At Disneyland, a "golden" horseshoe meant a restaurant. Here it's an invitation to a companion restroom in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Companion restrooms are a major addition to Disney parks over the last dozen years. Also note the braille on the sign. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Spotless Restrooms

The Chesire Cat points this way to a uniquely themed set of restrooms at Disneyland tied to Alice in Wonderland. Here stall doors are like playing cards. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The Cheshire Cat points this way to a uniquely themed set of restrooms at Disneyland tied to Alice in Wonderland. Here, stall doors are like playing cards. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Recently I dined in the new Skipper’s Canteen in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom. I will provide a review of that on another day, but one of my first wows was when I headed to the restroom. There, a beautiful sink awaited me as I went to wash my hands. This was practically a work of art:

You might think that a restaurant named as a "canteen" would have more of an outhouse look. But that is not the case at the Skipper's Canteen. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
You might think that a restaurant named as a “canteen” would have more of an outhouse look. But that is not the case at the Skipper’s Canteen. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This was lightyears from the old days where every restroom on Disney property pumped out pink powdered soap when washing hands. A glob of pinkness stood underneath each dispenser. It hearkened to a time when all restrooms were nearly identical to each other, and thus all products and services in the restroom were identical to the next in order to save money. It was indicative of the leadership that insisted on that clean but consistent setting.

Let’s look today at the power of a spotless restroom and how it helps Disney provide a great guest service experience.

We tell our clients in our consulting and programs that there is a key place where you can learn quickly so much about your brand and culture–the restroom. The quality and cleanliness of the restroom speaks volume about how employees think through the customer experience. It also sends a message about organizational pride. Granted, most restrooms in an office or retail setting are cleaned by third party companies who come in at night. And there is something to be said studying the cleanliness of the restroom as to how well the organization aligns third party operations with the values of their brand. But successful organizations don’t place the ownership for such matters solely on third parties. They make everyone take ownership. And they make sure that the experience supports their brand message.

Curiously, many of those organizations are determined not to just meet the minimum standards of a clean restroom but rather literally extend the brand into the washroom. Disney has been doing this for years, taking creative measures to making the restroom experience simply an extension of the total themed experience. Many others have since followed.

At Disneyland, a "golden" horseshoe meant a restaurant. Here it's an invitation to a companion restroom in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Companion restrooms are a major addition to Disney parks over the last dozen years. Also note the braille on the sign. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
At Disneyland, a “golden” horseshoe meant a restaurant. Here it’s an invitation to a companion restroom in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. Companion restrooms are a major addition to Disney parks over the last dozen years. Also note the Braille on the sign. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

There are even organizations that have gone much further. My favorite example of this comes from the M&M store at the Florida Mall. A customized stall appears to be set aside for M&M’s favorite characters.

A dedicated stall for those whose job is to be eaten. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
A dedicated stall for those whose job it is to be eaten. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

You know that if you’ve literally put your brand under the stall, you can’t have a piece of trash randomly lying around or the smell of an unflushed toilet nearby. That would be creating brand suicide. Therefore, it’s imperative that it be kept as clean as possible by every employee passing by. So clearly the restroom experience should not conflict with the brand experience. But what about the culture of the organization?

One summer, I had a great example offered to me by an entrepreneur who owns a Postal Connection store. I spent time with this organization and I Sold It On E-Bay to focus on providing superior customer service. This man talked about walking into an existing store operation as a new manager. Over the first weekend, he went in and personally cleaned both restrooms to the finest level of detail. Then he gathered his staff on Monday morning. Showcasing the spotless restrooms he set a clear expectation of what was expected by everyone else on the staff. He then passed around a sheet noting everyone’s turn–including his own.

What does that restroom example say about that store’s culture?

  1. There is no substitute for quality.
  2. The organizational structure is flat–what is expected of front line is expected of management.
  3. You will be shown what excellence looks like.
  4. You will be held accountable for excellence.
  5. We all will work together to make this happen.

The benefits of such an approach extend far beyond the restroom experience. It sends a message about what it’s like to work in an organization like this. It defines a culture of excellence.

So you see, it’s not just about cleanliness. It’s not even just about branding that bathroom experience. It’s about creating a culture that drives the organization forward.

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