For the past four months, while much of the restaurant industry was forced into hibernation, White Plains Linen | LINENS à la CARTE went back to the proverbial ‘drawing board’.
“We knew that the industry was going to come back stronger than ever and that the key to that was going to be the ability to create and implement a new safety protocol,” noted Bruce Botchman, the company’s long time President and CEO.
To accomplish that goal, White Plains Linen began with a commitment to its’ state-of-the-art laundry facility in historic Peekskill, NY. Botchman noted, “We took and continue to take significant measures to keep everyone safe, including aggressive social distancing, consistent cleaning and sanitizing, ongoing health screenings, and a reliance on personal protective equipment for our staff.”
Len Labonia, VP of Operations and Chief Operating Officer, engaged in regular communications with local health agencies and is following the scientific guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This included working diligently with vendor partners, management and associates to adapt these best practices to minimize any potential spread of the virus.
As a result, White Plains Linen implemented a number of internal procedures and protocols. These include checking each employee’s temperature before entering our laundry plant and the placement of hand-sanitizing stations throughout their administrative offices, laundry plant and warehouse facilities. White Plains Linen also increased the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting efforts on all high-touch areas throughout our facilities. Additionally, all members of the White Plains Linen delivery team are equipped with an ample supply of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Most importantly, White Plains Linen worked in conjunction with the commercial laundry trade association; TRSA-Textile Rental Services Association to re-calibrate the standards for Laundry Chemistry. These benchmarks include all washing being done at 180 degrees Fahrenheit, the use of a 15% bleach solution and industrial strength detergents. The goal is to utilize laundering chemicals that can guarantee properly disinfected and hygienically clean textiles including linens, garments and towels utilized by restaurants and food service operators.
With a 60-vehicle fleet delivering more than 1 million pounds of fine linens every week, White Plains Linen has long been looked at as setting the standard for textile rentals and laundering. The Westchester County based company has built its reputation on the more than 1.75 million napkin, 500,000 bar mops and kitchen towels, 200,000 tablecloths and 110,000 kitchen garments that it launders for restaurant and foodservice professionals.
“What has been really interesting is to see how safety is being redefined as a result of COVID-19. Safety used to be all about risk and now it has become a health issue as well,” noted Hector Tuzo, VP of Logistics and Account Management. “It’s also crucial to remember that we remain committed to providing a product that is both environmentally sustainable and hygienically sound.”
Post pandemic restaurant operations has brought one of the industry’s hot topics back to the forefront: the use of hygienically clean reusable linen including tablecloths and napkins in restaurant, catering halls and hotel dining rooms. “Let’s start with this question; what’s more efficient from a safety and cost standpoint: 30 seconds to change a linen on a table or who knows how long to take out a rag that’s already used/soiled and a can of disinfectant that may be in short supply to then spray a table,” Tuzo inquired. “Keep in mind too that in today’s labor market the server may be the busboy as well, so we provide an extra layer of protection by sealing every cloth in a plastic bag for storage.”
Protocols and best practices are also changing how the industry looks at its uniform programs. Added Dan Kaufman, White Plains Linen Director of Marketing, “It makes no sense for an employee coming off a shift to bring home a uniform that is soiled and may have been exposed to the virus. So, we are suggesting a program in which all uniforms are left in a bin at the restaurant at the end of the shift and then picked up by our team and properly sanitized, laundered and ultimately redelivered back to the customer with their next order.”
“Think of it in terms of cutting your own hair,” added Labonia. “We are going to wash these garments at temperatures of 165 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures you could never get close to at home.”
White Plains Linen has also expanded its geographical footprint with the launch of their Wholesale Chef Store website. “Everybody is using the word ‘pivot’ to describe their businesses during the pandemic,” Kaufman added. “Our website is a great example of pivoting to answer the changing needs of our customer base.”
Wholesale Chef Store is providing hospitality customers with a full inventory of PPE items including masks, gloves and sanitizer as well as all of their weekly rental items now available for direct purchase. The website has become an industry favorite with easy to navigate features and no minimum purchases on a wide selection of chef coats, uniforms, aprons, hats, hair nets, vinyl gloves, floor mats and rugs, bar mops and towels.
For over 80 years, White Plains Linen | LINENS à la CARTE has been there to respond to the changing needs of its customer base. “Today it’s all about a dining patron being welcomed by a sparkling white tablecloth that sends a message,” Botchman concluded, “that a restaurant cares about providing both a safe and sumptuous dining experience.”