What are the majority of you doing with your bar towels after use? Do you launder them yourselves or employ a linen service to handle that? How much does laundering cost? Does anyone have recommendations on companies to use or how to search for this locally?

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we get our towels and bar linens from CINTAS. they also launder and change our runners and rugs and take care of our soap and detergents. it's not too expensive either, they deliver once a week and it costs rought $50 (but that all depends on how many towels and linens you order per week). as far as i know they distribute nation wide.
We have about a week's supply. One of us takes them home once a week and washes them. We use a mix of terry towels and microfibers, all of which I believe came from Costco and walmart. Walkoffs came from Costco as well. Replacement cost has been minimal - everything just crossed the one-year mark and we are only now approaching time to replace the walkoffs.

We considered Cintas and another local service but couldn't see spending that much at startup for something that's such a cheap and easy DIY. We may reconsider in the future.

I guess it depends on how much value you place on your "free time". Plus some people are really grossed out by the idea of having bar rags in their home washing machines.
We get bar towels from Sam's Club, and at the end of the night we have our barista's toss them (along with aprons) in the laundry before they leave for the night. Machines on-site work well for us, but if you don't have the space, taking them home would seem to be a better option than $600/yr to have someone else wash them.
Our shop's had some issues with this. We originally were going to use Aramark, and got a boatload of aprons and towels to start off with - however, Aramark kept demanding a 5-year contract with them, and now we've basically ended up with a ton of dirty laundry. We moved to using disposable rags, which all of us hate. I took the load home and washed it once, but it was a huge pain and left a ton of dirt and nastiness in our washer. Our building's manager has offered to let us use their washing machines, so we finally have a workable solution. Worst case, I'd recommend taking it to a laundromat, to conserve your own machines and take advantage of a high-volume washer.

If you've just opened a cafe, chances are good you'll start getting offers from a variety of services. We still get people stopping by and dropping off business cards about laundry and rugs.
i forgot to mention that we launder our own aprons.
If you're flush by all means use a linen service. I take 'em home since we have large capacity HE front loader washer and dryer. Even so takes two loads for large laundry bag full like found here. I pay "us" $10 per bag/two loads to cover detergent, bleach, water & electricity. If you go this route get at least two big bags and a bag stand.
We are going with CINTAS. They will do doormats, towels, aprons, dust mops, wet mops, etc.
We were given an over under machine but were advised against it.... our city health inspector is more critical if you wash your own. We couldn't wash at home as we have pets and you never know what has been in a public machine. It just wasn't worth the risk of failing a health inspection. They can also put you logo on your door mat if you want. personal mats a bit more per month but you don't have to buy them. We thought we'd start with a solid brown color mats.
Denise Smith said:
We couldn't wash at home as we have pets...

Easy fix for you Denise - just make sure the cat isn't in the dryer before you start the load.

For those of you washing your own linens, how do you deal with all of the coffee grounds? Doesn't it make a mess in your washer? I would think that it could kill a non-commercial grade washer.
we used to wash our own towels, which was very inexpensive, but then i had to remember to do it, and a lot of times, i'd be busy and then have to remember to take the towels home and then remember to bring them back to the kitchen...all this when i was tired from a busy week. it's not like it was a big task, it was just one more thing to do each week.

now we have a linen service which for a 4 person shop costs us about $160/month plus we get aprons and those rubber floor mats, which, if any of you have tried to clean are a big pain in the butt plus take a lot of time.

i like to think of it this way...any service you pay for is saving you time which can allow you to focus on more important things that can potentially bring more money into your shop than the overall cost of the linen service. if you lack the confidence to increase your sales to help cover the cost of a linen service, then by all means it's a better solution to do the linens yourself.

the way i like to think about it is i dream of the 40 hour work week, which is really not that much time since i currently work over 60, so every hour i spend must be the most efficient use of my time. i have enough laundry at home and don't want to add another load.
What a variety of approaches to deal with this! Thank you all so much for your input...it's really made me think about the different options and how I'll handle this once I'm open for business.
John Owens said:
For those of you washing your own linens, how do you deal with all of the coffee grounds? Doesn't it make a mess in your washer? I would think that it could kill a non-commercial grade washer.

Give the coffee-covered ones a good hose-down in the sink before they go home.

Yeah, if you can cover the expense of a service that's the way to go. It just wasn't something we felt was worth the expense in our first year. Especially since they usually get washed while someone is crashed out watching tv on the sofa, not doing marketing strategies...

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