By Dan Storto, president, World Dryer Corp.
In today's challenging economy, restaurant owners and operators are looking for ways to reduce operational costs and waste. One area where savings can be gained that may not immediately come to mind is the public restroom. By changing restroom fixtures, operators can help eliminate waste and reduce maintenance costs.
This is also an area that operators should consider carefully because studies have shown many patrons will avoid businesses that have dirty restrooms. Upgrades can not only improve energy efficiency and reduce waste but also improve sanitation and appearance.
The rising cost of paper
When evaluating restroom fixtures, the technological advancements made in high-speed hand dryers and the rising price of paper should be considered.
The new generation of hand dryers dry hands in just 10 to 12 seconds, up to three times faster than the earlier models, and they use as much as 80 percent less energy in the process. Heat levels may be adjustable, and today's dryers operate more quietly than in prior years.
Meanwhile, paper of every kind has become increasingly expensive over the past decade. Customers will often use more paper towel than they need to in public restrooms. In fact, on average, people use 2.5 paper towel sheets every time they dry their hands. With the cost of paper towels at up to 2 cents per sheet, it can cost as much as 5 cents per person to dry their hands. Multiply that cost by the number of customers and employees who use your restrooms every day and your expenses can add up to thousands of dollars per year on paper towels alone.
Also, consider the time your employees spend restocking dispensers and cleaning up and disposing of the clutter paper towels leave behind. Used, wet paper towels often end up on the floor, or worse, in your plumbing.
In terms of energy consumption, hand dryers currently cost about 7 cents per 200 uses with heat, or 4 cents per 200 uses without heat. Compare this number to the cost of using paper towels, and hand dryers can help restaurants achieve significant savings per year.
Sustainability and regulatory compliance
When it comes to conserving natural resources, replacing paper towels with hand dryers may at first appear to be trading one set of carbon emissions for another. However, according to EPA estimates, producing a single ton of paper requires 7,000 gallons of water, 360 gallons of oil, 158 million BTUs of energy and as much as two to four tons of trees. By contrast, over its lifetime, one hand dryer will produce three tons less CO2 than the production of the paper towels it replaces.
Some modern hand dryers are GreenSpec approved and will help those constructing or renovating QSRs to get LEED certification. Additionally, many newer models of hand dryers are ADA-compliant to conform to regulations for public-access facilities.
Clean bathrooms help the bottom line
Food safety is increasingly on the minds of patrons today, and one of the ways that customers judge the overall cleanliness of a restaurant — fairly or unfairly — is the condition of its restrooms. One of the ways operators are seeking to improve sanitation is through the use of "touch-free" fixtures in the restroom, such as hands-free soap dispensers, faucets and even toilet paper dispensers.
Automatic, hands-free hand dryers not only help to meet the "touch-free" goal but also eliminate the pile of used paper towels in the trash or on the floor. Given the importance of having a clean appearance with customers, an overflowing trash bin may not present the image your QSR wants to convey. For even further protection, some hand dryers offer anti-microbial technology to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and mold on the dryer itself.
Hand dryers in the restroom may seem like a minor consideration compared to the complexity of the kitchen and dining areas of a QSR. However, they can go a long way to help reduce maintenance and energy costs. Studies have shown automatic hand dryers can save businesses up to 99 percent in operation costs as compared to paper towels — removing much of the maintenance involved in restroom upkeep, including restocking and disposal. And paying attention to your restaurant's restrooms not only allows you to cut expenses but also promote a sanitary, appealing environment that customers trust and enjoy.
Dan Storto is president for Berkeley, Ill.-based World Dryer (www.worlddryer.com), a global manufacturer of energy efficient, rapid-dry hand dryers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo provided by Wikimedia.