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What does your bathroom say about your restaurant?

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As Anthony Bourdain wrote in Kitchen Confidential, “If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like.”

Unfortunately this thought rings true for many. The adage, “we eat with our eyes” does not stop at the plate, and customer perceptions of food quality are greatly impacted by how an establishment looks. Research suggests that bathrooms can play a large role in defining the customer experience when dining.

Don’t be a conversation starter
Tissue paper product and solution supplier,Katrin, has studied Europeans’ opinions about public bathrooms since 2005. A 2010 survey revealed that if a bathroom in a restaurant is unpleasant, 72 percent of customers say they may never return. In addition 79 percent will share the information with their friends.

Too often I have experienced this and found myself making a point of it when I return from the bathroom. A bathroom experience should never be a topic of conversation in any establishment, unless you are a patron at Modern Toilet, the bathroom-themed restaurant chain based in Taiwan which serves dishes in miniature toilet bowls and has plungers hanging from the ceiling.

Given the powerful impressions that bathrooms leave on patrons, restaurateurs need to ensure that these spaces do not disappoint.

Cleanliness is Godliness
The cleanliness of a bathroom is an indication of an establishment’s overall hygiene standard. The little things can make a big difference. By making it a task for staff to monitor these spaces regularly it will ensure toilets flush, hand towel and toilet paper dispensers are replenished and overall cleanliness is achieved. And it’s not just patrons that would like to experience a well-functioning bathroom, 82 percent of employees in Katrin’s study think their wellbeing at work would improve with better washrooms.

To ensure staff are on top of cleanliness, establishment managers should look at using a hygiene monitor or written sign that indicates when a bathroom was last checked. This will help to maintain cleanliness to the highest standard. Some hygiene monitors even provide an application where patrons can rate their bathroom experience.

The greatest anxieties in Katrin’s study were bacteria and diseases. Sixty-seven percent of respondents preferred to dry their hands with paper towels in public washrooms rather than using other methods. This increased to 90 percent in workplaces.

Not only are they hygienic, but high quality paper towels and dispensers mean less waste, maintenance and product usage, decreasing the likelihood of overflowing bins and paper towels littering the floor.

Depending on the establishment, restaurant managers should think about the type of products they use to compliment the mood of the bathroom. High end restaurants may choose to use a soft embossed toilet tissue, whereas a quick service establishment may choose something more economical.

Source sustainably
Upgrading bathroom facilities is a means of improving the customer experience and can differentiate an establishment from its competition. Using sustainable, quality products in the bathroom will not only save operators money but will give patrons peace of mind that the products being used are not harming the environment.

When choosing bathroom tissue products organisations should look for brands that are environmentally friendly. Products that are certified by globally recognised forestry schemes such as PEFC (The Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification) use material that comes from sustainably managed forests.

Intelligent bathroom designs can also improve the performance of an establishment. Take some inspiration from restaurants close to home. Melbourne’s Vue de Monde and Sydney’s Flying Fish know well and truly that a bad bathroom can be a deal breaker and have spent big bucks so an outstanding dining experience is not flushed from memory. Whether its metallic walls designed to resemble the corrugated iron of an outback dunny or cubicles with clear glass that frosts over once you close the door, adding an element of difference can top off a patron’s experience.

Restaurateurs often take a holistic view of improving their surroundings which is good to a degree, but each space whether in a restaurant or bar should be seen as unique. By understanding these spaces and how patrons use them, managers can make specific improvements that will have a positive impact on their bottom line.

Jemma Logan is the corporate affairs and sustainability advisor at Solaris Paper.

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