Customers have complained about the cleanliness of convenience stores — especially their bathrooms — for about as long as there’s been convenience stores.
Just perform an internet search for “convenience store bathrooms” or “gas station bathrooms.” The results — like the accompanying pictures — aren’t pretty. Typical comments:
“Makes you want to hold it.”
While many stores’ public restrooms are spotless, enough locations are still less than ideal that negative perceptions persist.
C-store owners can change these stereotypes, however. And with many health experts still advising caution when visiting high-traffic public areas, it’s more critical than ever to show customers that your store’s facilities are sanitary and safe to use.
A clean restroom is the No. 1 thing on customers’ minds
Surveys show that lots of Americans are happily returning to in-person shopping. But even though customers are excited to visit stores again, they’re still paying attention to how well they’re maintained. A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Convenience Stores found that 37% of c-store customers said cleanliness was a consideration when choosing where to shop.
And for many customers, a bathroom visit is the No. 1 thing on their minds when they come into your store. Make a bad impression in there, and they might not linger to buy anything after taking care of business.
Other studies have said customers are likely to spend more at stores that have tidy restrooms.
It makes sense: A store that cares about its restrooms’ appearance — an area that not everyone sees — is probably also concerned about having the freshest snacks, drinks and other perishable items.
And for c-stores that are expanding into offering hot foods, on-site dining and ready-to-eat meals, ensuring your business is clean is a good way to boost profits. According to a 2021 study by consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners, consumers are willing to spend twice the amount per month at restaurants which meet sanitation standards versus those that don’t.
7 ways that you can demonstrate a commitment to cleanliness
Thankfully, the basics of bathroom cleaning haven’t changed in the last two years. It still involves mops, rags, disinfectants and probably several pairs of rubber gloves. But with “handwashing” and “disinfecting” being two of the most repeated phrases in recent history, there’s a few things you can do to help demonstrate a commitment to customer concerns. Here’s some suggestions.
- Establish a restroom monitoring and cleaning schedule and post it where customers can see it. Checking every hour is a good idea for busy stores.
- Don’t forget to disinfect light switches, faucets, door handles and other frequently touched surfaces as part of your cleaning regimen. Customers will appreciate the thoroughness.
- Hang placards letting customers know to notify staff if something is wrong with the restroom.
- Put up signs encouraging visitors (and employees) to wash their hands before and after using the restroom.
- Install toilet lids. While these are uncommon in public restrooms, some customers will welcome the protection from water spray during flushes if the lid is closed.
- Offer disposable toilet seat covers. Whether customers choose to use them, they send a message that yours is a clean store.
- Consider replacing warm-air hand dryers with paper towels. Some customers find disposable towels quicker and more hygienic than dryers. Plus, paper towels provide a way to avoid touching door handles after handwashing.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more hygiene tips for businesses on its website. Your local or state health department may have additional suggestions or specific protocols to follow.
Customers remember the businesses that take their health and safety seriously. Ensure that your store is one of them.