Restaurants rely on repeat custom. Customers expect dining out to provide an experience that goes beyond just good food and are quick to dismiss a venue that isn’t up to scratch. Making a good first impression is key to creating a loyal customer base and owners need to think about how they are meeting expectations from the moment visitors walk through the door to the moment they leave.
Owners often channel their efforts towards things like furnishings and décor in dining rooms and lobbies, but this is redundant if the basics are not in place. Cleanliness is one of the biggest influences of customer perceptions. Restaurants that appear unhygienic in front-of-house areas can often lead to visitors questioning a business’ hygiene standards in the kitchen.
Washrooms can be one of the easiest areas to overlook but are also one of the biggest influences of customer experience. We recently conducted a YouGov study which found that 97% of 2,012 British adults are put off returning to a restaurant if its restrooms appear unclean.
One bad experience is also likely to spread much further via word of mouth and even social media. Our study also found that 85% of people would advise others against visiting a restaurant if washrooms were unsatisfactory, with a further 24% saying they would make a public complaint online.
This can be incredibly damaging to a restaurant’s business, particularly those that may not have the marketing budget to combat negative reviews. Ensuring consistency is key and, in reality, washroom checks usually fall to the bottom of employee’s priority lists, particularly during busy shifts.
Instead, it’s worth investing in hygiene solutions that can work in the background to maintain cleanliness automatically, limiting the burden on staff and providing managers with peace of mind that washrooms are staying clean.
Owners should be aware of certain customer bug bears in the washroom and work to ensure their facilities combat them. For example, our survey found that more than half of British people are put off by a weak hand drier. Poorly dried hands are also a key way that germs can leave the washroom and spread throughout the building, as transmission is much easier on damp hands. With this in mind, installing powerful but energy efficient automatic hand driers help meet customer expectations, promotes hand hygiene and reduces the possibility of mess caused by discarded paper towels or dispensers needing to be restocked.
Likewise, touch-free soap dispensers both promote good hand hygiene and don’t need to be refilled as often. And, another key washroom irritation is a lack of soap. Auto-dispensers also reduce the chance of soap spills and drips, ensuring sink areas are kept clean and presentable. We also found that two thirds of people find bad smells the most off-putting in a restroom, and automated fragrance units should be installed to ensure washrooms stay fresh throughout the day. Water management solutions are also available to control bad odours in male washrooms without the need for constant cistern flushing.
High-performing hygiene solutions that maintain cleanliness can also be stylish. The rise of the ‘bathroom selfie’ – with currently over a million hashtagged posts on Instagram – means that restaurant’s washrooms are often regularly shared on social media and increasingly, washroom fit outs are designed to reflect a business’ brand. Product ranges are available that combine superior functionality with design, meaning managers can install washroom fittings that suit their venue’s overall image, as well as maintaining great levels of hygiene.
Outside the washroom, the entire premises should exude cleanliness and extra attention should be paid to commonly missed areas such as vents and skirting boards. Doormats are another key area that is often overlooked and using a regular laundering service, rather than just vacuuming can help improve appearances. Vacuuming only removes 10% of dirt and mats can quickly become clogged and ineffective if they are not thoroughly cleaned.
An attractive, clean and high-quality washroom is essential to creating positive customer experiences and repeat custom. The key is to go above and beyond mere functionality to create a valuable asset in itself, that helps promote a business’ commitment to hygiene and reduces the burden on employees to keep them clean throughout the day. By ensuring that washrooms work automatically to support perceptions, staff’s time can be focused elsewhere to deliver exceptional customer service.
By Steve Nurdin, marketing manager at hygiene and waste management provider Cannon Hygiene