At the end of the day

Beds are part and parcel of furnishings and fittings, and are important indicators of the overall quality of the establishment.

A bed not only has to be comfortable, it also needs to look good, and needs to compliment décor and furnishings of the bedroom. In this article we will look at the importance of a good quality mattress and how it can impact on your AA Quality Assured (AAQA) status and help to meet, and indeed surpass, the expectations guests have of your establishment. Finally, it is a good idea to protect any investment, and a good quality mattress is no different. Here you'll find solutions to protecting your asset.

Generally speaking, a mattress is a piece of bedding that usually consists of multiple layers of foam and fibres, may have an inner coil, and is there to support the human body, especially the back, during sleep. There are many types of mattresses available, and many manufacturers that make high quality mattresses of all types. Generally speaking there are two types available, the coiled mattress with springs and the foam-type mattress  (without springs). Each type has a further two sub-types.

A coiled mattress can either be an open coil spring mattress, which is manufactured with a single coil that goes throughout the mattress, which is then covered in layers of foam and material to make one unit. The second type of coiled mattress is the pocket sprung mattress, which is made from small, individual springs, wrapped into separate fabric pockets. Generally speaking, the pocket sprung mattress is of a higher quality, as each spring reacts independently to your weight, therefore responding better to your body, giving excellent support.

In the last few years, technology in the manufacturing of foam mattresses has improved immensely. Gone are the days when foam mattresses meant lying on a lumpy, thin piece of chipped foam. Today, foam mattresses offer a superb support system and can be made to fit any base size. Foam mattresses can either be made of latex or of the technologically advanced visco-elastic (memory) foam, developed by NASA to relieve pressure on the astronauts on take-off. This remarkable material responds to your body heat and softens in the places where most contact between your body and the mattress is made. This means that your spine can stay horizontally aligned when lying on your side, giving a fantastically comfortable night’s sleep.

There are both local and international manufacturers, constructing high-quality sprung and foam mattresses, supplying the South African hospitality industry.

Marilynn Cavendish-Davies, the department head of the AA Quality Assured Programme for accommodation, feels that it is not the type of mattress, but rather the quality and condition, that will have an impact on an establishment’s grading and Quality Assured status. The bed, mattress and bedding fall into the category of Furnishings and Fittings, which plays an important role in the overall score an establishment will be given by an assessor. She says that a quality mattress is one that:

  • will last
  • is comfortable and supportive
  • will not collapse or start sagging
  • looks good i.e. has a quality covering with a pleasant pattern
  • is easy to move

Most importantly, Cavendish-Davies believes that if a bed surpasses the expectations of a guest, then the establishment has got it right. In other words, if an overnight hiking hut offers sleeping quarters, guests will be far more impressed if they get to sleep on a good quality latex or memory foam mattress, than on a lumpy canvas-covered stretch of foam rubber. That said, the opposite can also apply. In a three or four star establishment, guests will expect a comfortable bed, regardless of whether it is made from foam or springs. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your high-quality (but 10-year old) sprung mat-tresses are better than new foam mattresses. This fine balance basically lies in the expectations of your guests – give them what they expect, and in fact try and give them just that little bit more.

When buying a mattress, nothing beats actually lying on it and giving it a test run! When approaching a manufacturer, be sure to ask questions about how the mattress was constructed, what materials were used and how long it is expected to last.

Also ensure that the quality of the stitching is decent. Insist on receiving this information not only by word, but in literature too. Finally, choose the right size mattress for both the base and the room itself.

Mattresses do not come cheap, and they are a significant investment, not only for smaller guest houses and home stays, but for big hotel groups too. As with any investment, protecting your assets is the key to getting value from them. An establishment’s key investment is to look after guests, so that they will return. There is probably nothing more off-putting to a guest than dirt and an uncomfortable bed. Invest in a quality mattress and you are guaranteed to have your guests returning time and again.

To protect your mattress, the most important thing to do is to cover it with a good quality protector (see the article on Protect-A-Bed mattress protectors on page 14). Mattresses should be turned periodically (once a month), both upside down and rotated. There are manufactures that are now producing “do-not-turn” mattresses, but these should still be rotated (i.e. twisted head to toe). Another good housekeeping tip is to firstly spray regularly with a domestic insecticide and then to vacuum the mattress. This should keep the bed free of dust mites and other bed-born pests.

In light of all of this, it is clear that a good quality mattress, which translates into a good night’s sleep for your guest, can be a major boost for your establishment. Contact the manufacturers, do some research into what type, size and price mattress will suit the level of your establishment, and always try to exceed the expectations of your guests. Finally, once you have selected and purchased it, protect your investment with good quality covers and efficient housekeeping.