Great Sandwich. Lousy Washrooms.

We have a bone to pick with some of our favorite QSR brands. It’s not the menu. It’s not the service. It’s not the seating, the parking lot nor the drive-thru. Quick service restaurants have obviously spent money, deployed systems and rolled-out processes in these key areas and it shows.

But when nature calls, or when we want to wash our hands before a meal, we expect to find washrooms that are clean with a functioning soap dispenser and dryer.

Not too much to ask, right?

Wrong (apparently).

A widespread problem in QSR

When done, here is content other readers find helpful:

We industry people tend to deny there is a problem. We turn a blind eye. We have a training program in place, right? We have processes. We even assign one employee to every shift to clean the washrooms. We have gotten to the bottom of the problem, right? Wrong.

The observations of Bindy, our research, and focus groups tell us dirty washrooms are still commonplace across the restaurant industry today. Large QSR chains, smaller brands, all are affected.

Dirt is not discriminating but your customers are. And there lies the problem. When we say “we have a bone to pick”, we actually speak for everybody. We speak for your neighbors, your family, your friends. Everybody who uses these washrooms is left thinking:

Don’t they have brand standards? Don’t they care?

Bindy recently conducted a survey asking people what they would do if a restaurant’s washrooms lacked soap, was generally unsanitary or had a strong smell. 89% of respondents told us they would take their business elsewhere. That is a lot of customers to lose but, lost sales aside, it also suggests a huge “credibility” problem for the brand.

How do you reconcile the family-friendly message of your restaurant brand with the bacterial experiment taking place in your washrooms?

Dirty washrooms let your customers down, they let your brand down. They imply you don’t walk the talk. They suggest you don’t care. Dirty washrooms are hurting your credibility and your brand. Protect your brand with proper execution.

Gaining visibility into your sites also makes them accountable

The optics of unsanitary food preparation

Why are washrooms such an issue with customers and guests? Here is why. What the industry calls “Health and Safety”, customers call “Hygiene”.

Hygiene is tightly coupled with food preparation and your facilities bear witness to the safety of the food preparation and the food itself.

A recurring theme in our survey was that if the washrooms were dirty then so was the kitchen. Customers can’t see your kitchen. They can see your washrooms and they can imagine your staff using it…right before they prepare their meal.

Complaint IA Change Management in Retail ad

What can you do about it?

  1. Set expectations with training. Yearly turnover can be 100% of more in the quick service restaurant business which means you need to train relentlessly and repeatedly.
  2. Schedule daily processes involving the store owner/franchisee, managers and assistant managers that ensure washrooms are cleaned repeatedly and thoroughly. Standards should be posted and detailed.
  3. Give your district and regional managers the tools to execute and verify programs in all key areas, including washrooms. Get your stores on a scorecard to be completed by the district manager monthly or quarterly. Designate washroom criteria as “critical” whereby non-compliance will penalize and materially lower the score unless standards are met. Measurement, in and of itself, actually breeds compliance. Measure relentlessly, score aggressively and your washrooms’ “performance” will improve.

For more information, please see the Restroom Cleaning Checklist and the Washrooms Inspection Checklist.


Refer to the Food Service and Restaurants category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for food service and restaurants.

One thought on “Great Sandwich. Lousy Washrooms.

  1. Is it possible to receive an executive summary or copy of the survey results for the survery mentioned in the article, “Great Sandwich. Lousy Washrooms.”

    Thank you,
    Barb Williams, Market Analyst

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