Is Your Bathroom Clean? (What’s Your Wow?)


Picture by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

A few days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf States, I joined my brother and group of his restaurant peers in a storm relief effort their steakhouse chain had developed to quickly mobilize and feed First Responders during rescue operations.

Our camp was set up in Baton Rouge and over the next several days we cooked thousands of hamburger meals, carefully packed them in a trailer, and our Humvee towed the donated food into New Orleans.   Each night we slept on a gym floor knowing our accommodations were 5-Star compared to the estimated 15 million who were affected by the storm.

By the end of the second day of our relief effort, power had been restored to one of the chain’s local restaurants in Baton Rouge and although the staff and menu was limited, the demand was anything but!  All the Utility Lineman and Arborists sent in from other states redefined the word “H-U-N-G-R-Y” when they stopped in to eat.  Many of our guests were coming directly to the restaurant from their work trucks, so as you can imagine the restrooms were getting a workout.  Most specifically, the sink areas were literally serving as a “wash bays”.

Uncovering a “Wow!”

With only a short staff available, everyone in our group was doing what they could to create a sense of normalcy in the chaos.  Once the restaurant opened, one of the top priorities was to keep the bathrooms clean.  Regardless of the how the restrooms were being used they were expected to be clean when the next round of dirty arms, hands and faces entered.    Why?  The bathroom acts as a mirror for the overall operation.

Through experience, this particular chain restaurant had identified this perception of quality.  When customers see a clean restroom, it also reflects the quality, care, and cleanliness of the food being prepared and served from the kitchen.  Likewise, a dirty bathroom reflects a lack of care and quality.  With or without a natural disaster a clean bathroom was still a very important message they wanted to make sure their customers received.

I was reminded of this experience at our last Aspire Business Book Review as we were discussing “Start With Why?”.    When we were talking about great local examples of companies we all admired, a local convenience store chain was referenced positively by several people.  An example of their clear commitment to excellent service that was mentioned more than once was simply that the restrooms are always clean (a pleasant and unusual surprise in that industry).   Though the price of their gas, quality of food options, and other merchandise they “sell” were also mentioned, it was the clean restrooms and professionalism of the employees that was repeatedly identified as the “wow” that set this chain apart from others.

So What’s your Wow?

Depending on your business, clean restrooms may or may not be applicable in your message.   But I assure you, there are opportunities to build your business that have very little to do with the actual product or service you sell.  In fact it’s often the smaller details that really stand out to people…the things that get talked about, the things that people remember.  Have you identified what makes you stand out?  What is your strategy to create or capitalize on your Wow?    We’d love to hear your comments – let us know what you think.

Chris Steinlage    Kansas City Business Coach

4 thoughts on “Is Your Bathroom Clean? (What’s Your Wow?)”

  1. Curt says:

    I can certainly relate & I still say that restrooms tell a very important story. I also feel the same about a clean uniform & a well kept employee. Here’s a thought, who set’s the example for those employees? Sometimes a mirror can help all of us.

  2. Coming from the “2013 Outbacker of the Year”, it is safe to say your opinions and comments carry a little weight in this department! Thanks for sharing.

  3. John says:

    I can certainly relate! Love this story Chris and I wish more people understood “The bathroom acts as a mirror for the overall operation.”

  4. John,

    You’re right. Although this reference was a restaurant, it really doesn’t matter the business or the industry. A clear unspoken message is shouted by the cleanliness of those rooms.


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