Look to the Restroom to Help Reduce Costs and the Spread of Colds and Flu

    By Dan Storto,
    President, World Dryer Corp.

    When many restaurant facility managers consider ways to cut operational costs and save money, chances are the public restroom may not be the first area that comes to mind. However, a few simple changes in restroom fixtures can help to eliminate waste and reduce maintenance costs while keeping the restroom clean and sanitary for both customers and employees.

    Start by reducing costs
    Sanitation is a concern for restaurants, especially during flu season, but cost is a top concern year long. Paper of every kind has become increasingly expensive over the past decade or so, and typically, people use more 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. How many people use your restroom every day? Multiply that number by 5 cents each, and your expenses can add up to thousands of dollars per year on paper towels alone. Consider, too, the shelf space required for stocking the paper towel supply, as well as the time it takes employees to restock the dispensers and clean up and dispose of the clutter paper towels leave behind.

    Currently, in terms of energy consumption, hand dryers cost only about 7 cents per 200 uses with heat and only 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.

    In the past, many people preferred paper towels to hand dryers because they found it quicker to use paper and—using plenty of paper towels—they could be sure their hands were thoroughly dry. However, the new generation of hand dryers dry hands up to three times faster than the earlier models and they can 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.

    Conserving energy to help the environment
    When it comes to conserving natural resources, replacing paper towels with hand dryers may at first appear to be simply trading off 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.

    In addition, when constructing or renovating a restaurant to meet LEED building standards, some hand dryer models carry the GreenSpec-certification. Most newer models also are ADA-compliant to conform to regulations for public-access facilities.

    Maintaining sanitary conditions
    The cold and flu season this year has been reported as “epidemic,” with some flu victims developing serious health complications. Doctors commonly recommend that people wash their hands repeatedly throughout the day, and particularly when they’ve been in public areas, to avoid contracting these illnesses. Door handles, restaurant tables, seating and countertops, even the handles on faucets in restroom facilities can carry the viruses and bacteria that cause colds and the flu. However, frequent hand-washing can mean exposure to yet another source of contamination—the possibly damp, left-behind clutter of used paper towels that are provided in many restaurant restrooms.

    To help solve this problem, many restaurant facilities managers seek alternatives such as “touch-free” hand dryers, soap dispensers, faucets, and even toilet paper dispensers, which eliminate the need to touch the surfaces where many other hands have been. With touch-free hand dryers, any movement under the nozzle triggers a flow of air to thoroughly dry hands without direct contact with the unit. For even further protection, some hand dryers offer anti-microbial technology to reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and parasites on the dryer itself.

    Appearance counts
    In any establishment that serves food, even the appearance of a lack of cleanliness may cause patrons to rethink visiting again. Often—sometimes unfairly—customers judge a restaurant’s overall cleanliness based on the look of its restroom. A trashcan overflowing with paper towels may not present the image your restaurant wants to convey and may leave patrons with a negative impression.

    The truth is, touch-free hand dryers can help you keep your restrooms clean and clutter-free, and by working automatically, they actually can assist in preventing the spread of harmful viruses, bacteria and parasites. This is especially important at a time when flu season is estimated to be unusually severe.

    Compared to the complexity of the kitchen and dining areas of a restaurant facility, hand dryers in the restroom may seem like a minor detail. However, they can go a long way to help reducing maintenance and energy costs while promoting a sanitary environment.

    Dan Storto is president for Berkeley, IL-based World Dryer, a global manufacturer of hand dryers. He can be reached at dstorto@worlddryer.com.

    As seen in Restaurant Facility Business, January 2013, issue.