The results of a newly released survey commissioned by SCA Tissue North America, one of the three largest producers of away-from-home tissue products, found that the cleanliness of restaurant bathrooms is a key factor in repeat business.

According to the survey, 81 percent of those who visit restaurants believe that restroom cleanliness reflects the overall hygiene standards throughout the restaurant, including kitchen and food prep areas. The survey, conducted online by Harris Interactive among a sample of 2,175 U.S. adults, found that of the 97 percent who visit restaurants, 86 percent think restaurant hygiene is very important to their dining experience.

“Forty-two percent of the people polled reported using toilet paper or paper towels to avoid touching things inside an unclean restroom,” says Ian West, Washroom Director, SCA Tissue North America. “If people feel they need to take these measures to protect themselves from unsanitary conditions in the restroom, it clearly has a spillover effect to their overall impression of the dining establishment.”

According to the poll, the top 10 dirty restroom factors that would prevent restaurant customers from returning are:

• Overflowing toilets: 58 percent

• Unpleasant odors: 57 percent

• Slippery/dirty floors with buildup, gum or other residue: 49 percent

• Dirty partitions, doors, doorknobs, walls or fixtures: 38 percent

• Dirty and wet sinks and countertops: 38 percent

• Insufficient toilet paper: 33 percent

• Overflowing trash cans: 31 percent

• Insufficient liquid soap: 28 percent

• Non-working toilet paper dispenser: 22 percent

• Management/employees unavailable for reporting problems: 19 percent

The survey also found that nearly one-third of those surveyed (29 percent) would never return to a restaurant with an extremely unclean or unsanitary restroom .The survey also reports that negative restroom experiences trigger strong negative “word of mouth”:

• 50 percent of those who visit restaurants said they would tell their friends and family about a negative experience with an unclean or unsanitary restaurant restroom.

• 46 percent said they would avoid going to a restaurant because of a bad experience with a restaurant’s restroom that they had themselves or one they heard about from others.

“We weren’t surprised by the results from this study,” says West. “That’s why we always work closely with our restaurant customers to create a first-class experience that rivals other restaurant establishments.”