Customers expect a restaurant to provide a delightful dining experience, from the food to the service to the restrooms. The level of cleanliness in a restaurant’s restroom speaks volumes about the entire business, especially if it’s a disaster zone. According to a recent survey by retail consulting firm King-Casey, 78 percent of restaurant-goers rank a clean restroom as a strong indicator of a clean kitchen, and vice versa. Additionally, over 94 percent of the surveyed group felt that restroom cleanliness is more important today than ever before.
Modern-day customers are more aware of what they eat and where they eat, often checking online reviews before trying out a new restaurant. They’re also equipped with smartphones and social media, which means a quick snapshot of a messy restroom could easily go viral, harming a restaurant’s reputation in the process. It’s crucial for restaurant owners to take sanitation seriously in order to avoid potential catastrophes. One of the best ways to ensure a restaurant restroom exceeds customer expectations is to take a walk in the customer’s shoes.
Expectation vs. Reality
Customers expect public restrooms to provide high-quality essentials, like toilet paper and paper towels, at all times. They also want clean floors and tidy stalls, streak-free mirrors, and unclogged sinks and toilets. Updated fixtures like touchless faucets and soap dispensers are an added bonus, showing that the business cares about its customers.
Unfortunately, the reality is that these expectations aren’t always met in restaurants. It only takes one messy customer or forgetful employee to turn a picture-perfect restroom into a disaster zone. According to a survey by Zogby International, more than 80 percent of consumers would avoid eating at a restaurant with a dirty restroom again. If trash bins overflow with waste or a clogged toilet causes unpleasant odors, customers will take notice and it could negatively impact their experience. But a messy facility doesn’t just turn away current customers; negative online reviews and social media sites that encourage sharing, like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, can also discourage potential customers from ever entering an establishment.
Many of today’s customers expect a sustainable, locally sourced menu, as well as environmentally-friendly features throughout a restaurant. Failing to incorporate green strategies, like low-flush toilets and biodegradable toilet paper, eliminates the opportunity for a restaurant to build its brand and customer loyalty, as well as reduce its operational costs.
Clean Restroom Components
Restrooms are an extension of the restaurant, so it’s important for managers to listen to customers and incorporate their needs and wants into a restroom. A study by Deb Group found that 75 percent of people prefer paper towels to hot air dryers. Paper towels can dry hands quicker and more thoroughly than air dryers, and they also keep customers safe from dangerous restroom germs. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that jet dryers spread germs 1,300 times more than paper towels.
King-Casey’s study showed customers appreciate soft and absorbent toilet paper, opposed to thin or waxy paper. Managers should look for paper products that are high-quality and feature dissolvable and biodegradable technology to keep drains free of expensive clogs. Purchasing high-quality toilet paper is a better long-term investment because customers will need to use less paper. This will result in environmental and cost savings, while keeping stall floors free of torn and shredded low-quality paper.
Guests also value automated soap dispensers, faucets, and paper towel dispensers since they limit germ transmission and unnecessary waste. Restaurants may also want to consider installing touchless trash receptacles and entrance doors that have foot pedals or open automatically via sensors.
Establishing regular maintenance routines helps keep restroom disasters from happening or going unnoticed by staff. Restaurant managers can utilize the following tips to maintain a sparkling restroom image.
- Use a cleaning log. Employees should keep track of when and how often restrooms get cleaned via a cleaning log. This ensures people are held accountable and regularly maintain restrooms. Restrooms should be checked multiple times a day, and especially during busy hours.
- Clean from top-to-bottom. Along with a cleaning log, managers should provide a list of duties that employees must perform while cleaning restrooms. A step-by-step guide reminds workers to focus on smaller, yet critical, areas that are often overlooked, like light switches and soap dispensers.
- Use a cleaning cart. Restaurants should have a cleaning cart dedicated to restroom use, with supplies such as disinfectants, plungers, scrubbers, towels, and mops. Having an all-in-one cart helps employees stay organized and gives them everything they’ll need to properly clean. It also reduces the opportunity for cross-contamination in critical areas like the kitchen and dining room.
- Stock up on products. A restroom can’t function properly unless necessary products and essentials are available at all times. Employees should ensure that restrooms have enough toilet paper, paper towels, and soap products, and that storage closets are stocked with extra inventory that is easily accessible.
Achieving Restroom Success
While great meals and customer service help restaurants achieve success, a clean restroom also plays a key role. Restrooms, when properly maintained, communicate that restaurants care about food safety, customer and employee satisfaction, and their reputation. Don’t flush away the opportunity to grow your restaurant into a respected business by only focusing on select front-of-house areas, like your dining area. Design, maintain, and stock your restrooms accordingly and you can strengthen customer loyalty and the bottom line.
Vitali is vice president AFH marketing and sales for Sofidel America.