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Turn your washroom into a talking point

21 September 2017

An increasing number of hotels, restaurants and bars are turning their washrooms into must-visit destinations in their own right. Amelia Baker from washroom hygiene brand Tork looks at this trend and considers the rationale behind it

Sexy toilets, amazing toilets, weird toilets, loos with a view – all these and more are now the subject of lists on the internet. 

“Talking point” toilets have become a new craze, particularly in restaurants and bars where managers are going all out to impress their visitors. And everyone from journalists and bloggers to social media reviewers wants to write about them.

It is all part of today’s ever-expanding internet culture which has led to us vying for attention on the web. Visitors to social events such as Ascot and Henley wear increasingly spectacular hats in a bid to feature on people’s Twitter feeds. Similarly, restaurant chefs are coming up with outlandish dishes to encourage diners to photograph them and post their images to social media sites. 

And in the same vein, venue managers are kitting out their washrooms in a way that causes a stir and earns them a place on wacky washroom websites. 

The wow factor

Frequently mentioned in lists of “amazing washrooms” for example is The Sketch, an off-the-wall restaurant in Mayfair that has a playful décor and a creative menu. The toilets are just as disconcerting since they take the form of enormous white pods that come complete with colour-change LED lighting and piped music. 

Another London venue that is often highlighted on such lists is the Bonneville, a darkly atmospheric bar and restaurant with a turn-of-the-century vibe. The toilets continue the theme by featuring Victorian plumbing, old marine lamps and a ghostly soundtrack of chants and whispers. 

The washrooms of an iconic bar and restaurant at London’s Shard are another talking point. Situated on the 31st floor of the highest building in western Europe, the toilets at the Aqua Shard feature huge windows from where washroom visitors can continue to admire the views of London below.

Then there is the South African-themed Shaka Zulu restaurant in Camden where the toilets are decorated with zebra prints and life-sized safari animal statues. And the exclusive London Ritz has made its ladies loos into a luxurious haven for visitors complete with pink panelling, occasional tables and chaise-longues.

Brand values

Looking at these weird and wonderful washrooms a theme begins to emerge. In every case the washroom has been designed to match the venue’s ambiance and reflect the brand values of the bar or restaurant concerned. 

Branding is becoming increasingly important as venues seek to claim a niche in review sites and blogs. And managers need to ensure that every part of their business reflects their brand values from the service to the food and – yes – even the washrooms, in order to avoid any negative comments.

At Tork, we have long understood the importance of providing quality washrooms in restaurants, hotels and bars. A survey into washroom attitudes we conducted some years ago revealed that 42 per cent of diners would rather eat in a restaurant where the loos had been attractively designed. And an eye-tracking study we conducted in restaurant washrooms showed that attractive extras in the toilets such as fresh flowers and stylish dispensers frequently caught the eye of our volunteer subjects.

Clean is king

However, impressive surroundings should not be delivered at the expense of cleanliness and hygiene. The public should be able to use away-from-home washrooms safely with no risk of cross-contamination from other users. This means the facility should be spotlessly clean and offer good quality hand hygiene systems to encourage people to wash and dry their hands.

And our survey reflected the importance of these values. A total of 79 per cent of respondents said they would not return to a restaurant that had a dirty washroom while 30 per cent said they would actually walk out of a venue if the washrooms were not clean. 

Talking-point washrooms are easy fodder for blogs and Instagram images. People love sharing their photographs of lavishly ornate toilets or loos that reflect the theme of their favourite restaurant or bar.

It is therefore becoming increasingly important for washroom providers to up their game and provide facilities that are designed to impress and amaze. And since any impressive washroom will by definition be spotlessly clean, this can only spell good news for the customer.