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America's Best Public Bathrooms

publication date: Oct 1, 2010
author/source: Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA CMHS
Earlier this summer, I shared some "Best Practices on Engaging the "high-touch" Side of Our Business" in my blog.   I summarized feedback from attendees in a series of workshops I conducted for a major international hotel company that addressed the danger of becoming a "Commodity"
This article/blog kicks off a related topic:

:  How do we motivate our hospitality staff to care every day, to build and maintain a commitment to delivering quality?

: In surprisingly small ways, one at a time.

It's All in the Details...

I am certainly not the first person to have written on the topic, and there have been others who have used the unusual example I am about to offer as an illustration of the most fundamental area of any hotel or restaurant.

Almost every guest uses this essential area of every hospitality business, as well as a good number of first time visitors who "drop by."  The hospitality business may be an elegant five star hotel, a country inn, a hometown diner or an ethnic restaurant but they all have this space in common.

I am referring of course to the "public restrooms."  I have included some examples of outstanding ones at the end of this message, but I challenge everyone in any hospitality business to take a moment and think about the first impression made when someone enters a portion of your facility that is open to all visitors.

 Think about the human senses

1.       Sight - is your space inviting and clean? This means pleasant lighting, neatly arranged facilities, wall treatment that is pleasant to look at and of course, a very clean floor with no paper on it.  Fresh flowers or live plants can be a positive.

2.       Touch - as in #1 Sight above, the space must be inviting.  There must be well maintained sinks, clean and well lit mirrors, attractive dispensers holding adequate towels and toilet tissue,

3.       Sound - Public rest rooms must be reasonably constructed and designed to block out  external sounds, as well as contain the sounds of plumbing and discussions in the facility. Some properties today include appropriate and pleasing piped in music that create an  additional positive calming effect

4.       Smell - the fragrance discussion in hospitality is not new.  Care must be taken in cleaning products used, and there are packaged scents available that can be subtly present in the public rest rooms.

Some sample "best of" in this category may be found at www.hospitalityeducators.com under America's Best Public Bathrooms

America's Best Public Bathrooms

Top Places to Tinkle

  • The buzz for trendy bathrooms continues to grow, but one company, Cintas, seller of bathroom goods, takes this trend seriously with its annual Best Restroom Awards. See what it takes to make the list and compare these unique lavatories to other outrageous restrooms we've found, including the most expensive restroom in the world.
 Catch 31 31ocean.com

Catch 31

Location: Virginia Beach, Va.

Boasting spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, this restaurant and its restrooms have cool blue walls, soaring ceilings and an airy ambiance. Visitors and locals alike are put at ease in the restaurant's tranquil, nautical-themed washrooms. Catch 31's bathroom ranked second in the 2007 America's Best Restroom Award Hall of Fame.

 Vermont Marble Museum
Robert Pye, Vermont Marble Museum

Vermont Marble Museum

Location: Proctor, Vt.

The truly unique thing about this restroom, ranking fourth in the 2007 America's Best Restrooms Hall of Fame, is that it's made entirely from marble. The two types of marble that used are White Vermont Marble, think Jefferson Memorial, and Vermont Verde Antique Marble, a rare, unique and highly prized material.

    Wendells Restaurant Daks Hall

Wendell's Restaurant

Location: Westerville, Ohio

Wendell's bathroom, winner of the 2006 America's Best Restroom Award, features a classic sports theme and is praised for being neat, clean and having lots of towels and even mouthwash!

 Borgata Hotel
Borgata Hotel

Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa

Location: Atlantic City, N.J.

In the Borgata's bathrooms, marble floors complement warm wood tones and clean, contemporary stainless steel sinks. Restroom users have their choice of hand towels or using one of the dryers. The Borgata held the fourth spot in the 2006 Best Restrooms Hall of Fame.

   76th floor ClubCorp Online

Columbia Tower Club

Location: Seattle, WA

Each bathroom stall at the Columbia Tower Club has its own, individual view of the Seattle skyline, enough to award these restrooms second place in the 2005 America's Best Restrooms Hall of Fame.

Every one of the stalls is luxuriously appointed with its own sink, marble counters and floors, and solid brass fixtures.

 Cafe do Gol
Antonio Scorza, Getty Images

Cafe do Gol

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Cafe do Gol is a soccer-themed restaurant-bar-discotheque complex currently under construction and owned by Brazilian soccer star Romario in Rio de Janeiro. Painted on the doors are caricatures of former Brazilian soccer national selection coach Mario Zagallo and his assistant Zico.

   21c Museum Hotel Rubin Communications

21c Museum Hotel

2008 Rank: 2nd Place
Location: Louisville, Kentucky

The men's restroom at this 91-room hotel features a urinal that has a one-way mirror and above the basins, eyes stare back at you. The bathroom also has LCD screens with traveling images of eyes built into mirror above sink.

   Brio Rubin Communications

Brio Restaurant

2008 Rank: 3rd Place
Location: Rockford, Illinois

Located in Rockford's River District, Brio has become known as downtown's premiere restaurant and nightspot. Its themed restrooms stand out because its women's bathroom has a Heaven theme while its men's bathroom has a Hell theme. Both restrooms have custom mirrors, sinks, doors and floor, using a wide variety of materials.

   El-Monte-Sagrado Rubin Communications

El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa

2008 Rank: Finalist
Location: Taos, New Mexico

The restrooms of this tranquil spa have an "Earth in Harmony" theme. The walls are covered in real cork from Portugal. The fossilized rock for the hand basins are incredible, with water flowing out the flush spigot when activated by sensors. The floors are made of slate and the wood used on the stalls is African mahogany, known as Sapelli.

   Grand Central Station Rubin Communications

Grand Central Station

2008 Rank: Finalist
Location: New York, New York

The recent renovation in Grand Central Terminal in New York reflects the architect's philosophy of designing restrooms that not only befit the grandeur of one our most prized national landmarks, but also a belief in an exceptional design aesthetic with the use of high quality materials: Bottocino marble walls, terrazzo seamless flooring, stainless steel doors, Stony Creek granite partitions and high quality sustainable light fixtures.

 Iowa 80 Truck Stop
Rubin Communications

Iowa 80 Truck Stop

2008 Rank: Finalist
Location: Walcott, Iowa

The restroom of 'The World's Largest Truck Stop' is themed to reflect service stations from year's past. It includes nostalgic signs and custom tile. The women's restroom is adorned in pink withsigns offering trivia and gender-specific advice.

 Signature Room
Rubin Communications

Signature Room at the 95th

2008 Rank: 4th Place
Location: Chicago, Illinois

Located atop the John Hancock Center the restroom in this contemporary American restaurant offers amazing views of the windy city. You will also find custom woodwork, silver accent pieces and black & white photos from the 1930's.
 Jerome Bettis Grille
Rubin Communications

Jerome Bettis' Grille 36

2008 Rank: Finalist
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Located on Pittsburgh's Riverfront one side of Grille 36 offers an amazing view of Heinz Field while the opposite side looks out to a panoramic view of the Pittsburgh skyline. The sports-themed restroom features quality materials and a one-way mirror, so customers don't miss any of the action while they "take care of business."

 Montville Inn
Rubin Communications

The Montville Inn

2008 Rank: Finalist
Location: Montville, New Jersey

The restrooms of this historic 1770 inn were remodeled in 2007 and feature custom glass fiber reinforced concrete sinks, stone in-laid walls and a mirror with a waterfall and television built into it.

Rubin Communications

Smith College Museum of Art

2008 Rank: 5th Place
Location: Northampton, Massachusetts

Inspired by the artist-designed restrooms at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the museum invited Ellen Driscoll and Sandy Skoglund to design the women's and men's rooms, respectively, on the lower level. The water-themed restrooms feature hand-painted tiles and etched glass panels depicting sea creatures and plant life.

 The Hermitage
Rubin Communications

The Hermitage Hotel

2008 Rank: 1st Place
Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Named after Andrew Jackson's Hermitage estate this nearly 100-year old luxury hotel includes public art deco-themed restrooms with authentic terrazzo floors, leaded-glass tiles and a shoeshine station.

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