Win Customer Trust With Clean, Well-equiped Restaurant Washrooms

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A restaurant may have the best decor and menu on the street, but if its restrooms aren’t up to standard, customers could lose trust in the operation and avoid a repeat visit. “People don’t choose a restaurant based on the washrooms,” confirms Shannon Bruhm, VP, Operations for RCR Hospitality Group in Halifax, “but if they’re dirty, they won’t come back.”

The numbers support this claim. According to research from Mississauga, Ont.-based Cintas Canada Ltd., 94 per cent of respondents said they would avoid a dining establishment in the future if they encountered dirty restrooms. The top turn-offs noted were dirty or sticky floors (93 per cent); unflushed toilets (90 per cent); odour (89 per cent); and overflowing trash cans (88 per cent). A survey by Rochester, N.Y.-based Harris Interactive, undertaken on behalf of U.S.-based SCA Tissue North America, shows 88 per cent of people visiting restaurants felt restroom cleanliness reflects the hygiene standards throughout the establishment, including in the kitchen and food-prep areas. So, it’s essential to enforce a restroom maintenance program with hourly, daily, weekly and monthly cleaning responsibilities based on traffic patterns.

John Stratigeas, owner of Tin Cup Sports Grill locations in Oakville, Burlington and Brantford in Ontario, typically dedicates at least 12 per cent of his budget to his restrooms when building a new restaurant. Stratigeas makes a point of enforcing a daily cleaning regime as well as a monthly professional deep clean. His service’s workers scrub grout lines and tile surfaces as well as under toilet rims and around fixtures and counters that other cleaning might miss. “Once a month we have HCS [Hygiene Consulting Solutions] come in with machines to sanitize everything from top to bottom,” he affirms. Burlington, Ont.-based HCS uses a proprietary Kaivac cleaning system. Depending on the size of the facility and design, the starting rate for deep-clean services is $120.

But, good washroom sanitation takes more than regular cleaning and restocking of supplies — design and good equipment also comes into play. “It doesn’t have to look institutional. What’s more important is that it’s designed so everything is easier to keep clean,” says Doug Feltmate, director of Foodservice and Hospitality for Montreal-based consulting company WSP Canada and owner of Brasserie D’Orleans in Ottawa. Wall-hung toilets, for example, provide a clear space underneath for mopping, although there is one caveat. “They can be pricier, because the walls have to be reinforced and the installation is more complicated; and they have to be ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant,” Feltmate explains. A typical floor-type toilet with a tank costs approximately $400, while a wall-hung toilet installation could cost up to $2,000.

If that’s not an option, Feltmate recommends a toilet with a straight side wall on the base so there are no crevices, flat parts or knobs that can accumulate bacteria and dirt. These would cost approximately $20 to $30 more than a standard toilet design.

The Brasserie D’Orleans owner’s faucets of choice are hands-free (battery-powered or wired in, depending on preferences). The key to hands-free faucets is ensuring there is enough water flow to effectively clean hands. Hands-free faucets cost between $200 and $400, while a conventional one costs between $110 and $120.

Minimizing counter space around sinks can also help keep a washroom space clean. “I don’t like long counters, because they accumulate water and look dirty. I prefer smaller wall-hung or pedestal sinks,” Feltmate notes. “A wall-hung or freestanding pedestal sink would set you back $200 to $300 per item. You could easily spend $250 a foot for a long counter with sinks, depending on the materials you choose.”

Soap dispensers should also be considered carefully since some wall- or deck-mounted systems often drip on countertops. Dispensers are typically supplied by the chemical suppliers at no capital cost.

Although more sophisticated hand dryers can effectively clean hands, Feltmate notes that disposable paper towels tend to be more sanitary. “A good practice is to put the waste can at the door, so patrons can use the towel to open the door and then throw it away as they leave,” he advises.

What’s more, Mary Ellen McMurtry, principal at McMurtry Art & Design Incorporated in Dartmouth, N.S., says studies on bathroom health and safety have shown that larger cubicles are more hygienic. “The typical three-by-five foot stall is simply too small. A person’s legs can be touching toilet paper dispensers or sanitation bins. And they don’t allow women to bring in a stroller or give people with disabilities the space to move around.” Where possible, she recommends a six-foot-by-nine-foot 3/8-inch stall with an outward swinging door. “Women’s washrooms also need three times more cubicles than men, because they take three times as long in washrooms,” she says.

Shapes and surfaces play another important role in restroom sanitation. McMurtry explains that marble can collect bacteria, because it’s very porous and wood or carpeting should be avoided since they both absorb odours. In terms of floors, non-slip materials should be used in areas where there may be a lot of water, and drains should be installed in case a toilet overflows.

A lot of thought was put into the restrooms at the Ottawa Convention Centre (OCC), which was a finalist in a recent restroom design competition. Valerie Roux, director of Operations at the OCC, notes that the space includes wide-open floors for easy cleaning with wall-hung toilets and urinals and stalls suspended from the ceiling. The counters and sinks have a seamless single-surface design with under-the-counter sinks and laminate counters. The faucets and soap dispensers are touchless.

The OCC’s green housekeeping program ensures green cleaning products and hand soap are used alongside recycled paper for toilet paper and paper towels — since hand dryers consume too much energy and time in the high-traffic space.

To top it off, the OCC has a rainwater collection system that supplies the majority of the water to the 122 toilets and urinals in the facility. “That’s a huge water-saver. We even have signage in the washrooms explaining the benefits of our water cistern,” Roux says. It’s just one more way to impress patrons, instill confidence in the facility and improve the overall experience.

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