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Why Quality Restrooms are Essential for Business

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Here’s a dirty little secret: bad restrooms are bad for business.

Today’s customers expect more than a key attached to a hubcap or a sign informing visitors that restrooms are for “paying customers only.” Nor are they willing to tolerate neglected upkeep and cleanliness.

As someone who’s visited more than 1,000 stores in 24 states, I can say with confidence that dirty, low-quality restrooms are the proverbial “hole in the bucket.” They have the potential to cause a slow, steady leak in business.

GasBuddy data supports this claim.

According to a recent survey:

  • Restroom quality generates the highest volume of complaints
  • 69% of users wouldn’t consider visiting a store with less than 3 out of 5 stars
  • 43% only read 1-3 reviews before forming an opinion

 

Kum & Go’s new Marketplace stores offer upscale, modern restrooms.

 

Many leading convenience stores have already separated themselves from the competition by making restroom quality a priority. Out of sight is never actually out of mind, and it’s a critical piece of the puzzle when creating the perfect pit stop.

Take Buc-ee’s, for example.

The Texas-based chain acquired serious bragging rights in 2012 when its store in New Braunfels—the largest convenience store in the world, at 68,000 square feet—won Cintas’ America’s Best Restroom® contest.

“Buc-ee’s customers have come to appreciate Buc-ee’s passion for maintaining clean restrooms,” said a company representative when I contacted him by email. “One of my favorite Buc-ee’s billboards says, ‘The Top Two Reasons to Stop at Buc-ee’s: Number 1 and Number 2.’”

And he’s not kidding. From fully-enclosed and oversized private stalls to around-the-clock cleaning and an evaluation process for hand soap and cleaning agents, it’s no wonder the company’s billboards often notify travelers that their “throne awaits.” Having visited two locations south of Houston last year, I can confirm that they really are a perfect pit stop.

 

 

Other stores have followed suit with similar strategies:

  • QuikTrip offers large, spacious restrooms and ensures that they’re checked and cleaned every 30 minutes.
  • Kum & Go’s new Marketplace stores have upscale, modern restrooms with high-quality doors, sinks, tile, lights and polished concrete floors.
  • Love’s Travel Stops often feature private, fully enclosed stalls that feel like small rooms. I frequently stop at the location on I-35 near the Iowa and Missouri border for this very reason and an employee at a new store on I-80 in Iowa informed me that he inspects the restrooms every 30 minutes.
  • Kwik Trip posts a framed copy of their Clean Restroom Promise in every store, and they provide a phone number to a fully-staffed, 24/7 communication center should any restrooms not meet customer satisfaction. Kwik Trip was the top performer for restroom quality in CSP’s 2016 Mystery Shop—a yearly, eight-week period in which shoppers visit stores and fill out questionnaires—and thousands of Gas Buddies said the same thing. Out of 526,702 restroom ratings as of March 2017, Kwik Trip was the clear favorite.

 

Love’s Travel Stops offers private stalls at its I-35 location near the Iowa/Missouri border.

 

Of course, clean restrooms aren’t the exclusive domain of the large brands.

At Kent Couch’s Stop and Go in Bend, OR—the convenience store that’s famous for having almost 40 types of craft beer on tap—I encountered restrooms that are nicer than the ones in many of our homes.

Humorous restrooms signs and craft beer décor at Kent Couch’s Stop and Go.

 

Kent installed industrial lighting with Edison bulbs, hung artwork and purchased quality tile and sinks. It’s just one more reason why his store is a popular destination.

The restrooms are a step above what’s normally expected from convenience stores.

 

And according to Kent’s, they tell me their customer feedback has been very positive.

What convenience stores do you visit for quality restrooms? Leave a comment below.

Analyst, Convenience Store and Retail Trends

Frank Beard is a passionate advocate for convenience stores who brings a wide range of experience to the GasBuddy team. His "30 Days of Gas Station Food" experiment has raised awareness of the fact that most — if not all — convenience stores have healthful options available. He's spoken at events like the 2016 NACS Show and the Partnership for a Healthier America's 2017 Summit, and he's a contributor to NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. Having visited more than 1,000 convenience stores in 24 states, Frank helps communicate the fact that convenience stores truly are the perfect pit stop.

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