Q: Roger, The London Linen Group is your family business and the family tradition of this will play a big part of your ethos. How does your progressive direction sit with this?
Roger Oliver (RO): The family values of service, quality and listening to customer requirements continue to underpin the business. The family traditions of daily quality review and weekly service meetings continue to help drive the progressive service of the divisions whilst developing a greener service and more eco- friendly products. We are very proud that The London Linen Group has grown to be a market leader in its chosen specialist areas whilst retaining the key values of service, quality and attention to the customer of the family company. Since the company was founded in 1935 we have run an innovative and progressive business – being the first to introduce linen rental to the London market and striving to provide excellent customer service whilst looking ahead to the future. We have developed three specialist divisions within the group that each cater specifically for a unique sector of the national hospitality market. We are therefore able to tailor our products and service precisely for our individual customers in their markets of fine- dining, casual-dining and contract or event catering.
Q: You have implemented huge changes in your daily operations. What was your drive in affecting these changes?
RO: First and foremost we care about the environment and we wanted to try to make our business more environmentally for this reason. Also, we always do our very best to respond to our customers’ needs and requirements and our clients were requesting a more eco friendly supplier so that they could then pass these credentials down to their end-customers. We did, and continue to do, everything we can to make our products, processes and procedures more sustainable. This includes amongst many other things reducing our energy and water usage, reducing our linen miles (transport mileage), developing sustainable products and reducing and recycling our waste.
Q: I suppose the question is, do your customers truly care or is a piece of linen just a piece of linen?
RO: Our customers do certainly care and so do we! In our experience a piece of linen is never just a piece of linen! Nor would we want or expect it to be! Our products have to be high quality and right for the individual customer; and the service has to match this. Accompanying this are the process, logistics and values. As a linen hire and laundry company, to be a successful supplier to your customers, you have to offer and deliver the whole package.
Q: People overuse the rather grandiose phrase of ‘cultural change’. One can perhaps get excited about ‘cultural change’ in the way waste is channeled, logistics or energy savings but linen and the laundering of, is not the most exciting topic. How do you make this subject exciting so people understand the enormous changes you have made?
RO: Linen and laundry may not appear the most exciting topic but the aim of achieving an excellent high quality service essentially in a manufacturing environment is challenging for all involved. Progress has been built on service and quality, especially in The Caterers Linen Supply division where through being flexible, eco-friendly and personable, within five years we are challenging the market leader.
Q: With steep increase in costs, energy is one of the most burning topics in the industry. Have you seen payback on your investment accelerated?
RO: Yes, our return on our investment in the environment continues to be favourable in a business and philosophical sense. We have worked a great deal on reducing energy and reducing the wasted energy in our factories – this has achieved payback which does increase as energy costs climb. Unfortunately obviously so do our general energy costs! But we are in a better position with the efficiencies we have generated.
Q: You have talked about environmental benefits of your investment. You employ a large number of people, some of whom are second generation; what about the social impact of what you do?
RO: We have a large multi-cultural workforce and working together is both critical and has a wider social impact. We are a major employer in our area and take this responsibility very seriously. We have equal opportunities policies and many programmes and facilities underway to assist our staff. Their well-being is always a high priority and we are proud of our excellent staff retention rate. We endeavour to play a key role in our community and within the industry. We undertake considerable charity work and support both local and industry charities.
Q: We have touched on the ROI but have you seen an economic benefit of you helping your customers lessen their own impacts and to become better businesses?
RO: Yes absolutely. We have definitely seen an increase in business since enhancing our environmental credentials. Many businesses are delighted that we can help them to be more eco friendly and provide a more sustainable offering to their end-customers. We do everything we can to assist our customers with their sustainability goals.