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Outside Insights | By Keith Hartman

Cleanliness is Next to…Profit
Survey finds that restroom cleanliness leads to quick-service restaurant success
Clean fast food restroom.

When guests walk out of the restroom in a quick-service restaurant, they may be walking out of the restaurant for good. As an owner or operator it’s difficult to know just what exactly turned them away.

When guests leave for good, so does potential profit. Results of a recent study conducted by Cintas Corporation (NASDAQ:CTAS) reveal that 95 percent of people avoid businesses where they have had a negative restroom experience. A dirty restroom can result in lost revenue, fewer guests, and a poor reputation for a quick service restaurant.

In addition to building customer loyalty and driving profitability, a clean restroom can also improve employee morale. Employees working in quick-service restaurants with clean restrooms feel better about their work environment and are more likely to take pride in their jobs. This can result in reduced employee turnover and an improved guest experience.

A Multi-Purpose Room

A restroom serves different needs for different people. Each need determines how that individual perceives “clean” in a restroom. For example, a mother might use a restroom to change her child’s diaper. Her perception of cleanliness will differ from a woman who goes into a restroom and uses the mirror to apply lipstick or ensure no food is stuck between her teeth.

Similarly, an employee in a quick-service restaurant might use the restroom to change into his uniform. What makes the restroom seem dirty to that employee will differ from what makes it seem dirty to someone responsible for cleaning the restroom. To ensure that the restroom meets the expectations of all users, quick-service restaurant owners and operators need to fully understand the different needs of each user and how these needs affect his perception of cleanliness.

A Comprehensive Study

Cintas’ research was conducted by an independent research firm that surveyed more than 1,500 restroom users, owners, and cleaning professionals to assess each group’s perception of what constitutes a clean restroom. It revealed several differences between what restroom users, cleaners, and owner/operators perceived as clean. The study also revealed that there are certain aspects of restroom cleanliness that are important to all groups surveyed.

Participants were asked to rate various aspects of a restroom’s cleanliness and surprisingly, many of the top considerations have to do with re-stocking supplies. More than 84 percent of respondents identified empty toilet paper dispensers as a source of dissatisfaction, and more than 76 percent of respondents were dissatisfied if the soap dispensers were empty.

The study results identify the top 10 measures by which all users judge a restroom’s cleanliness. While there are varying sets of expectations, there are common contributors to what a restroom user considers to be dirty. In addition to ensuring that the restroom is adequately supplied, quick-service owners and operators should also make sure that the room is properly lit.

Applying a Standard of Clean

Ninety-five percent of people avoid businesses where they have had a negative restroom experience.

To keep profit from walking out the door after patrons use the restroom, quick-service restaurant owners and operators need to ensure a comprehensive restroom cleaning program is in place. The frequency of restroom maintenance should be determined by the number of users. While quick-service employees can perform hourly restroom checks to refill supplies and spot clean, restrooms should also be regularly deep cleaned by a professional who understands the needs of the users and can assure an exceptional standard of cleanliness. By maintaining clean restrooms, quick-service restaurants will keep patrons and employees satisfied and ensure their quick return.

Keith Hartman is the senior marketing manager of facility services for Cintas. For more information about the Sanis restroom system or the Cintas Standard of Clean guidelines, please visit