Enhancing image, efficiency and profitability is a complicated puzzle unique to each accommodation business, but one occasionally-overlooked cog in the revenue wheel is the hospitality trolley.
They come in a variety of shapes and sizes; performing diverse yet equally important roles within the day-to-day running of a successful hotel.
Managing any profitable business in today's market requires efficiencies and best work practices throughout all areas, according Paul Hambridge from Wagen Material Handling, a specialist trolley supplier with over 40 years' experience. "Unfortunately the advent of smart phones, tablets and the latest apps can't escape the fact that the hotel industry is very labour intensive," he says.
"With minimum wages and penalty rates continually increasing, any tax-deductable capex investment which reduces costs and removes OH&S risks and claims, thereby increasing profits, must be equal top of every hotelier's to-do list - along with customer experience and satisfaction."
Even in the average-size hotel of 14 or more rooms, hundreds of items need to be moved on a daily basis throughout every area of the building. "Trolleys are the most efficient and safest way possible to do these tasks," Hambridge says. "Look around, we are so used to having these labour- and time-saving devices at our fingertips it is easy to forget how many trolleys are actually used every day, even in a medium-sized hotel, and what impact they have from an efficiency and safety perspective."
The function of trolleys in the accommodation sector is of paramount importance. "Trolleys are essential item for storage, transport , security, and when used a mechanical aid they can reduce injuries through poor manual handling practices, in turn reducing work cover claims and rising insurance premiums," says Hambridge.
Image is everything
And what about maintaining a positive image of the hotel and its upkeep? "A birdcage luggage trolley is the first point of contact a guest will have with the hotel, and first impressions count. The condition of this trolley sets the tone for the rest of their stay.
"A well maintained trolley will set a positive example to the guest without them even noticing, however asking your guests to lug their bags up to their rooms or providing a poorly maintained trolley will stick in their minds - especially if the trolley wants to go one way and the guest wants to go another.
"I don't believe that any hotel can be without the essential tools required to carry out the day-to-day running of a modern hotel, especially when you consider a trolley costs less than a week's wages or weekend wages at penalty rates. A trolley never goes off sick or wants a holiday; it is one of the best investments you can make to improve your business' profitability," he says.
A trolley for all occasions
It is also essential for hotels to employ a variety of trolleys to fill specific needs, Hambridge argues. "Front of house trolleys such as Birdcage and Porter trolleys are designed and manufactured with both form and function in mind, and most of all project an image that says you are focused on customer service and quality to your arriving guests. Each trolley is designed with a particular use in mind and built to serve that purpose."
Housekeeping trolleys such as maids' carts or mini bar carts require sufficient space to store all items for a room change and cleaning material for multiple rooms - ideally the number of rooms on the floor you are servicing to save labour on trips back and forth to the storage areas. "As these carts are often seen by the guests in corridors they too need to be presented in the best possible condition, they need to be streamlined and if they include mini bar top-up supplies they need to be secure."
Housekeeping trolleys have specialist roles for use throughout the hotel incorporating design features. These include: lock boxes on the mini bar and room attendants' carts for the prevention of loss of revenue through theft; clever storage design for room attendants' carts so multiple rooms can be serviced without the need for the staff to return to the storage areas; linen tubs with leak proof features to prevent wet items such as guest towels leaking onto floors and damaging carpets, creating slip hazards and time spent mopping up.
"The efficient change out and cleaning of rooms gives the hotel an advantage over its less efficient competitors by having more rooms available for early check-in or late check-out, which is an added bonus for the guest," says Hambridge.
Back of house trolleys
Back of house trolleys need to meet similar requirements, but with less emphasis on style.
Food service trolleys
Food service trolleys used in preparation areas are usually made from stainless steel, which allows for proper cleaning and sanitising in order to meet the strict HACCP standards of commercial kitchens.
Laundry tub trolleys
Laundry tub trolleys are invaluable for moving large quantities of soiled and clean linen, and when fitted with "back saver" self-levelling devices they provide an OH&S solution to eliminate the need for staff to bend fully over and down into the tub, because the linen rises to the top as the items are removed. "Mobile tubs should also have a leak proof design to allow for the transportation of wet items and should be easy to clean, push and manoeuvre in tight spaces," Hambridge adds.
Case and crate trolleys are capable of moving ten cases of beer at any one time. "Fewer trips to and from the loading dock to storerooms saves time, effort and money. Keg trolleys also reduce OH&S risks of moving heavy beer kegs around cellars. Choose a keg trolley that fits both sizes of Australian kegs."
Style, construction, function
Quality trolleys possess certain attributes that should not be compromised, such as style, construction and function. The trolley has to match the hotel's image, brand and attention to customer service and satisfaction.
A quality finish projects a quality image for your guests' stay, with no areas that can cause harm to guests and their property e.g. sharp edges. Carpet lining prevents damage to luggage, while buffers prevent damage to walls and doors.
It has to move with the least amount of effort, meaning quality castors with the correct tyre compound to match the hotel's terrain - carpet, footpaths, paving, turf etc - is a must. "No guest wants to see a bellboy sweating while carrying their luggage, or fear that it may get dropped. As a guest you want to get to your room feeling relaxed not stressed," Hambridge says.
"Reducing shrinking will have a positive impact on the bottom line, and the introduction of Security Cage Trolleys delivers instant returns back of house in both cool rooms and dry stores, where valuable consumables such as truffles, saffron and alcohol can be securely contained and their use monitored," Hambridge explains.
The list of trolley uses is endless in hotels, clubs and function venues. There are trolleys designed to move ten chairs at a time to assist with the setting up of function rooms. If you use square rather than round tables these can be moved in bulk on a trolley to assist function room setup, as can all the PAs, lighting equipment and even your red carpets."
How do customised luggage trolleys reflect business image and impress guests? "By presenting your image in the best possible light and reinforcing your brand awareness. Something as simple as having the hotel logo incorporated into the trolley's carpet establishes the brand from the guests' arrival and is the parting message when they leave.
"Guest impressions are of the utmost importance to maintaining a successful brand image and with the rise of social media such as Twitter and Instagram, and review websites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp, a poor review has an immediate and lasting impact on both a local and international basis. It is far better to prevent these problems rising rather than being in damage control."