Vended Laundries & Flatwork Ironers: Expanding Commercial Laundry Services

Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales at Continental Girbau Inc., explains how a flatwork ironer can expand revenue and profits

X13 Contintental Girbau Flat Ironer

There’s a trend in the vended laundry industry to capture additional store revenue through commercial laundry services. A growing number of vended laundry owners go a step further. They utilize a flatwork ironer to tap into new commercial accounts they otherwise couldn’t serve. By installing a flatwork ironer, vended laundry owners and new laundry investors can go beyond the industry standard; harness bigger accounts that require high-quality linen finishing; and significantly bolster profits.

For the first time, your laundry can quickly and automatically iron bed sheets, pillowcases and table linens, making it more attractive to healthcare, food and beverage, and hospitality clients. The flatwork ironer helps you get your foot in the door with previously unserviceable clients (because you couldn’t iron their linens before). Soon, you’ll take on more than a client’s ironed sheets and table linens; you’ll process their other incremental volume of towels and robes too.
The “Laundry Doctor” Jeff Gardner, owner of Sel-Dale Laundromat, in St. Paul, maintains his ability to iron sheets and pillowcases directly grew sales. He processes 200 sheets per hour using his 13-inch Continental Flatwork Ironer. “That single piece of equipment allowed me to do work for massage therapists, spas and acupuncturists. They started talking about my business to friends. Then business boomed. The ironer paid for itself the first year. Now it pays for itself every month.”

Plan for Space for Commercial Work

Often, the biggest challenge with adding a flatwork ironer is available space. New store developers can plan for that space ahead of time – and should! But if you own an existing vended laundry, you’ll need to dedicate a separate space for your new flatwork ironer. How much room will the ironer take up? You can expect a 13-inch flatwork ironer to occupy 60 cu.ft., including the machine, installation clearances and necessary work area. This allows your laundry operators necessary elbow room for feeding and catching linens.

Making the ironer visible to laundry customers, yet out of their way, is also a smart plan. Visibility helps advertise your new service, according to Mike “Stucky” Szcztoka, of New Wave Laundromat, in Sterling Heights, Mich. He’s owned his Continental flatwork ironer for 14 years. Thanks to its ability to iron flatwork, he quickly elevated profits by $800 per week.

New Wave Laundromat attendant Sharon Burwell uses the store’s 14-year-old Continental Flatwork Ironer to quickly iron bed and table linens, including round tablecloths.
New Wave Laundromat attendant Sharon Burwell uses the store’s 14-year-old Continental Flatwork Ironer to quickly iron bed and table linens, including round tablecloths.

Serving Bigger Accounts with Higher Quality

The ironers allow owners to gain new accounts, as well, even when those accounts require very little ironing. Gardner and Stucky agree that their ironers opened a Pandora’s box to new business, strengthened overall profits and differentiated their laundries from the competition. Gardner, who caters to an array of clients, maintains sales mushroomed because of his ability to iron sheets and pillowcases. “We are very profitable because of the ironer’s speed and quality finish,” he said. “That single piece of equipment allowed me to do work for massage therapists, spas and acupuncturists. They started talking about my business to friends. Then business boomed.”

Stucky, who is an experienced drycleaner and vended laundry owner, quickly catered to cosmetic surgeons, massage therapists and party rental companies. He uses the ironer in combination with highly programmable washers to properly clean and finish spa and table linens, which are notorious for stains and grease.

How the Ironer Works

While there are a variety of flatwork ironers on the market, there are certain features and capabilities – wax-less operation, solid programmability and ease-of-use – that separate one ironer from another. Stucky and Gardner chose their ironers because they integrate these features and automatically modify cylinder speed based on the ironer’s heat maintenance and programmed temperature. “This allows operators to feed damp items into the ironer directly from the washer – bypassing dryer conditioning,” said Stucky. “This boosts laundry productivity, helps eliminate dryer bottlenecks and reduces dryer wear-and-tear.” Additionally, a highly programmable ironer allows operators to quickly iron a variety of items, including duvet covers, sheets, pillowcases, napkins, tablecloths, lab coats, and more.

Your Equipment Distributor’s Role

If you’re interested in learning more about the viability of an ironer and its potential impact on your commercial laundry business, reach out to your equipment distributor. Most distributors – in addition to offering expert advice, equipment installation and post-sale service – can analyze whether an ironer is justified based on your goals, demographics, available space and potential return on investment.

For more information, contact Jorgensen by click on the button below.

Joel Jorgensen, vice president of sales at Continental Girbau Inc., holds 23 years of laundry industry experience. A frequent contributor to a variety of laundry industry publications, he is considered an expert on vended laundry development and operation. An alumnus of the American Laundry and Linen College, he also serves on the Coin Laundry Association Board of Directors.

Email Joel Jorgenson