Initial Textile Services gained something of a coup when it won the Bass Leisure Retail contract to handle both its textile and washroom services. This was the first time a major leisure retailer had appointed one supplier to handle both sides of the business.

Initial will not put an exact value on the deal, but does describe it as a seven figure sum. It has meant considerable reorganisation as the company put in place the necessary management structure to handle the contract and install new plant.

The Bass group takes in a diverse range of operations that includes pubs, restaurants, theme bars and hotels with a variety of brands such as Bass itself, Harvester, All Bar One, Toby Carveries and a growing hotel business including Express by Holiday Inn, Toby Lodges and a chain of small hotels that are essentially pubs with rooms called Vintage Inns.

In all, the Bass group has 3145 sites and 2430 are taking product of some kind from Initial. Darrell Wilson, trading manager for operational services at Bass says that establishing a single source of supply will make the logistics of running the business easier.

“Apart from the obvious cost benefits, having a single point of contact for the day-to-day administration of such a complicated contract, it allows us to monitor the total picture constantly. Washroom services will account for a major part of the contract. In just three months, Initial has supplied over 3500 warm-air dryers, 4000 soap dispensers, plus 9500 feminine hygiene units.

On the textile side, the contract involves kitchen-, table- and bedlinen, including duvet covers, plus a variety of workwear including chefs’ wear as well as front-of-house uniforms.

The contract is primarily rental but will also, particularly in workwear, include direct sales.

The textile rental contract covers some 70 000 pieces of flatwork per week and around 11 000 garments.

For both workwear and textiles, Bass will rely heavily on Initial’s expertise in specifying the product as well as in processing. In this respect, Initial has a particular advantage on the garment side as it has its own manufacturing and design company.

Richard Newton, group technical manager for Initial Textile Services, is responsible for both plant and product. He explains that one of the company’s strengths and a factor in winning the contract was that Initial could offer a good quality standard product with tried-and-tested processing methods already in place.

For example, in chefs’ wear, Bass mostly requires a traditional 100% cotton style. However, when the company has some special requirements, particularly for the theme bars or when Bass needs to specify a new uniform, it can consult Initial as to what can or cannot be processed. Much of the processing is based on standard methods, but here too there have been specific demands with Bass having its own special range of duvets. Management systems for the new contract fall well in line with Initial’s standard operation and the way it handles all its contracts. But in view of the Bass contract’s size and scope, it will have a dedicated management team and specific procedures. Bass staff have a dedicated freephone hotline which they can call to place orders, check on work in progress and obtain advice.

As the national accounts operations manager at Initial Textile Services, Geoff Ball has to ensure that the group delivers the service its sales force promises and he is currently focused on the account.

He explains that the group has developed a bespoke IT program with software designed to deliver feedback in real time. Initial has produced a database with a list of all Bass sites. Each site has its own access code and this logs on to an operations diary that provides a history of work processed, special products supplied and gives key performance indicators.

All phonecalls to the freephone line are logged into the system and an email link allows data from the call to be sent on to any unit allowing Initial to respond rapidly to particular requests.

The contract has had a considerable impact on Initial’s processing operation.

In all, Initial Textile Services has 13 plants, including one at North Walsham near Norwich which is devoted to hospital work. In turn, these plants operate via 36 customer service units where dirty work is accepted, sorted and sent to the appropriate site and clean work is delivered and sent to the customer.

The Bass contract impinges right across the operation, but has specifically affected six sites: Nottingham, Chorley, Bradford, Catford, Cardiff and Glasgow. The greatest changes have been at Nottingham which has the fourth largest throughput in the group. It has its own on-site customer service centre and acts as the processing plant for the Midlands. The customer base not only covers Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Birmingham, Coventry, Northampton and Peterborough but also stretches south to Watford, east to Boston and west to Stratford-on-Avon.

The plant employs 100 people, including 19 part-timers. Seventy-eight people are directly involved in production, packing and sorting, the rest take support roles in engineering, admin, driving and cleaning. Four customer service units deliver work to the plant, but Nottingham also deals with certain customers direct.

The plant processes work for Bass operations throughout the Midlands and Thames Valley areas serving 21 Bass group hotels, a mixture of Holiday Inn Expresses, Toby Inns and Vintage Inns. Three further hotels have been refurbished and will reopen before Christmas.

The textile rental requirements vary according to size and location but can be from two to five orders per week, taking in a full range of linen, towelling and chefs’ wear. The throughput also varies, but plant manager Graham Hunter says that on average the Bass workload amounts to 31 000 pieces per week. A team of seven checks-in soiled work and packs-out clean work and a further 15 are directly involved in the laundering process. Bass now accounts for around 17.5% of the plant’s flatwork throughput.

To meet its new commitment the plant had to invest around £500 000 in state of the art equipment. Space and equipment within the building had to be reorganised to accommodate the new plant and the building itself refurbished.

A new roof was installed over the area that was to house the high-speed finishing line and the floor was resurfaced.

Additional equipment includes a Lavatec high-pressure, single-stage press, three gas-heated tumblers, again by Lavatec, and a flatbed conveyor system leading from the tumblers.

The plant has a high-speed finishing line with four clipping stations, and an automatic sheet feeder following on to a three-roll 1200mm ironer and ending in an automatic folder.

As one of the main groups in textile rental, Initial naturally has an ongoing schedule of investment. However, much of the current programme at Nottingham has been on the back of the Bass contract which has proved a morale booster throughout the plant by creating new jobs.

For the whole Initial group, the sole supply deal has brought tremendous prestige and a sense of achievement.

As Rentokil Initial communications manager, Jeffrey Roberts points out, this is the first time a major retail leisure group has taken this step,and the deal could prove a pointer to the way the catering and leisure industry approaches such contracts in the future.