The bed and its linen are the heart and soul of any hotel room, so how are hoteliers making them as inviting as possible? Ann Bruce reports
Yes bathrooms matter and certainly cleanliness is vital, but beds and bed linen are the frontline in the hotel industry's make-or-break battle to deliver a good experience to customers.
The bed itself, the mattress, the duvet, sheets and pillows all get up close and personal with the customer, as comedian Lenny Henry outlined in his 2014 TV advert for the Premier Inn chain, accompanied by tinkly piano: "There's nothing nicer than waking from a great night's sleep. From the warm burrow of a luxury, kingsize Hypnos bed, every inch of you floating over 1,000 pocket springs, snuggled under a toasty duvet, the crisp white sheets, your head buried deep ina soft plump pillow, or choose a firmer one if you prefer. What could be nicer than that?"
Indeed. And if your guest enjoys a good night's sleep, they'll be in a sunnier mood when they pay the bill the next morning. And they will be more likely to favour your hotel or chain when they're next away overnight.
So in a world where customer expectations for comfort and quality fabrics are high and cost is an issue, how do hoteliers get it right in the bedroom?
Howard Ball is head of purchasing at hotel supplier Beacon. The company works with a variety of hotels, from independents to national brands, from 10 to 100 rooms and from two to four stars.
The bed is the heart of the hotel room, so it needs to be beautiful and inviting, but also functional, with comfort as a given, he advises.
He says: "The décor of the hotel rooms and the linen chosen, especially for the bed, can have a huge impact on the customer experience. The fabric suppliers that we work with need to have the ability to develop bespoke designs that can either create the feeling of a well-known brand or make an independent hotel stand out."
Hotels must make sure that they are on trend when it comes to linen and fabrics, while still maintaining value for money and a feeling of comfort and homeliness for guests, he adds.
In the current marketplace, themajority of hotels have to be costconscious when choosing fabrics. However, there is always demand for more luxurious fabrics, such as silk and Egyptian cotton, and hoteliers need to use them to achieve maximum impact due to the associated costs. The fabrics are ideal for public areas where they are sure to create a stunning first impression, or for cushions, upholsteries and throws in the bedroom.
And, of course, all fabrics must be fire retardant and meet all the safety rules and regulations required for the market.
And there are other ways to control costs through choice of fabrics, says Ball: "One thing that hotel buyers are looking for at the moment is durability and, ultimately, ways they can save money in the long term. We are therefore seeing more hotel owners investing in washable fabrics, which will last a lot longer and save on aftercare costs."
Hoteliers also often use styles that keep housekeeping to a minimum. For example, plain fabrics tend to show stains more easily, so a lot of hoteliers opt for patterned fabrics, which have a much longer lifespan, he adds.
Many of the large fabric companies, such as Beacon's supplier, Skopos, follow trends in the domestic interiors market when it comes to bedrooms and linen, as the key to creating a great bedroom design for a hotel is making your guest feel at home.
Another item that is key in hotel rooms at the moment is the headboard. Headboards can be covered in more or less any fabric and hints of colour can be added through stitching or piping, allowing them to become a centrepiece statement.
Toni Campbell, sales director of Musbury Fabrics in Lancashire, says the company supplies anything from five-star luxury accommodation to budget hotel chains, nursing and care home groups, universities, colleges, schools, shipping lines and bed and breakfast establishments. She says that bed linen colour depends on the type of establishment: most popular within hotel groups are crisp, fresh white bed linen or a satin stripe design.
The science of sleep
Luxury Swedish bed manufacturer Duxiana supplies more than 150 premium hotels worldwide, including its own Hotel Duxiana in Sweden. Duxiana takes sleep very seriously, researching sleep patterns as part of product development, says Jessica Reinart, managing director of Duxiana UK.
In an independent sleep study conducted by the Karolinska Institute of Sweden, the sleep patterns of individuals using a variety of innerspring mattresses were measured using an EEG (electroencephalography) to record the electrical activity in the cerebral cortex of the brain. The study demonstrated that Dux bed users reached the deep sleep stage of sleep faster and remained there approximately an hour longer. This is beneficial since it is during deep phases of sleep that the body and the immune system recovers and repairs itself.
Inga Lukauskiene is founder and designer at LinenMe, which sells 100% linen bedding online to hotels and leisure facilities in 50 countries around the world. Her company offers a range of stonewashed and natural linens in whites, off-whites and a range of pastel shades as well as stripes.
Natural fabrics are the biggest fashion trends, Lukauskiene says. Bedding made using natural fabrics, such as linen, allows the skin to breathe and promote a good night's sleep. "We keep telling customers what a wonderful experience it is to sleep in linen bed sheets and we are particularly happy when hotel, spa and restaurant owners appreciate our linen products and purchase them to pamper their guests," Lukauskiene says.
So are you pampering your guests with your bed and bed linen choices? Would Lenny Henry approve of your approach? Remember, you don't see the comedian-turned-classical-actor waxing lyrical about lumpy beds or washed-out polycotton sheets.
Premier Inn: making the bed
Premier Inn has 690 hotels and 58,000 bedrooms across the UK. Sarah Simpson, head of product development, explains the hotel chain's approach to beds and bed linen.
"We worked with bed supplier Hypnos to develop our new beds, which we believe are our best beds ever. The design has been tried and tested using a pressure mapping system developed by Hypnos. The bed is currently being rolled out across all of our 58,000 bedrooms.
"The beds are made using a mix of modern and natural materials and, together with the construction technique, this makes a bed that offers maximum support and temperature regulation. The beds have more than 1,000 pocket springs, supporting a pillow-top mattress.
"We gather regular feedback on the comfort of our beds through our internal guest satisfaction survey, which has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, feedback has been so positive about our beds that customers can now buy the bed to use at home [for £900]."
Our bed linen
"Due to the wide geographical spread of our hotels, we work with a number of commercial laundries across the UK who supply our sheets and pillow cases. The quality of this linen is regularly checked and monitored to ensure it meets a consistently high standard. The quality is also monitored at a local level by our team members, who adhere to our detailed internal brand standard guidelines.
"We have one main supplier for our duvet covers, for which we specify the design and quality, including the thread count. These are then laundered and distributed alongside the other linen.
"Overall, the feedback from our customers about our bed linen is extremely positive; again, this is one of the areas we monitor through our guest satisfaction survey.
"The focus by the Premier Inn hotel teams and our product development team on maintaining our high standards across all elements of our bedroom product is rigorous. Our product development team are constantly reviewing our bedroom products to ensure they meet and exceed our guests' expectations."
Beacon Purchasing www.beaconpurchasing.co.uk
Musbury Fabrics www.musburyfabrics.co.uk
You need to be a premium member to view this. Subscribe from just 99p per week.
Already subscribed? Log In