Attended vs. Unattended Laundromat: What to Consider

Laundry day: for many a chore, but for you, an opportunity! As a laundromat investor, you know opening a laundromat is your ticket to becoming a sustainable, profitable, and community-benefiting business owner but one major decision stands between you and opening those doors for the first time. That’s choosing between an attended (full-service) and unattended (self-service) laundry business model. This decision goes beyond staffing. It shapes your level of involvement in the business, the demographics you plan to serve, the services you can provide, and the entire customer experience. 

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Learn more about the growing laundry market, key considerations for getting started, and more in Cents' exclusive guide on wash and fold services.

Understanding the pros and cons of each model is important for setting your business on the path to success. We’ll help you understand the pros and cons of each model, important factors like target audience, location, and competition, tips for carving out your niche in a competitive market, and initial steps for launching your successful laundry business, no matter which model you choose!

Understanding attended laundromats

While the US laundry industry had humble beginnings, a new era is ushering in a model that offers a more personalized touch: attended laundromats. This laundry model takes the community staple to the next level, providing on-site staff to assist customers with their laundry needs, creating a welcoming and convenient experience.

What is an attended laundromat?

An attended laundromat features staff to assist customers with laundry needs. They offer personalized service, help with machine operation, and sometimes provide additional services like wash and fold or pickup and delivery. While offering convenience, they typically have higher operating costs due to staffing requirements.

Key features:

Beyond the human touch, attended laundromats boast several key features:

  • Customer service: Attentive staff are available to answer questions, operate machines for those who need help, and provide guidance on detergent selection and washing procedures.

  • Security: Having staff on-site creates a safer environment for customers and deters potential theft or vandalism.

  • Additional services: Unlike their self-service counterparts, attended laundromats often offer ancillary services that enhance convenience for customers, such as:

    • Wash and fold: This service takes the burden off customers, with staff handling the entire laundry process, from washing and drying to folding and packaging.

    • Pickup and delivery: For those with even tighter schedules, some attended laundromats offer convenient pickup and delivery services, eliminating the need to visit the laundromat altogether.

    • Commercial wash and fold: This service caters to businesses with high laundry volume, offering efficient and professional laundry solutions.

Advantages of attended laundromats

Choosing an attended laundromat comes with several advantages for both customers and owners:

  • Enhanced security and loss prevention: The presence of staff deters theft and vandalism, creating a safer environment for everyone.

  • Improved customer service leading to customer satisfaction and loyalty: Attentive staff can address concerns, answer questions, and provide guidance, fostering a positive customer experience that builds loyalty.

  • Ability to offer ancillary services: The availability of staff allows attended laundromats to offer various services like wash and fold, pickup and delivery, and commercial laundry solutions, generating additional revenue streams.

  • Wash and fold: This service offers immense convenience, freeing customers from the entire laundry process, allowing them to focus on other priorities. It can be particularly appealing to busy individuals, families, or those with limited mobility. As an owner, you can easily manage this clientele with a modern business management tool like Cents OS.

  • Pickup and delivery: This service adds another layer of convenience, eliminating the need for customers to visit the laundromat altogether. Staff pick up laundry from their homes or offices, clean it, and deliver it back, saving them valuable time and effort. A luxury service like this becomes easy to manage with solutions like Cents Dispatch.

  • Commercial wash and fold: This service caters to businesses, offering efficient and professional laundry solutions for uniforms, linens, or other bulk laundry needs. It allows businesses to outsource their laundry needs, freeing up resources and ensuring clean and professional-looking uniforms or linens.

  • Higher revenue opportunity: By offering additional services, attended laundromats can increase their revenue potential, attracting a wider customer base and catering to diverse laundry needs.

Challenges of attended laundromats

While offering numerous benefits, attended laundromats also present some challenges:

  • Higher operational costs due to wages: Employing staff significantly increases costs compared to self-service models. This can impact pricing and profitability.

  • Challenges in managing staff: Hiring, training, scheduling, and managing staff can be time-consuming and require dedicated effort from the owner or manager.

Understanding unattended laundromats


Unattended laundromats have been a mainstay in American culture for a century, offering self-service laundry, convenience, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness for both owners and customers.

What is an unattended laundromat?

An unattended laundromat operates without on-site staff. Customers use self-service technology to pay for, operate, and monitor their laundry cycles, typically through coin collectors, card readers, or mobile apps. This model streamlines operations, reduces overhead costs, reduces staffing needs and allows for extended hours, often offering 24/7 access.

Key features:

Unattended laundromats offer a unique set of advantages for both owners and customers, with key features that prioritize:

  • Self-service operation: Customers enter using access codes or key cards, allowing for flexible scheduling and avoiding reliance on specific business hours.

  • Cashless payment options: Provide convenient payment methods like credit cards, debit cards, or mobile wallets, eliminating the need for cash.

  • Clear instructions and signage: Guide customers through the laundry process, ensuring a smooth and self-explanatory experience.

  • Remote monitoring: Systems like Cents Connect allow owners to monitor machine activity in real-time, enabling proactive maintenance and minimizing downtime.

  • Lower operational costs: Eliminate the need for on-site staff, resulting in reduced labor expenses compared to attended laundromats.

  • Flexible staffing options: Employ part-time staff for limited hours, such as for restocking supplies or addressing customer inquiries, further optimizing costs.

  • Scalability: The model can be easily scaled to accommodate additional locations without significant staff increases, facilitating business expansion.

Advantages of unattended laundromats

Unattended laundromats offer a unique set of advantages, with key benefits that contribute to:

  • Lower labor costs: Eliminating the need for on-site staff significantly reduces operational expenses, making unattended laundromats a cost-effective business model. This translates to competitive pricing for customers, making laundry services more accessible.

  • Reduced operational costs: Beyond labor, unattended laundromats benefit from lower overhead costs. Streamlined operations, combined with efficient technology like Cents Connect, minimize expenses associated with scheduling, payroll, and employee management.

  • Less time spent at the laundromat: Unattended laundromats offer convenience and flexibility. Customers can wash and dry their clothes at their own pace, eliminating the wait times often associated with traditional laundromats. This is particularly beneficial for busy individuals and families seeking to optimize their time.

Challenges of unattended laundromats

While unattended laundromats offer several advantages, they also present certain challenges that require careful consideration:

  • Restricted on adding additional services: Unlike attended laundromats, offering wash-and-fold or dry cleaning services might be difficult due to the lack of on-site staff.

  • Potential for customer dissatisfaction: The absence of staff can lead to customer dissatisfaction if they encounter technical issues or require assistance during their laundry cycle. Addressing this challenge requires clear signage, user-friendly technology, and readily available customer support channels, such as phone numbers or online chat options.

Remote laundromat management

Cents Connect empowers attended and unattended laundromat owners to manage their businesses remotely. This modern laundromat technology allows for:

  • Real-time monitoring of machine activity: Track wash cycles, identify potential issues, and ensure smooth operation.

  • Remote diagnostics: Address minor issues remotely, minimizing downtime and inconvenience for customers.

  • Data-driven decision making: Gain valuable insights into usage patterns, optimize pricing strategies, and make informed business decisions.

By leveraging innovative solutions like Cents Connect, aspiring laundromat entrepreneurs like you can build a successful laundromat that caters to modern customer needs, no matter what model you choose.

Read more: Types of Laundromat Payment Systems: Explained

Comparing attended vs. unattended laundromats

No matter which laundromat model seems more enticing, operational efficiency is essential. Striking the right balance between labor costs, technology, customer satisfaction, and revenue generation is crucial for your success. Keep reading to learn more about the operational intricacies of attended and unattended laundromats.

Labor and technology

Attended laundromats rely heavily on on-site staff. While this personal touch enhances customer service, it also translates to higher labor costs. Hiring, training, and managing staff requires significant investment, impacting overall operational efficiency. However, technology plays a supporting role in attended laundromats, with systems like Cents Connect facilitating remote monitoring, maintenance, and data analysis.

Unattended laundromats, on the other hand, streamline operations by eliminating the need for on-site staff. This translates to lower labor costs and increased efficiency. However, technology has its role in this model, too. Systems like Cents Connect become non-negotiable for managing machine activity, ensuring smooth operation, and providing remote access for troubleshooting and maintenance.

Training attendants

While attended laundromats require initial investment in staff training, this can ultimately enhance efficiency. Well-trained attendants can:

  • Operate machines efficiently, minimizing downtime and potential customer frustration.

  • Provide guidance and assistance to customers, reducing the need for them to troubleshoot issues themselves.

  • Maintain a clean and organized facility, contributing to a positive customer experience.

Setting up an attended laundromat requires more upfront effort compared to its unattended counterpart. This includes:

  • Designing a layout that accommodates both customer and staff needs.

  • Investing in additional equipment for services like wash and fold.

  • Developing protocols and procedures for staff to follow.

While this initial investment requires more work, it can be offset by the potential for increased revenue through additional services and potentially higher customer satisfaction.

Customer satisfaction

Both attended and unattended laundromats strive to deliver a positive customer experience. However, they achieve this through different approaches:

Attended laundromats:

  • Offer personalized service and assistance, addressing customer concerns and resolving issues promptly.

  • Maintain a clean and secure environment due to staff presence.

  • Can cater to a wider range of customer needs, including those who require assistance or prefer not to operate machines themselves.

Unattended laundromats:

  • Offer convenience and flexibility through 24/7 access and self-service operation.

  • Potentially lower costs can translate to competitive pricing, appealing to budget-conscious customers.

  • May require customers to troubleshoot issues themselves, potentially leading to frustration if they encounter technical difficulties.

Revenue generation

Unattended laundromats boast lower operational costs due to the absence of staff. This translates to potential cost savings, which can be passed on to customers through competitive pricing. However, their revenue generation is primarily limited to laundry service fees.

Attended laundromats offer the opportunity to generate additional revenue through ancillary services like:

  • Wash and fold: This service caters to busy individuals and families who value convenience and time savings.

  • Pickup and delivery: This service adds another layer of convenience, eliminating the need for customers to visit the laundromat altogether.

  • Commercial laundry: This service caters to businesses with high laundry volume, offering efficient and professional laundry solutions.

While these services require additional investment in terms of staff and potentially equipment, they can significantly boost revenue potential.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Coin Laundromat: Everything to Know

Attended vs. unattended laundromat comparison chart


Attended Laundromats

Unattended Laundromats

Labor Costs



Technology Reliance



Staff Training


Not Required

Initial Setup

More Work

Less Work

Customer Satisfaction

Potentially Higher

Potentially Lower

Revenue Generation

Potential for higher revenue through additional services

Primarily limited to laundry service fees


The choice between an attended and unattended laundromat depends on various factors, including target audience, location, competition, and business goals. If you seek to prioritize customer service, offer additional services, and potentially generate higher revenue might find the attended model more suitable. But, if you’re more focused on optimizing cost efficiency and offering a self-service, convenient option you might lean towards the unattended model.

Making the right choice for your business

Choosing between an attended and unattended laundromat is a big decision when venturing into the laundry industry. Both models offer unique advantages and disadvantages, and the right choice for you depends on several factors.

Major factors to consider:

  • Location: Consider the demographics and needs of your target audience. Urban areas might favor unattended models due to busy lifestyles, while suburban areas might benefit from the personalized touch of attended laundromats.

  • Target market: Identify your ideal customer. Are they budget-conscious and value convenience, or do they prioritize personalized service and additional options like wash and fold?

  • Competition: Analyze existing laundromats in your area. Understanding their model and offerings can help you identify potential gaps in the market and tailor your approach accordingly.

  • Personal management style: Consider your own preferences and capabilities. Are you comfortable managing staff and overseeing day-to-day operations, or do you prefer a more hands-off approach?

Cost-benefit analysis:

Before making a final decision, conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis tailored to your specific circumstances. This analysis should consider:

  • Startup costs: Compare the initial investment required for each model, including equipment, renovations, and potential staff training for attended laundromats.

  • Operational costs: Factor in ongoing expenses like rent, utilities, maintenance, and labor costs (applicable to attended laundromats).

  • Revenue potential: Analyze the potential income streams for each model, considering laundry service fees, additional service revenue (wash and fold, pickup & delivery) for attended laundromats, and potential for higher pricing in unattended models due to cost savings.

Read more: Guide to Owning a Laundromat: Operator’s Path to Laundromat Ownership

The right laundromat model: Finding your sweet spot

If you're considering an attended laundromat, you'll need to factor in the additional costs associated with staff and potentially higher initial investment for equipment and layout. However, as exemplified by Happy Bubbles, this model can be highly successful when paired with the right technology solutions. Their implementation of Cents Connect allowed them to streamline operations, improve customer experience, and increase revenue through features like pickup and delivery management. This case study demonstrates the potential of attended laundromats to cater to customers who value personalized service and additional conveniences.

Unattended laundromats, like Star Laundromats, offer the benefit of lower operational costs due to the absence of staff. However, they require robust technology solutions to ensure smooth operations and efficient remote management. Star Laundromats' success story highlights how Cents Connect can transform unattended laundromats by enabling cashless transactions, remote monitoring, and integration of various services into a single system. This case study showcases the potential of unattended models for laundromat entrepreneurs seeking a more hands-off approach and prioritizing cost-efficiency.

Ultimately, the choice between attended and unattended laundromats rests on your unique circumstances and business goals. By carefully considering the important factors, conducting a cost-benefit analysis, and learning from real-world examples, you can make an informed decision that sets your laundromat on the path to success.

Remember, regardless of the model you choose, having the right technology in place is crucial for efficient operations, superior customer service, and long-term growth. Cents Connect offers solutions for both attended and unattended laundromats, empowering you to manage your business remotely, streamline operations, and unlock new revenue streams.

In- line Blog CTA - wash and fold

Learn more about the growing laundry market, key considerations for getting started, and more in Cents' exclusive guide on wash and fold services.