Photo courtesy of Front Desk Supply.
In the face of COVID-19, Front Desk Supply saw a surge in clients requesting sanitizers and cleaners for hotel key cards, like the ones pictured above.

Photo courtesy of Front Desk Supply. In the face of COVID-19, Front Desk Supply saw a surge in clients requesting sanitizers and cleaners for hotel key cards, like the ones pictured above.

Front Desk Supply is a Carmel Valley-based supplier of hospitality products. This includes hotel key cards, key card holders, notepads, pens, in-room signage like “Do Not Disturb” door hangers and luggage and parking tags like the ones a hotel concierge would use. Some of its local clients include The Dana on Mission Bay, The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Pacific Terrace Hotel at Pacific Beach and the beachfront Bahia Resort Hotel.

But since COVID-19, owner Mark Zisek said he’s seen a surge in demand from established and new clients specifically for magnetic key card cleaners. Magnetic key cards are the type that are inserted into a slot and allow doors to open or lock through encoded data.

In response, he’s pivoted his business to be something like a one-stop shop of COVID-19-related supplies for hospitality companies. To meet the key card cleaner demand specifically, Zisek said he added sanitizing wipes and a sanitizing liquid that can be used to disinfect magnetic key cards to its line-up.

Experts on Key Cards

“We have seen a host of our customers come to us as experts on key cards and asking us how to sanitize them,” said Zisek, who founded the company in 2004 and has five employees. He said Front Desk Supply’s revenue is between $1 million and $3 million annually. “Our guess as to the spike in key cards cleaner is that more people are asking hoteliers how they can sanitize them. People are searching for ways to clean the cards themselves, the way you may clean a package at your front door or sanitize your hands.”

As a result, for the past two or three months and after seeing a roughly 90% dip in sales at the beginning of the pandemic, Front Desk Supply is running at probably 60% of typical business, he said. Zisek said the industry as a whole is running at about 40% to 50%. So, comparatively speaking, the company is 10% to 20% ahead of where the industry is in terms of sales.

Jasmin Friedman-Enriquez, senior director of sales operations at Front Desk Supply, said, so far, key card cleaners account for roughly 2% growth in business. “But we expect (that number) to grow as more properties learn about the importance and we get the word out,” she said.

Independent Boutique Hotels

Zisek attests the growth to its client list being mostly independent boutique hotels, which are leaner and nimble and have been able to keep their guests count relatively up. He said he added sanitizing wipes as well as a cleaning liquid to its product list. They each help keep the magnetic strips on the key cards free of lint and dust mites that would otherwise end up inside the insert.

Zisek said investing in the cleaning of the cards can be a more cost-effective approach than purchasing additional cards.

“The cards, depending on the technology, can cost between $0.10 and $0.30 each,” he said. “So, wiping them down quickly with sanitizing wipes or letting them sit in the sanitizing liquid are both good means to save on investment.”

One-Stop Shop

On the one-stop shop front, Zisek said Front Desk Supply has added other personal protective equipment (PPE) to its online store. This includes surface cleaning agents, hand sanitizers, wipes and different types of face masks. He also said, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company has expanded its signs offerings to include verbiage like “Make Sure to Stay Six Feet Away” and “Masks Required in Hotel”, he said.