Cleanest Bathrooms in Town

Casey's, Thorntons, Jacksons top three in CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop category

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- Forget the walk-in beer cooler, spiffy employee uniforms or energy-efficient lighting: If you really want to grab customers' attention, offer them the cleanest restrooms in town.

Thorntons Inc., Louisville, Ky., actually places signage on store windows promising potential customers of this feature. "Really, it just puts pressure on ourselves, telling the customer this is what we believe," Tony Harris, vice president of operations, told CSP Daily News. "You have to make sure you're on your game. More than anything, this has been a value operationally [image-nocss] for the last 30 years."

It's for this commitment--and its execution--that Thorntons landed among the top three chains for cleanest restrooms in the annual CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop. Casey's General Stores Inc., Ankeny, Iowa, demonstrated the greatest percentage of clean restrooms among the group of 10 chains that participated. The accomplishment stems back to founder Don Lamberti's belief that cleanliness has a direct impact on the health of the rest of the company.

Click herefor previous CSP Daily News coverage of the 2011 CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop. For more details on Casey's, Thorntons, Jacksons mystery shop success, as well as a profile of the overall winning brand, Sheetz, click here or see the August issue of CSP magazine.

For Thorntons, it reflects the strategic importance restrooms play in the chain's overall customer experience.

"If they have a bad experience in the restroom, it's going to lead to a bad experience in total," said Harris, who notes that delivering "sparkling restrooms" is one of the top three priorities for the operations team, in addition to minimizing transaction times in the store and posting the appropriate fuel price on signs and the pumps.

"We chose not to say 'clean' restrooms because we want to leave little room for interpretation," said Harris. "'Sparkling' means sparkling." Bathrooms are attended to at least once an hour. In many Thorntons sites, customers can press a call button in the restroom if it needs to be cleaned up.

The chain double-checks upkeep during internal and external mystery shops. "Even just on store visits, we will look at restrooms--it's cultural throughout the organization, and is not just a responsibility of the store," said vice president of marketing John Zikias. "We'll check that, just as we'll check the temperature on fountain drinks, food, are things in stock, faced and fronted?"

Jacksons Food Stores Inc., Meridian, Idaho ranked third in cleanest restrooms for the CSP-Service Intelligence Mystery Shop. The chain led the field in internal and external cleanliness in the 2010 shop, and has since increased the value of its internal inspection toward employees' bonus. President Andrea Jackson and other members of upper management conduct about five each month, partly because of their knowledge of the chain's operations, but also because it keeps them in the field and connected to stores.

While Jacksons has cleanliness checklists, store managers have discretion on how to direct the actual cleaning. "Some stores are busier than others, some have more labor, and that what the manager's expected to manage," said Jackson. "I don't believe in bathroom checks at 3:00 and 4:00. I think it's insulting to their intelligence. The point is, it needs to be clean."

As Jackson explains, her chain cares more about the results than the system to get deliver them. "We trust you to make the right decision as an employee and manager running the site," she said. "We expect them to make right decisions about when it's needed, and it appears to work."