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New Trend? The 175-room Hotel Pere Marquette Outsources Cleaning of Guest Rooms
By Steve Tarter, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

Jan. 6, 2004 - PEORIA, Ill. -- The trend towards outsourcing cleaning services is coming to the hotel industry in Peoria. 

The Hotel Pere Marquette, 501 Main St., is now contracting the cleaning of guest rooms with Sonshine Cleaners, a Bloomington company. 

"Housekeeping has been an ongoing problem for a number of years, just coming up with a number of employees and maintaining a high level of service. With constant turnover of employees, we had to do something," said Bill Carter, Pere Marquette general manager. 

The 175-room hotel, Peoria's oldest, made the change starting in January. "It's a slow time for us and a chance to try it out," said Carter, noting that his contract with Sonshine runs month to month. 

"The idea of outside contracting is new to the hospitality industry but it's been going on in (other) industry for years," he said. "We heard good things about the company. We visited their properties before making a decision." 

The Pere Marquette is the sixth hotel to be serviced by the cleaning firm owned by John and Carolyn Balota of Bloomington and the first outside of Bloomington-Normal. 

"I worked for Caterpillar for 20 years. After getting laid off, my wife and I started the company eight years ago. We now have 100 people working for us. We try to treat our people like family," said John Balota. 

Sonshine is now handling guest room needs along with guest room laundry at the Pere Marquette, said Carter, adding that Sonshine has also taken over responsibility for staffing the clean-up effort. Of the 23 people who cleaned rooms at the hotel, seven have been retained while four have been relocated, he said. The remaining 12 await assignment through Sonshine, said Carter. 

"In the long run, the contract could save the hotel money, but that's not the reason we made the move," he said. "We just didn't have the qualified personnel. To get people to come to work and meet the high standards we have is tough. This type of work is not attracting enough people. 

"We're competing with hospitals and nursing homes for this kind of worker. To maintain high standards we've been paying a tremendous amount of overtime to key people to work extra hours," Carter said. 

Tough economic times dictate greater austerity, said Carter. "Ever since the travel crunch resulting from 9-11, we've had to be cognizant of every payroll dollar we spend," said Carter. 

The largest hotel in Peoria, the 320-room Holiday Inn City Centre, 500 Hamilton Blvd., is watching the Pere Marquette contracting effort, said general manager Sami Qureshi. 

"Housekeeping definitely requires a lot of time and effort. At busy times, (staffing) can be difficult. Turnover is a problem but it's gotten better here under a new supervisor who's done a good job," he said. 

Qureshi, who employs 25 housekeepers at the downtown hotel, said there are no plans to job out housekeeping duties for the near future. "We have a good team in place," he said. 

"It's not on my 'to-do' list but I would like to see how Bill (Carter) does with it." 

-----To see more of the Journal Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to 

(c) 2004, Journal Star, Peoria, Ill. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. CAT, IHG, 


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