Retailers, Restaurants Losing Customers Due to Dirty Restrooms

Back in the late 1990s, H-E-B Food/Drugs in Texas rolled out a program to upgrade restrooms with touchless fixtures.

Considered the #1 grocer in America for customer service, satisfaction, and cleanliness, H-E-B’s mantra of “Here Everything’s Better” recommited attention and planning to restrooms. It paid off, and today, the retailer remains as vibrant and profitable as ever since their founding in 1905.

Most Americans think it’s important to have touchless fixtures in public restrooms.

Retailers who fail to keep their restrooms clean, well-kept and up to modern standards risk losing customers. 

Sixty-percent of Americans will make it a point to stop at a business and to spend more money there if they know it has clean, well-maintained restrooms, according to an annual survey by Bradley Corp.

Customers between the ages of 25 and 44  are even more likely to shell out more cash based on the condition of a business’ restroom.

On the reverse side, a poorly maintained restroom can have negative business repercussions.

•More than half (53%) of respondents said an unkept restroom causes them to lower their impact of the establishment.

•52% said it shows poor management.

•48% said it demonstrates that the company doesn’t care about its customer.

Potentially most damaging, 52% said a bad restroom experience causes them to vow not to return in the future or think twice about doing so. Another 32% will either tell a friend or post a comment on social media about the negative encounter.

The 55-plus age group is especially turned off by unkempt restrooms, with more than 60% reporting a damaged impression of the overall business.

There are a variety of restroom maintenance issues that may tarnish customers’ restroom experiences. But the most common ones include clogged or unflushed toilets; an overall appearance that is old, dirty or unkempt; unpleasant smells; and empty or jammed dispensers for soap, toilet paper and hand towels.

“Restroom maintenance may seem like a business no brainer but limited budgets and facility staffing issues mean that companies are doing more with less staff and resources,” said Jon Dommisse, VP of marketing and corporate communication, Bradley Corp.

“Nevertheless, customers place a high value on clean restrooms – and reward businesses that offer them. It’s incumbent upon facility managers to prioritize regular restroom cleaning and make sure that everything is in good working order.”

Americans are in an elevated state of germ consciousness and don’t like touching things in shared public restroom spaces,  noted Dommisse. “As a result, people use all sorts of techniques to avoid coming into contact with surfaces.”

To avoid germs in public restrooms, consumers take the following actions:

•62% use a paper towel with doors and faucets;

•43% operate flusher with foot;

•31% hover over seat and

•20% operate paper towel dispenser with elbow. 

With so many people deliberately avoiding contact with restroom surfaces, it’s not surprising that 82% believe it is important to have touchless fixtures in a public restroom.

Another 60% are more likely to return to a business that offers touch-free technology like faucets, flushers, soap and towel dispensers in its restrooms.

“When asked what restroom improvements they’d like to see, cleanliness topped the list,” Dommisse said. “After that, Americans want touchless fixtures and better stocking of supplies, such as toilet paper, soap and paper towels.”

The Bradley “Healthy Handwashing Survey” polled 1,025 American adults Jan. 4-10, 2023, about their handwashing habits, concerns about the coronavirus and flu, and their use of public restrooms. Participants were from around the country and were fairly evenly split between men (45%) and women (55%).


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