It’s a question independent convenience store operators don’t ask often enough: Why is restroom cleanliness important for independents? The answer is deceptively simple.
Customers figure if you are careless there, you’re careless elsewhere — for example, when it comes to food handling and preparation.
Think about it: If someone shows up for a job interview in a wrinkled, stained shirt and unkempt hair, how meticulous is he going to be working for you?
With foodservice gaining importance in c-stores nationwide, independents especially cannot afford to give customers the impression that they tolerate slovenly work habits — or that their standard of excellence doesn’t extend to sanitation.
At this year’s NACS show in Chicago, King-Casey Principal Howland Blackiston pointed out the growing importance of foodservice: “The convenience store model has been transitioning toward a foodservice-focused business model for some time now,” he said.
He also underscored the lack of drive-through and curbside options, which means customers are still coming inside to pick up food. While this is good for business, it’s bad news if these customers encounter restrooms that give them the creeps.
Research consistently shows that filthy, poorly stocked bathrooms turn customers off — and that clean, sanitary bathrooms are even more important to women than to men.
Consumers sometimes opt for independent stores because there is at least the perception of greater personal attention and thus higher quality than in chain stores. But that perception can go out the window quickly.
Here are some key cleanliness considerations for independents, especially those with foodservice programs:
- Restroom floors must be mopped, mirrors shined, toilets disinfected, sinks scrubbed and faucets and fixtures wiped until they gleam.
- Nothing screams slipshod operation more loudly than overflowing trash containers in the bathroom.
- Ventilation must be working well — same for lighting.
- Allowing restrooms to run out of soap in the dispenser, toilet paper and disposable seat covers in the stalls, or paper towels for hand-drying
should be a fireable offense.
- Walls and stalls — easily overlooked — also need to be cleaned thoroughly, with an emphasis on erasing graffiti.
- Signage instructing staffers on proper handwashing procedures is needed not only for instructing and reminding team members, but also
for reassuring customers.