Linen and Staff Shortages Force UK Hotels to Cut Back Services

Several hotels across the UK have been forced to limit bed linen changes and delay guest check-ins due to a chronic shortage of staff in the middle of a boom in domestic travel. According to Financial Time, the Intercontinental Hotel Group, owner of Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels, is among major hospitality companies that have reported difficulties with outsourced linen and towel supplies, as laundries struggle to keep pace with tight turnaround times. “The laundry supply chain cuts across staffing challenges, distribution and logistics,” said Kenneth Macpherson, chief executive of IHG Europe, Middle East and Africa. To mitigate the impact, the group has limited daily bed linen changes at some hotels for guests staying multiple nights.

Richard Cooke, general manager at The Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh, which is suffering shortages of bed sheets, towels, restaurant napkins and tablecloths, said that he was limiting occupancy at the hotel to “significantly below” 2019 levels in order to cope with staffing and laundry constraints. Other hotels have delayed guest check-ins to allow laundries time to return linen to hotels, while Brett Powis, owner of three hotels in the seaside resort town of Torquay, said that he had invested more than £12,000 in commercial laundry equipment in order to do one hotel’s washing in-house as the company’s usual launderer was unable to keep up with demand.

Commercial laundries servicing hotels operate on tight margins and quick turnround times. They typically rent linen to hotels for about three years or up to 170 washes and clean dirty sheets and towels within 24 hours. During the pandemic, the majority wound down operations and furloughed staff while hotels were shut. Many of those workers moved back to their countries of origin or found stable jobs in other sectors.