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The unlikely place that says a lot about your restaurant

What do you think is the most representative aspect of your restaurant from a diner’s perspective? A popular or special dish? A characteristic element of the décor that sets the tone of their dining experience? Your front of house staff? The head chef?

What about your restroom?

The message consumers take away about your restaurant could come from a mixture of tone and standard-setting items that you feel best characterise what you offer to diners. Yet one apparently important – even decisive – factor for diners is the state of the restrooms. While few would choose it as the definitive aspect of their restaurants, the restrooms can significantly influence how diners perceive you, and the likelihood they will come back.

A 2011 online survey ( conducted by Harris Interactive found that almost four in five US adults would avoid a restaurant if they encountered dirty restrooms. Restaurants topped the list of businesses people would avoid (79%), along with hotels (79%) and hospital facilities (77%). A further study ( conducted in 2013 by Opinion Research noted that more than one third of 1,005 US adults it surveyed had left a place of business because the restroom smelled like urine.

Foodservice businesses in particular should therefore be aware of the importance of keeping high standards of cleaning across areas like public restrooms. People visiting dirty restrooms, if not disgusted enough by the experience to leave for that reason alone, may be led to wonder about the cleaning standards elsewhere. After all if an open, public space like the restrooms is not as clean as they would expect, visitors could be forgiven for fearing about the state of closed, staff-only spaces – like the kitchen.

A thorough and consistent approach to cleaning is needed. The rigour and regularity applied to keeping your kitchen area clean should also be transferred to the public areas, particularly restrooms.

Rigorous cleaning should be scheduled for regular intervals. Frequent and consistent checks should be undertaken by staff members who are trained to monitor particular sources of poor hygiene and odours. A simple checklist might help here. These checks could be done more frequently around busy periods too – for instance, prior to dinnertime service. Responsibility for regular checks to high standards should be clearly assigned within your team.

And the required cleaning materials, such as wipes and cleaning fluids, should be readily available to encourage use during inspections for any minor clean-ups needed to get the facilities up to scratch.

With the proper care and attention, this sometimes overlooked aspect of your restaurant won’t do your business a disservice – and you won’t find people heading from the restroom and straight for the exit.