Top Challenges Facing Today's Laundromats (& How to Overcome Them)

As an essential business, laundromats have staying power, yet you may still find your coin op laundry is facing an uphill climb to profitability. Whether you are challenged by rising utility costs, parts and service delays, or shortages in your workforce, you aren’t alone. While you can’t control every element, there are many ways to reduce the impact these challenges have on your business to help get you in line for a more profitable future.

Rising Energy & Utility Costs

Rising energy costs are affecting many coin laundromats’ bottom lines, making their operations less profitable. While you need steady business to sustain profitability and overhead expenses, managing cycle costs and high utility rates is a balancing act. Before you jump to raising self-service laundry prices which will put-off the customers you rely on, try these improvements to reduce your utility costs: 
  • If your vended laundry equipment is outdated, there’s a good chance you’re wasting utilities in any number of inefficiencies, from long rinse cycles to airflow loss. A new stack washer-dryer can save as much as 50% of dryer time while providing an even higher quality wash with a faster cycle. 
  • Customize your equipment cycles. Dexter equipment allows laundromat owners to program cooler wash cycles, shorter dryer times, and longer cool-down periods—these are invisible to customers but save fuel and money. 
  • Check your HVAC system. An effective, efficient heating and cooling unit is essential to providing guests with a comfortable environment and lowering your utility bills. Fix leaky ducts, schedule maintenance, and use programmable thermostats to help reduce HVAC expenses. 
  • Update your restroom fixtures. These often-overlooked fixtures can be a source of wasted utilities in your laundromat as well. Switching to low-flow toilets, water-saving sinks, efficient hand dryers, and automatic lights in your restrooms may seem insignificant, but will add to your overall conservation.

Delayed Coin Laundry Equipment Parts & Facility Repairs

A laundromat in need of maintenance, whether it is a malfunctioning washer, broken laundry trolley, or peeling floor tiles, can turn off potential and loyal customers alike. Unfortunately, getting quick repairs and parts is an issue facing many coin op laundries due to component shortages, transit delays, and service backlogs. Taking these steps can help get your business back into shape and mitigate negative impacts on your customers: 
  • Contact your distributor for washer or dryer repair service, parts, and maintenance; WSD has a large inventory of parts with same-day shipping, and can provide service solutions as well. 
  • Over-ordering parts can be wasteful, but consider pre-ordering items that you are most likely to need soon or those that you use on a regular basis, especially if the demand for these items is high.
  • If general facility maintenance is needed, hiring a part-time technician or general contractor to handle your upkeep, maintenance, and repairs may be a more reliable solution than trying to book sporadic appointments with an on-demand service technician.  

Labor Shortages in Laundromat Businesses

Labor shortages are impacting how everyone does business—including laundromats. Frequent turnover and understaffing can impact your operating hours and services day-by-day, a major inconvenience for customers. Consider implementing these ideas to attract more qualified new hires and retain existing employees:
  • Implement an employee referral program to help vet prospects and simplify recruiting.
  • Write a thorough job description to eliminate unqualified or uninterested applicants early in the process.
  • Utilize on-demand temp agencies to cover seasonal or short-term demand until you return to a regular workload, and if the demand spikes in your add-on services (fluff-and-fold, tailoring, etc.), let the temp employees work behind the scenes and leave customer service to your experienced staff.
  • Use a laundry management system, like DexterLive, to allow management to remotely restart or take machines out of service from anywhere.
  • Complete training in stages to avoid overloading new hires (which may result in quick turnover) and provide reference materials to help with retention and consistency.  
  • Cross-train reliable staff—including management—so there is appropriate coverage during labor shortages to keep customers’ experiences positive.
  • Take advantage of team-building opportunities and show appreciation for your employees to build staff morale and retain employees. This could include Employee of the Month recognition, sporadic appreciation treats, or an employee picnic.
  • Offer creative perks (i.e. flexible hours, rotating holidays, commission for new fluff-and-fold accounts) when it isn’t feasible to raise hourly wages to provide extra value to staff.

Expensive Laundromat Vending Supplies

Most laundromats offer laundry supplies as well as snacks and other convenience items in their vending machines. Vending was a once-standard source of supplemental income for laundromats, but thanks to supply and demand challenges, vended goods have become difficult and expensive to maintain. Supply chain disruptions make availability unpredictable, and when you do locate items you need, it can be priced out-of-reach, so how do you win? Here are some tips to keep your vending affordable for customers and profitable for you:  
  • Bargain shop with a variety of suppliers to find the best value rather than buying where you always have.
  • Keeping an eye out for suppliers willing to price-match or inquire with the store’s management if you find an item for less elsewhere.
  • Select laundry vending machine sizes carefully: A too-small machine will not provide the selection your customers desire, but a too-large machine can be difficult—and expensive—to fill.
  • Don’t choose laundromat supplies based on price alone. Frequent customers expect some level of consistency. Filling vending with cheaper items may save you money up front, but can also leave you with unwanted inventory, and frustrated customers.

Keeping Up With Full-Service Laundromat Demands

The post-pandemic demand for pickup and delivery services at laundromats has caused a new need for improved systems and technology, plus larger capacity on-premise machines and finishing equipment. Adopting these new logistics isn’t an overnight process, but if you have downtime, these services can keep machines from sitting empty and keep employees productive. If a full-service pickup and delivery service isn’t feasible, consider adding these a la carte offerings as a starting point to keep your business competitive without overextending your capabilities:
  • Provide fluff-and-fold as a pick-up only service. Price your rates competitively and customers may even prefer to forego the convenience of delivery for cost-savings.
  • Invest in smaller-capacity finishing equipment to simplify ironing and folding tasks which are typically labor intensive. This allows you to offer add-on services without expanding your workforce.
  • Contract with a local tailoring service for hemming or clothing repairs and offer them through your laundromat as a convenient add-on service that increases revenue opportunities and customer satisfaction.
Evaluate these common laundromat issues and solutions to determine which items can be mitigated by now to get on a path to a properly staffed, streamlined, and affordable business. To learn more about how our equipment and services can help, contact Western State Design today.