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What are some of the common problems hotels & motels have with refillable bathroom dispensers?

The hospitality industry is in a continuous state of transformation as Hoteliers and Moteliers look for new ways to “wow” their guests and create superior experiences. 

Now more than ever before hotels are interested in shifting away from single-use toiletries to dispenser systems. They are often drawn to refillable dispensers, rather than non-refillable dispensers, because of the perceived cost savings and reduction in plastic waste. However, there are some common problems we have identified that many hotels experience with refillable dispensers. 

To help you out, here are some of the key challenges we have identified: 

Using refillable dispensers is more labour-intensive. 

While there are be some product cost savings affiliated with refillable dispensers they do require more time and labour from your housekeeping team to maintain compared to individual toiletries or cartridge systems

To uphold strict hygiene standards the dispensers should not be refilled in the bathroom environment, but rather they should be taken back of house and refilled in a sterilised space. This process helps you avoid the risk of cross-contamination because it reduces the possibility of bacteria getting into the opened bottles. 

So, what does this mean for your team and what’s the best process to follow? 

  • Swap the empty dispenser with a ready-filled bottle from the trolley. Depending on the product, size of the bottle and what your liquid refill level is this could be as often as once or twice a week.
  • Your team must remove the bottles from the bathroom and take them to a clean, sterilised area in the back of house. 
  • Unscrew each bottle pump top and refill the dispenser from a 5 Litre or 20 Litre container.
  • Replace the bottle pump top, wipe down the dispenser and remove any overflow to ensure the product looks its best. 
  • Once the dispensers are ready they are put on the trolleys to be redistributed back to the rooms as needed. 

As we know labour costs are always on the rise, and this coupled with New Zealand's current labour shortage is an issue in itself. So, you need to ask yourself, do you have the staff to manage the refillable dispenser processes regularly and when in peak season? Or will you be sacrificing your guest’s experience and your bottom line?

There is the possibility of contamination happening. 

When continuously refilling your dispensers you run the risk of contaminants getting into the bottles. This is because the pump tops are frequently removed by your housekeeping team during the refilling process and every time the bottle is opened the contents are exposed to the air which carries a haven of bacteria. 

The other point to consider is the wall bracket system holding the dispensers. While some are tamper-proof, others are not. Depending on what brackets you go with, it means your guests may have the ability to open the bottles and put whatever they like into them. What a scary thought! And yes, we’ve heard these stories directly from hoteliers themselves.

Some guests are concerned about refillable dispensers, which affects their peace of mind.  

When you’re guests make their booking it’s typically with the intention of having an enjoyable stay with minimal disruptions - A place where they feel relaxed and safe.  

When some guests see that the bathroom dispensers are refillable it affects their peace of mind. All of a sudden what was a great guest experience dramatically changes and they are worried about the contents of the bottles:

  • How long has it been since the dispensers were replaced?
  • Has the pump been cleaned since the last guest checked out?
  • Has the previous guest put anything inside the dispenser? 
  • Should I have brought my toiletries? 

Although this may not be a concern of yours because you know that you have the right processes in place, this is a reality for many of your guests.

The presentation of refillable dispensers can become unpleasant. 

First impressions are everything. When your guest opens the door to their room they usually sit on the bed to see how comfortable it is and then they go into the bathroom to check out the toiletries. If your team is constantly refilling the dispensers with liquid this can cause the labels on the bottles to look tattered and dirty. A guest’s bathroom experience may not seem like it plays an important role but it does directly impact customer satisfaction and their likelihood to return to your establishment. 

The pump top is not recyclable. 

The more recycling we do means there is less waste in our landfills and oceans. As we continue to evolve into an environmentally-aware society the role of sustainability and customer loyalty are closely connected. Unfortunately, the metal mechanism found inside the dispenser’s pump top is not recyclable, which goes against some hoteliers' policies. 

Dispenser replacements can be hard to manage and maintain.

As a best practice, it is recommended that you replace your refillable dispenser bottles every 4 months. To align industry standards many large global hotel chains are using this timeframe as a baseline for their hotels. However, one challenge you should be aware of is the bottles won’t always be empty after this period. So, what does your housekeeping team do with the partially used dispensers? How do you manage this change over? There is a lot of facilitating to manage, but the good news is The Hotel WEKA, an end-to-end recycling program, can help you become less wasteful. 

In Summary, 

While you may be attracted to the sustainability benefits and product cost savings associated with bulk refillable dispensers, you may be introducing a monstrosity to your already stretched labour resources which is why it’s important to consider these common challenges before finalising your buying decision. This ensures you get the best bang for your buck and also helps you create a superior guest experience.  

Need help working out the best solution for you? Please reach out to one of our team.


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About the author

Reuben Beatson

Focused on making it easy for New Zealand’s Hotel & Motel industry to create those memorable guest experiences that are key to their success, I am truly passionate about the NZ hotel industry and have been working with hoteliers for over 21 years. Living the reason we exist - To create moments of delight for people every day.