As I talk with people about restaurant cleanliness, I often hear, ‘ I will walk into the restaurant restroom and if it is dirty, I walk out.’
No one wants to eat in a dirty restaurant. Unfortunately, the consumer has few tools to determine if the restaurant food is clean or if those cooking it are concerned about food safety. While it is often said you can’t judge a book by its cover, most of us will drive past a restaurant that looks poorly maintained or is dirty on the outside. Inside the restaurant, we have few ways to judge cleanliness. We can look at the floors, the tabletops, the cleanliness appearance of the server, the utensils offered and the restrooms.
Most of the aforementioned require us to be seated. Once seated, we may feel obliged to eat at the restaurant. Although, I know people who feel quite comfortable, and rightfully so, getting up and walking out if they notice a food safety indiscretion. But looking at the restaurant restroom becomes an easy and noncommittal way to peak into the cleanliness culture of the restaurant.
In a survey conducted asking the opinions of nearly 2500 people, fully 29% of restaurant patrons would never return to a restaurant if the restrooms were dirty. Even more significant to the restaurant management is that 50% of people who found a restroom dirty would tell friends or family.
For consumers, says Ronald Ruggless, Southwest Bureau Chief at Nation’s Restaurant News, the thought process goes something like this: “If the public-facing bathroom is dirty, how committed is the operator to assuring that the less-public food-preparation area is clean and safe?” – Bruce Horovitz, USA Today.
If the public restrooms are dirty, imagine what the kitchen looks like, imagine what the coolers or freezers look like, imagine what importance the management puts on cleanliness. The restaurant staff is likely using the same public restrooms. If the restrooms aren’t clean, what does it say about the importance the staff puts on cleanliness?
And it will hurt the restaurant bottom line. Forty six percent of restaurant patrons say they would avoid a restaurant if they had or heard of a bad restroom experience. It becomes critical to know what restaurant patrons think about restroom cleanliness.