The most personal and most telling moment that a customer experiences in a restaurant isn't typically at the table.
It's in the restroom.
Some 50% of restaurant patrons who have a negative experience with a bathroom from dirty toilets to grimy soap dispenses to bad odors will blab about it to friends and family, according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive for SCA Tissue North America.
Even more seriously, it's going to cost business. Nearly 3 in 10 consumers surveyed said there are no second chances with dirty restrooms and they would never return to the restaurant again.
For the nation's 980,000 restaurants, whose sales are expected to top $660 billion this year, the costs, in image and bottom line, for yucky restrooms can be staggering. Consumers are increasingly posting descriptions and even photos of what they find on Facebook, in blogs and travel reviews and on other social-media sites.
Clean restrooms are particularly important for parents who take their kids out to eat. And it's hard to undo a lousy image for bathroom upkeep.
If there's any doubt about how important a clean restroom is to a restaurant, just read consumer restaurant reviews. Some sound like horror stories.