It’s great to see so many of you offering excellent toilet facilities. But it’s no huge surprise really when you consider that most sites nowadays have a convenience store in addition to their forecourt facilities, and an added convenience is that forecourt loo.
It’s definitely something that’s appreciated at our first-ever Best Forecourt Loo winner, Symonds of Wells.
Manager Victoria Elson confirms that their loo is used a great deal, especially after school by mums with kids. "It’s vital that we have this facility on site," she says, adding that customers are always commenting on how big and clean the facilities are and also how well stocked they are with essentials like loo roll.
"I think that if your store is of a certain size, then you really should have a customer loo," says Victoria.
"It’s good for business as the feedback is great and people really appreciate that it’s there. It’s used by everybody but particularly travellers and commuters; we even get people who use it to change in after work."
Obviously a loo does not look after itself so Victoria has a rota so the loo is checked hourly and it’s cleaned twice a day. Bodmin Moor Services in Cornwall, owned by Top 50 Indie the Chartman Group, was the second winner of our Best Forecourt Loo award. Chartman has eight forecourts, all of which have a toilet, except one where there are public conveniences right next door.
Chartman director Clive Sheppard says offering toilet facilities is all about meeting those all important customer expectations. "Why bother being in retail if you are not going to provide what your customers need? When people are travelling in their cars and stop for fuel they often need to take a natural break, so we make sure they can. I’ve always believed that you should have a customer loo so we’ve always had them."
He uses Initial to provide the loo rolls and service the sanitary bins and says they provide a good service.
Clive says he thinks the Best Forecourt Loo competition is great because it’s helping raise the profile of facilities and, in turn, raising standards. "Having an award shows just how important these things are."
But it’s not just Clive who thinks loos are important. One UK citizen believed forecourt toilets were so vital that he/she launched an e-petition on the HM Government website last year stating that ’All petrol stations signal if toilets working now’. The specifics were that "Passing drivers must be able to see from their car whether a petrol station has a working and available toilet from the road before they slow down. If closed for any reason, the sign must warn the driver not to stop here". Unfortunately the petition closed last November with just five signatures.
But trawl through the internet and you’ll see how excitable people get about toilet facilities understandable really when you consider they are something we all use.
A taxi driver in Singapore, for example, has gone to the trouble of rating petrol station facilities. He rates the Caltex operated sites as best because of the air conditioning and ’perfume’ but marks Shell sites down for not always having toilet paper. It makes interesting reading.
Of course, once you’ve got a customer loo, you need to look after it. According to research company him!, 76% of UK shoppers find toilet facilities in forecourts clean. That’s obviously great but you have to pity the 24% who found them dirty.
The biggest pet peeves when it comes to toilet facilities in forecourts were poor hygiene (54%); having to ask for a key (46%); no soap (30%); finding that they are unisex facilities (21%); and the entrance being outside (21%). It is staggering that in 2015, there are still petrol stations where you have to ask for the ’dreaded key’ to use the toilet surely you either offer the facilities or you don’t? Katie Littler, insights director at him!, comments: "When it comes to getting toilets right, customer priorities are good hygiene, not having to ask for a key, and keeping them fully stocked with soap and toilet paper. For women, in particular, many don’t like unisex toilets or toilets that are accessed from outside the store, it can make them feel unsafe."
James Hayfield, sales director at washroom supplies firm RS Sales & Distribution, points to research conducted in the wider retail and hospitality services industry, which found that hygiene standards directly drive sales and reputation. "The underlying message here was that businesses need to focus on critical hygiene practices such as ensuring that toilet facilities are properly maintained, or they risk losing out on repeat business. The Best Forecourt Loo initiative helps to raise the bar as far as the standard of forecourt washrooms are concerned and we believe that, for a relatively low investment, we can provide retailers with an opportunity to achieve a significant positive impact across their business by working to improve the standards in their washrooms."
The hunt starts here for the UK’s Best Forecourt Loo 2015 - nominate your loo now
If your loo facilities are a cut above the rest, why not enter our Best Forecourt Loo competition? Our aim is to flush out the bad loos and leave customers with just the shining examples of tip-top toilets. To enter couldn’t be easier. The competition will once again run via a Facebook campaign, which will open up discussion, engage with consumers, and encourage them to join in the hunt for the UK’s Best Forecourt Loo. The main criteria to be a winner include: quality of facilities, appearance, hygiene, cleanliness, accessibility, maintenance and signposting plus, of course, a Facebook page and a supportive customer base. All you have to do is send us your nominations with relevant photography so that we can put your facilities online to face a public vote. You will need to encourage your customers to ’like’ your loo. The site with the most ’likes’ subject to complying with the competition criteria will be named as Best UK Forecourt Loo 2015. The deadline for votes is Friday, April 10. The results will be announced at the Forecourt Show, which runs at the NEC, Birmingham from April 20-22. Send your nominations in to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you ’like’ the Facebook page Forecourt Trader Best Forecourt Loo.
Full details are available at www.forecourttrader.co.uk.
Top tips for tip-top loos
Make sure your loo is clearly signed.
Your customer loo can never be too clean so encourage staff to make regular checks for cleanliness and to replenish consumables.
Ensure there is a sign encouraging customers to report any problems to staff ie lack of loo paper or soap.
Soap dispensers are now regarded as more hygienic than bars.
A wall mirror is essential and a hook for coats/bags recommended.
Ensure there is somewhere for sanitary/nappy waste as you don’t want to get blocked drains.
A can of air freshener is a good idea!