Restroom cleanliness and sanitation have long been key components of growing c-store sales, but the COVID-19 pandemic made these aspects of operations more important than ever before.
The mission for c-store retailers now when it comes to their restrooms is to continue to create positive impressions in consumers’ minds — something many are doing via effective cleaning schedules and touchless fixtures and amenities.
Setting The Tone
Clean restrooms are important because the restroom experience is often what sets the tone for a customer’s visit. A tidy restroom signifies that a retailer takes pride in all facets of their operation. If the restrooms are spotless, shoppers understand the rest of the store is likely to be, too.
“We have a high-frequency cleaning program in place, and this helps us ensure we are keeping our customers and employees safe,” said Michele Truelove, operations vice president for 54-store, Baltimore, Md.-based High’s. “During the pandemic we added a high-kill-rate sanitizer that was used hourly in all restrooms.”
All new restroom builds in High’s c-store locations are furnished with touch-free sinks, soap and hand dryers.
“We recently went back and began to remodel our dated restrooms to offer hand dryers and baby changing stations in both the men’s and women’s restrooms,” Truelove said. “We also added hooks on all doors for customers’ personal belongings. All restrooms are equipped with air fresheners and toilet bowl clips to provide a pleasant smell.”
Safe Shop Assured
High’s is Safe Shop Assured certified. Safe Shop Assured third-party certification is available to businesses that meet the highest standards for appearance, sanitation, hygiene and community safety. One of the protocols for that certification is consistent restroom standards.
At High’s, managers ensure that customers will know that they will always find a clean restroom during their visit. Restrooms are checked hourly to ensure that they meet rigorous standards.
The restrooms are also cleaned from the ceiling to the floor, including all fixtures, every four hours. This is supported with a cleaning checklist that details the correct product to use on each fixture in the restroom.
“We make sure that our staff knows from day one how important restroom cleanliness is,” Truelove emphasized.
Restroom cleaning is trained during the new hire process via computer-based and on-the-job training.
“We utilize our company bulletin, which goes out weekly, to heighten awareness,” Truelove added.
The restroom cleaning checklist is also included in the shift duties checklist. Store managers do a ready-for-business assessment daily at all locations, and district managers are required to check restrooms during all store walks and then report their findings.
In addition to keeping up with current cleaning procedures and policies, Truelove said it is also important to consider restrooms during remodels or when planning new stores.
“Spend the money and do it right,” Truelove advised. “In new builds, dedicate the needed space to (restrooms). Allocate the proper labor to keep them clean and appealing to all customers. Test fixtures before installing them; not all of them are the best.”
The way a convenience store takes care of its restrooms can tell customers a lot about the business, especially when it comes to foodservice.
“A clean restroom is a window to how that location prioritizes cleanliness,” explained Buddy Gillespie, director of culinary innovation and restaurant services for the JBH Advisory Group in New York City. “If an establishment makes the efforts to keep a public bathroom clean, smelling nice and stocked with soap and paper products, this translates to its perceived overall cleanliness standards.”
This level of regard for customers and attention to detail can instill confidence in the customer, he added.
One way convenience store operators can make their restrooms appealing is by making cleanliness schedules highly visible on walls.
“Posted cleaning schedules are more visible than ever,” Gillespie suggested. “This gives the customer a confidence that management cares about cleanliness and that the team is aware of when the last cleaning occurred.”
Automatic paper-towel dispensers are almost a given in public restrooms now. Many establishments have increased these types of touch-free options, with automatic soap dispensers and hand-sink water sensors to provide an entirely touchless experience from flush to hand drying, Gillespie pointed out.
“A digital scheduling app such as Jolt is highly recommended for management to monitor and communicate a building’s cleaning needs and schedules,” said Gillespie. “Cleaning schedules are communicated through the app on the team members’ phones, so they can be reminded when to do a scheduled cleaning.”
Once complete, each team member enters the information into the app, and management is informed digitally that the task has been successfully executed at the store, and by whom.