Attended vs. Unattended Laundromat: Which Business Model Is Best For You?

If you’re considering owning a laundromat, you may be wondering what type of store you should open. The laundromat industry offers investors a high ROI and lots of flexibility – depending on your circumstances, you can choose to run an unattended store or an attended laundromat that provides extra profitable services alongside traditional self-serve laundry. So, how do you decide which is best for you? The answer will depend on a number of factors, including where your store is located, how large it is, and how much time you want to commit to running your business. In this article, we’ll examine these two kinds of laundromats to help you figure out the right option for you.

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  1. Unattended Laundromat Benefits
  2. Attended Laundromat Benefits
A photo of a laundry basket full of clothes on a blue backdrop. The text reads: "unattended laundromat"

Owning an unattended laundromat

Although less common than attended laundromats, unattended stores are possible because basic wash and dry services easily fit an automated self-service model. Whether or not this will work for your particular will depend on a few things, so here are some benefits and factors to consider before deciding.

What are the benefits of running an unattended laundromat?

  • Maximum flexibility
  • Potential to operate 24hrs
  • Eliminates the need for laundromat staff

Maximum flexibility

Maybe your goal is to create a side hustle in addition to another source of income, or maybe you’re thinking of opening up a second laundromat but are short on free hours in the week. Either way, an unattended store will require the minimum commitment of your time.

You should ensure your laundromat is well-signed with clear instructions on how to use your washers and dryers and opt for card-only payments for more security. Installing security cameras means that you’ll be able to check on your store 24/7, and with a remote management system like LaundryPulse, you’ll be notified if an issue arises with any of your equipment.

Bear in mind, however, that your unattended laundromat will still need to be cleaned at least once a day to keep things in order, and unless you install self-locking doors, someone will need to be there to open and close up. It’s also a good idea to provide a phone number, either for you or a trusted nearby friend, so customers can call someone if any problem comes up.

Without staff on-site to help your customers, choosing reliable, easy-to-use washers and dryers is essential for minimizing maintenance issues and user error. Wascomat’s unbeatable durability and user-friendly controls mean that you can trust your equipment to take care of your customers’ needs.

Potential to operate 24/7

In some cases, it might be beneficial for you to operate 24 hours to maximize the profitability of your equipment. Finding an all-night store attendant will be next to impossible, so leaving your store unattended will most likely be your only option. Think about your customers – is there a place of employment nearby that runs through the night like a hospital, airport, or all-night factory? If so, you might be able to provide a valuable laundry service to people working the night shift in your community.

Eliminates the need for laundromat staff

Unattended stores by their nature don’t require any laundromat staff. Customers come in and out, using your laundry equipment without any help from an attendant. While providing employment in your community is certainly something to be proud of, finding the right staff and organizing their shifts does take time and effort on your part.

Extra costs such as an employee uniform and productivity bonuses can all add up. Depending on what other businesses are in the area, you might be competing with other employers for the most competent and friendliest staff. So once you have found the right person, you’ll have to make sure they want to stick around!

3 reasons to run an unattended laundromat

  1. You run a smaller store (less than 2,000 square ft.)
  2. Your store is in a rural location
  3. Demographics don’t support extra laundry services

You run a small store

If you run a smaller store, the revenue brought in by your equipment may not be able to justify paying an attendant, so leaving it unattended could be your only option. If this is the case, then a fully automated, unattended laundromat could be the right choice for you in keeping your profits up.

Your store is in a rural location

If your store is in a rural part of the country or an area with a relatively small population, you may not require a fully attended store. Consider how much footfall you expect to get in your store – this will help determine whether or not your store will need attending.

Demographics don’t support extra laundry services

If your store is not located in a neighborhood with customers who are likely to avail of extra laundry services, then perhaps you don’t require a fully attended laundromat. There will be little point in employing someone to carry out wash & fold duties if your customers only want to use your self-service equipment.

Learn more about finding the right location for your laundromat business.

A photo of a smiling Black man wearing a light blue apron and holding a laundry basket. He is on a blue backdrop. The text reads: "attended laundromat".

Owning an attended laundromat

Although it will require a greater investment of your time (at least initially), running an attended laundromat gives you lots of options when it comes to maximizing your profitability and offering extra services to your customers. Let’s look at some of the factors of opening an attended laundromat.

What are the benefits of running an attended laundromat?

  • More profitability
  • Better customer experience
  • Increased security and peace of mind

More profitability

When you run a fully staffed laundromat, you increase the potential for extra avenues of income. By offering more services to your customers, you can boost store profits while generating more customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3 examples of extra profitable laundry services:

  1. Wash & fold
  2. Commercial laundry services
  3. Laundry delivery services

Wash & fold

People’s lives are growing busier by the day, so if you can cut down on the time they spend doing household chores like laundry, you’re sure to reap the rewards. If your store is located in a mixed-income neighborhood with lots of busy professionals and families, the chances are that customers will be willing to pay a bit extra for wash & fold services. They can drop their laundry off at the beginning of their day and collect it when they finish work, adding valuable minutes to their time off.

Commercial laundry services

If your laundromat is close to other small businesses that produce a lot of dirty laundry, such as salons or restaurants, offering a commercial laundry service can also be very profitable, as may offer regular, dependable business, and you’ll be able to charge more for larger loads.

Laundry delivery services

If you really want to go the extra mile with the services you provide, why not consider a delivery service? You can leave this up to your staff or hire an external courier to offer customers even more convenience and time-saving.

Better customer experience

A quote from Leppaine Washington, Area Sales Manager for Laundrylux Distribution Texas. The quote reads: "I think having the presence of someone in your laundry just makes it more profitable. Your customers know that there's always someone there they can communicate with if there's an issue."

When you run an attended laundromat, you have more opportunities to offer a great customer experience and keep them coming back week after week. If your store is unattended, the customer is entirely self-reliant, so when they have any questions about the equipment, they’ll most likely have to figure it out for themselves.

On top of benefitting from the extra laundry services listed above, many people will feel more relaxed knowing that the store is being looked after by an attendant. When you have a staff member on-site, they can keep the store tidy and clean up after any spills. On the rare occasion that an issue ever arises, it will be much easier to deal with when a staff member is there to attend to the customer’s needs.

Increased security and peace of mind

Security cameras, card-only payments, and remote management systems like LaundryPulse make it much easier to leave your store unattended these days. But in most cases, you’ll feel more at ease knowing that someone is on-site looking after your store.

Many customers will feel more secure in an attended store, especially in the evenings and when they have young children with them. If you decide to go on vacation or take a trip out of town, you’ll also appreciate having a staff member looking after things, so you don’t feel the need to keep checking your management software for updates.

3 reasons to run a fully attended laundromat

  1. You have a medium-large store (at least 2,000 square ft.)
  2. You have customers who want to pay for extra services
  3. You have the time

You have a medium-large store

If your store is at least 2,000 square ft., you’ll likely have room for plenty of energy-efficient, profit-boosting washers and dryers whose revenue will be able to support your laundromat staff. When the store is quiet, your team can be productive with extra services like wash & fold and commercial laundry to maximize your downtime.

You have customers who want to pay for extra services

Before deciding to provide additional laundry services like the ones listed above, you need to make sure that your customers are willing to pay extra for them and that your revenue stream will support your payroll costs. Important neighborhood demographics like the average income of residents close to your laundromat will help determine whether customers are likely to use the extra services a fully attended laundromat can offer.

You have the time

Whether you decide to attend the store yourself or hire staff to run it for you, opening a fully attended laundromat will require a greater investment of your time and attention, especially when you’re just getting set up.

If you decide to hire staff, bear in mind that finding the most competent and friendly candidates can sometimes be easier said than done. Once you’ve found the right person, you’ll also need to provide training to get them comfortable with the job.

Many people choose to start a laundromat as a lucrative side-hustle alongside another full-time career. Finding a location that’s close to your work or home will make it easier to check on your laundromat as often as you need to make sure everything’s running smoothly.

Learn about how a school teacher in Texas became a multi-store owner with a profitable secondary income!

What about a partially attended laundromat?

Some owners will decide that they want the best of both worlds by opening a partially attended laundromat. By operating an attended store during regular daytime hours, you can get to work on any extra services you have lined up for the day and attend to any of your customers’ needs.

If you feel that there is a market for staying open late in your neighborhood, you can choose to leave your store unattended for the duration of the evening. That way, you’re making the most of your options, and once your customers know your attended and unattended hours, they can choose a time that suits them best.

Key takeaways for maximizing your investment in a fully attended laundromat

The position of a laundry attendant has changed in recent years from a minimum wage job into an opportunity for real professional training, career experience, and a way to learn about business and marketing.

Here are some ways to ensure you’re getting the most out of your investment in laundromat staff and maximizing your store’s potential:

  1. Increase your revenue by using your store’s downtime to carry out extra services like wash & fold and commercial laundry.
  2. Promote your equipment, services, and special promotions by encouraging staff to take pictures of the store and post them on your social media channels.
  3. Train your staff to demonstrate your equipment to customers and create custom cycles to deliver the best possible laundromat experience.
  4. Create fun competitions and incentives among your team members. Why not see who can get the best Google review by the end of the month or complete the most wash & fold orders in a day?