For many new restaurant owners, priorities like décor, menu planning and staffing tend to occupy so much time and headspace that something as seemingly mundane as bathrooms often come as an unexpected afterthought. While the bathrooms will never be the reason that customers come to your restaurant, a good bathroom experience could be one of the reasons they come back and a surprisingly large number of patrons subscribe to the maxim of “if the bathroom is dirty, so is the kitchen”. It is for these reasons that many experienced restauranteurs give their bathrooms high priority and devote as much thought and design time to them as many more obvious aspects of the restaurant.
Design and Set-Up
The first step is to sit down with whoever is working on your interiors and work through the design options. At this point, it is vital to keep legal compliance in mind. There are a host of local and state laws regarding technical requirements, hygiene, access and customer/toilet ratios. Most architects and interior designers should have a fairly good idea of these requirements and can work the design elements around them. However, if in doubt, always consult your local health department as non-compliant toilets can lead to expensive and frustrating problems.
Explore various options for best use of space. Many modern restaurants are opting for more unconventional toilet layouts – unisex stalls and communal wash basins can both work wonders for maximizing space in smaller restaurants (just keep that legal compliance in mind!)
Handicap access – It should go without saying but remember to include the necessary requirements for guests with disabilities.
Don’t cut corners with set up and plumbing. While it can be tempting to look for cost cutting options, any restauranteur that’s had to deal with backed up plumbing in the middle of a busy Friday night will tell you it’s not worth it. The short term savings are not worth the long term pain and expense of pulling up pipes and renovating bathrooms once a restaurant is up and running. Get the job done right the first time and enjoy those Friday night’s without a plunger in hand.
Attention to detail
Once the construction and plumbing work is done, it’s time to go through your bathroom experience step by step. Attention to detail is what turns an ordinary bathroom experience into a memorable one. Those brief moments where a guest thinks “I didn’t know I needed that but now that you mention it, that’s amazingly helpful!”
Things to look out for can include:
- Placing hooks on doors for jackets and handbags,
- The quality of the soap – Go for neutral colours and softer fragrances over the bright pink, chemical scented liquid you’d find in a gas station.
- Fabric hand towels over paper towels or air dryers (and somewhere to put those hand towels when you’re done)
- Plants, interesting décor or talking points.
Remember to get walk-throughs and feedback from both men and women as we all look for different things in a bathroom.
As previously mentioned, it has become a (not unreasonable) habit among many restaurant goers to draw parallels between bathroom cleanliness and the hygiene of the rest of the establishment. At the very least, a dirty bathroom can create an impression that the staff and management don’t care very much, at the worst, it can completely ruin a guest’s evening.
The best way to maintain strict cleanliness is to implement a bathroom cleaning roster. Develop a list of check points, designate someone whose responsibility it is to check them at least once every hour (this could be increased during peak times) and ensure that management sign off on the check list every 2-3 hours depending on how busy your restaurant is.
Obvious check points can include:
- Checking that waste and sanitary bins are emptied
- Toilets are flushed and clean
- All surfaces are clean and floors are mopped with no puddles of water left on the floor.
- Toilet paper holders, soap dispensers and hand towels are replenished
- Mirrors are wiped down.
Try to be aware of bad smells, both in the bathroom as well as in the nearby vicinity. Being seated near a bathroom entrance with a strong smell of cleaning chemicals or worse can be a very off-putting experience for guests.
Once your bathrooms are looking great and working well, it is vital they are kept that way. Your cleaning roster should ensure that they stay clean but it is very important that regular maintenance checks are done. Restaurant bathrooms are hard-working places and after a while, parts will start to wear out and problems will occur.
Be sure to perform a maintenance check at the start of every day and at the end of every night and develop a system to ensure any problems are passed on to the relevant person and resolved quickly.
Common problems to look out for can include dripping taps or pipes, broken or chipped toilet seats, mirrors or basins, stall door locks wearing out or breaking and broken or chipped tiles.
- Comply with legal requirements
- Explore interesting and functional design elements
- Make your bathrooms accessible for all guests, including those with disabilities
- Don’t cut corners on plumbing
- Walk through the bathroom experience step by step
- Look for opportunities to provide conveniences and luxuries
- Get feedback from men and women
- Develop a bathroom cleaning roster
- Assign responsibility and timings (eg. Check once every hour)
- Ensure management signs off on checks every 2-3 hours.
- Perform twice daily maintenance checks
- Develop a system to ensure problems are resolved quickly