The housekeeping department is an incredibly important part of a hotel - or any organization for that matter.

Responsible for cleaning, supplying towels to occupied rooms, flipping them after checkout, housekeeping exists to maintain standards throughout the hotel. They also ensure the rest of the hotel - front desk, restaurant, hallways - sparkle.

Simply put, a housekeeping team can make or break a guest’s stay. Often, the cleanliness and put-together-ness of a room - and the rest of the hotel - can be the first things the guest sees upon entering. 

Is Hotel Housekeeping Changing?

Now, with COVID-19 and sustainability on everyone’s minds, housekeeping as we knew it before the pandemic is changing.

Some hotels have scrapped “daily housekeeping”, which helps save money. Other hotels are looking at ways their housekeeping department can reduce their impact on the environment, like reducing their use of bleach or switching paper towels for microfibre cloths.

What’s more: hotels and organizations everywhere are struggling to hire, and that has led them to offer more flexible working hours to current and future staff members. 

See how Canary can help you cut housekeeping costs!

What do modern guests expect of housekeepers?

You know who else is changing? Your guests. Travelers have never been so eco-minded, paying attention to your sustainable practices, and even how you treat your staff. Make a good impression and guests may just be sleeping easy, feeling good about their choice of hotel. 

However, it goes without saying that guests still want impeccable cleanliness. Stains on the sheets, an unvacuumed carpet, hair in the shower, used bottles in the mini-bar? These things are still unacceptable. 

Make a bad impression and you can probably expect some blow back once the guest has left the premises. Travelers now rely heavily on booking and review sites, which makes it easier for them to publish their experience of your hotel. 

That’s why it’s so important to encourage good reviews - not just with great service, but with technology to push them to sites like Tripadvisor. 

It’s never been so important to ensure that housekeeping is thorough. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to flipping rooms, especially. Just a small stain on bed linen could prompt a bad review.

Six ways housekeeping departments can reduce costs 

Reducing costs throughout your housekeeping department isn’t too difficult - not when you create a succinct plan which considers the implications of different cost-cutting options. 

1. Improve employee onboarding & retention

In early 2022, 3.5m U.S. people left the workforce, permanently or temporarily. This was The Great Resignation, and it wasn’t only confined to the United States. 

In fact, the BBC reported recently that resignations are still piling up, suggesting that COVID-19 was merely the catalyst of a storm that had been brewing for years before. 

“Some of these things have been bubbling over the past decade or more, and the pandemic really just put a magnifying glass over it all.”

– Kristie McAlpine professor of management at Rutgers University School of Business – Camden, US

So, why is this important for cost-savings? 

According to ICTSD, it can cost a hotel 30 to 150% of an employee's salary to replace them.

High turnover rates have disastrous consequences including reduced employee morale, productivity, leading to more resignations. It also contributes to poor customer service and more mistakes due to an overworked team.

First of all, start employees off on the right foot with excellent onboarding. Send a know-before-you-go email to housekeeping employees before their first day outlining everything they’ll need to know (dress code, direct report, colleagues etc.).

Create a checklist for new employees like policies and procedures, various training and information on who they can ask for help. If you want to go an extra mile, assign a mentor for them during their first month. 

Deploy various training programs which deal with topics like harassment and diversity and inclusion to educate current employees, and make employees feel valued. 

In addition, use technology like digital tipping to increase your staff’s compensation without hurting your bottom line.

2. Use Contactless Checkout to speed up housekeeping

Housekeeping departments, especially nowadays, are spread thin and possibly working with a skeleton staff. What’s worse is that they often have to guess when guests have checked out, which makes their job even harder. 

The temptation may be there to reduce your workforce, but this can have many unintended consequences. Investing in automation and technology may help you reduce costs overall, and also improve the workloads of your staff. 

One of the best ways to help your housekeeping teams is by using contactless checkout technology. Canary Contactless Checkout actually notifies Housekeeping once a guest has left, when they plan to leave, or if a late checkout time has been requested. 

The Mandolay uses Canary Contactless Checkout to help his staff prioritise and streamline - which in turn saves the hotel money.

“I’ve cut the wage bill in half," said Milliken. The efficiency gains have allowed the Mandolay to actually thrive in a tight labor market where other hotels are struggling to find enough staff. He continued, “I’m so glad we’re relying on technology for operational areas of our business because it means we’re not really feeling the pinch as much as others.” - Managing Director, Matthew Millike, The Mandolay Hotel

Try out Canary Contactless Checkout for free

3. Encourage guests to reuse their towels

Saving water doesn’t just save you money, it saves the environment. One of the best ways to do this is by encouraging guests to reuse their towels. This can help you cut outsourcing (or in-house labor), water consumption, and sewage costs. 

Provide specific instructions if they would like new towels, such as leaving them in the bathtub. Leave a small tent card on the bathroom counter with instructions, or a small sign on the wall - somewhere guests are likely to see it. 

Reducing towel usage isn’t just about saving water, either. Less washing means less wear and tear, meaning your towels last longer. 

Many hotels across the globe are already doing this, and often guests are happy to reuse towels to help the environment. Caesars Las Vegas saved roughly 30m gallons of water in one year, translating to cost savings of around $135,000 - $218,000 per year” on water heating (NatGeo).

In addition, U.S. hotels can partner with WaterSense, an EPA national voluntary partnership program that helps families and businesses identify ways to save water. According to their website: “Over the past 16 years, WaterSense partners have helped Americans save more than 6.4 trillion gallons of water.” Here’s how hotels can work with WaterSense. In addition, you can join 860 hotels and take the H2Otel Challenge.

Here are a few towel-washing tips for your housekeeping teams:

  • Wash towels separate from other linens. Avoid hot water - as this can damage the fibres, and instead use white vinegar to fluff up your towels and give them the best clean. 
  • Dry towels responsibly. Use a low-heat to dry towels, as high heats can damage fibres much like washing. Ensure they are dried thoroughly to prevent mildew.
  • Buy 100% cotton. Skimping on towels could cost you more in the long-run. Cotton towels are softer, more durable, and will delight your guests. 

4. Use Canary Guest Messaging to speed up housekeeping duties

With all the jobs your housekeeping teams have to do in a day, automating processes can make a positive impact on employee productivity and your bottom line. Receiving calls from staying guests while tackling a long list of to-dos in a day means added stress on a stretched housekeeping team. 

Guest messaging technology can take away this burden, free up your staff’s time and improve their efficiency by 20%. Guests can text down to reception or housekeeping to make requests, allowing you to free up your phones for important calls and bookings. 

Even better: guests receive automatic AI replies, meaning your staff don’t need to worry about responding and can instead focus on delivering fantastic service.

This also contributes to a great guest experience, which will help you earn more bookings, loyalty, and revenue in the long-term. 

EMBED on page: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWZwLJ4SRJs&ab_channel=CanaryTechnologies

5. Adjust minutes per room (MPR) for each type of room

Data and analytics are now at our fingertips. That means we can make more informed, smarter decisions. 

Curb labor costs by analyzing your minutes per room (MPR) or minutes per occupied room (MinPOR)- similar to analysing something like RevPAR. 

According to Hotel Mogel, each room needs around 20-30 minutes for a thorough clean. They suggest that if a hotel is forecasted to fill 3000 room nights in a month, this adds up to 1000 - 1500 hours of labor. This, they add, results in a monthly cost of $20,000 - $30,000 at a wage of $20 per hour. 

They conclude that by saving just two minutes, hotels could save £2,000 for the upcoming month. 

Find out what areas take the longest to clean. Are there faster techniques for various tasks? Now and again, observe your housekeeping staff - or even pitch in - to discover areas for opportunity. 

6. Cross-train your staff

When hotels operate with a skeleton staff, certain departments can end up understaffed which results in a poor customer experience, poor reviews, and overworked team members.

Thankfully, there are ways to avoid situations such as these - and it involves cross training. Rolling out cross-training programs for your workforce - and managers! - means that all employees could be specialised in one area, but proficient in a few others. Getting managers involved could also help improve the culture of your hotel, giving the opportunity to get to know employees and to work one-on-one with guests. 

Being a successful manager requires the ability to understand all of the moving pieces of their operation.

- Kevin Lillis, CEO of Hospitality Alliance (Hotel Business)

Even if you’re operating at full staff levels, it’s still useful in case employees call in sick. It may also improve employee retention and satisfaction as they are building skills and increasing experience. 

Take heed, though: don’t use this method at the expense of your current employees. While it can help take the burden off certain teams, expecting staff to do the work of multiple people too often can leave them feeling tired and unhappy.

Cut costs while improving employee morale

In today’s economy, cutting housekeeping costs is crucial, but so is keeping your staff happy. It’s a balancing act, which means proper research before you make the jump is crucial. When planning, think up pros and cons to each decision and potential knock-on effects. 

One thing is clear, however: your housekeeping department is crucial to your business and to the comfort of your guests. Give them the tools to work quicker, such as technology to reduce workload and improve the customer experience. Look at how you can optimize housekeeping checklists & tasks to save time and costs. 

Finally, consider how being more sustainable could save you money - and even improve your reputation among eco-minded travelers! 

Next up, discover how cashless tipping solutions are a must for a happy workforce — such as driving up to a 5X increase in staff tips.

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