No More Toilet Talk

Kill the correlation between convenience-store restrooms and foodservice

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

For years, the convenience-store industry has drawn correlations between the cleanliness of its restrooms and the appeal of its foodservice programs. Consumers have propelled this comparison, often citing the cleanliness of a retailer's restroom as a key factor in their willingness to buy food there.

Because of this, many retailers have made a point of keeping their restrooms spotless, certainly a good thing. Some, such as Buc-ee's, based in Lake Jackson, Texas, have taken what was once a weakness of the channel and made it the chain's specialty. People stop at a Buc-ee's just to see the pristine porcelainand consequently order tons of food.

[image-nocss] It's time we kill this correlation. Just as it was important to make convenience stores convenient, it is an expectation that restrooms be clean. I can no longer believe it's doing the industry any good to put restrooms and foodservice in the same line of thought.

Frankly, as a consumer, I don't want to think about your restrooms (or, really, anyone's restrooms) when I'm pondering a tasty meal for breakfast or lunch. Clean or not, how sterile your toilets are just isn't whetting my appetite.

I'm not trying to be cynical. I'm being positivec-store foodservice has evolved beyond this association. Clean bathrooms? Great. Now, what about great-tasting food?

To do this, think about the bridge between appetizing and cleanand it isn't sterility. Consider the experience at a McDonald's or a Burger King. Are you thinking of their bathrooms? I bet you're smelling the char-broiled burgers, the large food photos that have replaced most of the words on the menu board, the red, yellow and orange color schemes that have become ubiquitous with fast-foodand not accidentally. In fact, none of those consumer touch points is an accident.

We're not talking fine dining here. These are fast feeders, and they've found a way to graduate from "clean" to "appetizing."

So what about the consumers who still ask, "How clean is your restroom?" before buying your food? Change the way they think by changing the way you think. When critiquing your stores, replace "clean" with "appetizing," and see if your assessment of the store experience changes.

Consumers might not yet be giving you the credit you deserve for the evolution of the industry, but you should certainly be giving yourself that credit. Comparing the sterility of your sinks to the strength of your sandwiches? Your foodservice offer is better than that. And even if it's not, it never will be if you don't stop drawing those parallels. So get your food out of the restroom and start selling to the appetite.

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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