To a veteran of the restaurant business, bathrooms are a clear indicator of the interests and direction of the management of the company. Bathrooms say everything you would need to know about the business—the attention of the managers, the involvement of the operator, everything. In fact, as a long-time restaurant manager, I’m more aware than I want to be when I step into a restaurant bathroom. Whether I want to or not, I pay attention to…
• The dust in the vents.
• The tile grout in the corner beneath the sink.
• The squeakiness of the stall door.
• The placement of sink accoutrements (soap, mouthwash, paper cups, etc.)
Of course, the state of the bathroom says something different for the average customer. It speaks to an overall quality of the dining experience in a subconscious way. Guests who have subpar experiences in a restaurant often have trouble saying it was about lunch or dinner that wasn’t that good. “I don’t know,” they might say. “The food was okay, and the service was fine, I guess. It just wasn’t a great dinner.”
Drive the Point Home
For most guests, the value of the experience hinges on a few variables. When these variables start to go one direction or the other, a guest is perceptive to them. If the hostess was nice and the appetizer was delicious, a winning entrée can clinch a new guest. On the other hand, if the server was short and the pre-dinner drink was watered down, a mediocre entrée can be the final straw.
Bathrooms most often reinforce what the guest is already sensing, consciously or not. When guests rave about the classy accoutrements or polished surfaces in the bathroom, they’re really saying that they enjoyed their meals, or that the service was outstanding. Most restaurants need a clincher to drive the point home to a new guest that the dining experience was excellent, and the bathroom is a great way to make it happen.
What Clean Bathrooms Say
A great bathroom says many things to a guest, whether or not they have a trained eye. Guests leaving your well-appointed and impeccable bathroom know that you…
• Take hygiene seriously.
• Are happy to go the extra mile.
• Have a well-trained staff.
• Have a keen eye for detail.
• Probably apply the same standards to the kitchen.
The opposite is true for the dirty, poorly-kept restaurants. This is especially the case in fine-dining restaurants, or those with high-priced menus. It continues to amaze me that an upscale restaurant can have a restroom that needs attention.
Most guests in most restaurants are going to visit the bathroom. In fact, most guests only see three parts of your building: the lobby, their table, and the bathroom. How a restaurant operator can fail to make sure the bathroom is as well-kept as the table and lobby is difficult to understand.
Why and How to Make Bathrooms Your Passion
The way most bathrooms in most restaurants begin to decline is that someone (a specific manager or the operator) took their appearance seriously, but that person gets distracted and the routine cleaning peters out naturally. It happens everywhere. Business leaders in this business are especially prone to declining efforts in some direction. There’s only so much time in the day, and there are fires to put out.
At the same time, every management team has their checklist of tasks to get done in a given week. The bathroom has to be part of that list. It starts at the top. Restaurant operators have to commit themselves to being passionate about the bathroom.
• Get angry about it in meetings.
• Penalize a manager for failing to keep it clean.
• Reward someone for taking the extra time.
• Surprise the staff by checking it periodically.
• Clean it yourself to get the point across.
Make these steps part of your routine and you’ll be sure to have clean, well-appointed bathrooms that can clinch the experience and win over new guests.