The state of a convenience store’s restroom — from overall cleanliness to design and ambiance — impacts customer perception of the entire store and affects the site’s bottom line.
In the U.S., one in two customers opt to spend more at a store with clean and well-maintained restrooms, according to the 10th Annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey by Bradley Corp. What’s more, respondents who said they would “definitely” or “probably” spend more money grew by seven points to 52% in 2019 compared to 45% in 2018.
The survey further found 64% of consumers make a conscious decision to choose a business based on its restrooms’ good condition, while 55% are unlikely to return to a business after a bad restroom experience.
When setting out to construct a Big Horn Travel Center off Interstate 20 and Markum Ranch Road in Fort Worth, Texas, Lisa Hodgkins, owner/operator of Big Horn Travel Center, knew the restrooms needed to be top-notch to attract travelers.
Hodgkins has operated c-stores for 25 years, and in addition to Big Horn Travel Center, she operates two c-store locations: Greyhound Pac-a-Sac in Strawn, Texas, and Circle H2 in Lipan, Texas. The company partnered with design firm Paragon Solutions in designing the travel center. Construction began at the end of 2016, and the site opened in April 2018.
“I wanted something almost like I would enjoy having in my home,” said Hodgkins, of the restroom design.
The Big Horn Travel Center carries a Western style and ‘Big Horn’ theme throughout the store and into the restrooms. Antler chandelier light fixtures hang above the checkout counter, while taxidermied animals — from moose heads to a lion — decorate the walls.
“At the entrance of the restrooms, there’s no door to the bathroom itself — it’s just a wall. On the entrance to the women’s (restroom), we have a big silhouette of a doe. You can see it from the hallway as you enter,” Hodgkins said. The men’s restroom likewise features the silhouette of a large buck.
“It’s a real neat accent,” she said, adding the silhouette cutouts are made of textured stainless steel. “We get lots of compliments on that.”
Inviting & Clean
Once inside, the restrooms are “very inviting, very appealing to the eye” with granite countertops and “pretty tile,” Hodgkins said. “The wall behind the sink is completely mirrored. We have wood doors. I wanted everything to be classy and upbeat. We have amber lighting, which is kind of neat. It’s just a whole lot like you would design one for your home, only bigger.”
The women’s restroom features eight stalls and the sink area measures about 15 feet across with two sinks, plus two hand dryers and paper towel dispensers. The color scheme features warm and neutral colors.
Hodgkins remains diligent about restroom cleanliness. Because grout lines can stain and cause a grimy appearance, she made sure the grout lines were as small as possible. All fixtures are touchfree, including the self-flushing toilets, sinks, hand dryers and paper towel dispensers.
(Touchfree) is “more convenient,” Hodgkins said. “It actually saves water, and so economically it was better as well. And it was also more convenient for my customers.”
When considering store restrooms at one of her sites, Hodgkins thinks about her preferences when she travels. “I’m big on clean. My employees know if they work for me, they’re going to clean.”
It’s no easy feat in a busy truck stop, with six diesel bays and a constant influx of truckers. To keep employees on top of the cleaning schedule, reminders pop up on the registers. The travel center also has a full-time maintenance staff.
The travel center is open 24 hours. “The staff that comes in at night deep cleans the restrooms. And then I also have a company that comes in once a month and washes them down top to bottom,” she said.
TA Express Coffee Cup Travel Plaza recently embarked on a redesign of its Vermillion, S.D., location at I-29 & SD Hwy 50. It partnered with Paragon Solutions for the redesign, which includes a pocket park (mini-park), a dog run, foodservice including Cinnabon, Caribou Coffee, Pizza Hut, Subway and a Grab-N-Go deli; self-serve checkout, four electric fireplaces and Mezzanine seating, as well as an upscale restroom design.
“Prior to the redesign, the restrooms were more conventional with swinging doors with manual flush valves on all fixtures,” said Tom Heinz, president, Heinz Inc. and TA Express Coffee Cup Travel Plazas, which operates four locations. “The new designed restrooms are doorless with touchfree flush valves and water faucets, and tiled from floor to ceiling.”
Toilets in both restrooms are enclosed in stalls with solid core doors for maximum privacy, he added. “Lavatory sinks are Bradley Advocate Lavatory Systems (and have) soap dispensers, water faucets and hand dryers all contained, which look and work great.”
“Let’s face it, mother nature is a huge driver for travel stops,” Heinz said. “Restrooms are one of the highest traffic areas in the store, so it’s critical customers are able to flow in and out with minimal bottleneck. The location is wowing throughout, so the restrooms further enforce that perception.”
TA Express Coffee Cup has recently updated its restrooms at its other three locations, as well, to include the doorless entries and touchless fixtures throughout.