Jason Seehafer, executive housekeeper, puts extra care into specifying and displaying paper products for guest and public restrooms for The American Club, Kohler Company’s five-diamond resort, Kohler, Wis. Seehafer considers paper products bonafide design elements.

“Here, cost isn’t a factor,” he says. “It’s design, and the experience we give to our guests. Especially being a leader in the plumbing industry, our bathrooms are our showcase, and guests travel from all over just to see and use these. The amenities need to have that same level of quality: high-end — that’s what our guest’s expectations are.”

American Club guest rooms offer high-quality toilet tissue and towels. Face tissues are presented in a cube-shaped porcelain box over the tissue manufacturer’s paper container. Toilet paper has a little texture to avoid the flat look of inexpensive varieties.

“We [include] a bit of a design to avoid the plain look,” Seehafer says. When replenishing tissue rolls, workers discard the first few sheets, then fold the end square into a triangular tab for guests.

Quality and presentation of paper products are just as important in public restrooms.

“Some visitors don’t stay in rooms, so we want to ensure the public restrooms are showcases, too,” Seehafer says.

Public restrooms include free-standing, three-tier bamboo shelves with oval-shaped wicker baskets filled with complimentary amenities to make visitors of the American Club feel at home. The top-shelf basket is filled with thick, disposable hand towels adorned with The American Club logo. Beside the basket is a box of face tissue with a porcelain cover. The next shelf houses a wicker basket filled with complimentary plastic-wrapped disposable hair brushes, hair spray and three styles of tampons, which are also available inside stalls.

A front-of-the-house employee ensures the baskets are stocked during the day, and the night-shift staff performs detail cleaning, taking the baskets apart, freshening them up and replenishing contents.

The Kohler housekeeping department uses this low-tech approach to dispensing quality paper products in public restrooms to create a comforting environment for guests. The idea works design-wise, too.

“The industrial dispenser is useful, but it’s not a design element,” Seehafer says, referring to the style of built-in stainless-steel combination towel dispensers/
trash cans.

“There are no dispensers in the walls, and it really adds to the design and luxury image of our bathrooms,” Seehafer adds. “This doesn’t draw your eye to the wall, to the dispensers — you see our plumbing fixtures.”

According to Seehafer: Seeing a stack of hand towels, especially with logos … has a “wow” factor. Individual stacked products are also good for cleanliness.

“You’re not touching a handle — each is individual. I think you’ll see that more and more,” he adds. “Some people say it’s more labor to keep restocking, but it makes a difference, especially for us. It is a showcase. Every two to three years we try to renovate with new sinks in the public bathrooms, and the paper products and décor tie into that.”

One-sheet-at-a-time touchless towel dispensing is reserved for the employee bathrooms.

“It reduces waste,” says Seehafer, adding that employees are given the same quality brands guests receive, only delivered on larger rolls to minimize restocking time.

About six months ago, three restaurant restrooms at the resort began offering launderable guest hand towels, in addition to disposable hand towels. Each cloth is rolled into a neat little bundle, and stored in a decorative basket.

“We’ve have had a lot of positive comments on that,” Seehafer says. “We were looking at the design and image of our bathroom, and it seemed elegant. Especially with a nice basket and how they’re rolled up — the presentation is what our guests expect of our facility.”

Everything from tile to lighting have been carefully considered in the facilities at The American Club and at every Kohler company.

“The ladies’ room is brighter, and wall covering is lighter than the men’s,” says Seehafer, adding that some women appreciate the additional light for touching up their makeup.

The American Club epitomizes the Kohler brand name — everywhere, function and design go hand-in-hand.

Just like home
Creating a comfortable, home-like environment is also a high priority in hospitals, like Bon Secours Health System, Richmond, Va.

“You can never underestimate the impact of restrooms to customers’ home-away-from-home experience,” says Weston (Wes) Thiss, CHESP. “Use name brands. In a hospital setting, it’s the little things like that that can lead to comfort in trying times. Restrooms are so important to overall quality rating of a facility.”

Thiss says that C-fold hand towels work best for the hospital’s restrooms.

“People get one at a time, they don’t tear … it keeps costs way down,” he says.

He should know. In each of the three times the hospital switched to a lower quality product to try to save money they’ve discovered that it’s actually less expensive to buy quality, because so much less is used.

“High-quality, absorbent towels reduce consumption, which may reduce costs in the long run, even though you pay more upfront,” says Thiss.

Thiss, who is a member of Hospitals for a Healthy Environment (H2E), always considers innovative, environmentally friendly solutions, including coreless rolls of toilet paper, one of his current research projects.

“Everyone has the high-tech equipment, etc. … What’s going to distinguish my facility from someone else’s?,” Thiss asks. “Neighborhood water quality, landfill … what are we doing to [improve] that?”

Thiss strives to create a positive customer experience, but adds that because his facility operates in a high-end neighborhood, his customers seem to expect more, too.

“A comfortable, clean restroom with quality products sets the tone for the rest of the visit,” he says.

Balancing quality and cost
If a good restroom can set the tone for a hospital visit, can it do the same for a public school? Yes, says Dawn Miller, manager of plant operations for Minneapolis Public Schools. When her school district’s central distribution department was dissolved, she found herself in charge of specifying paper products via an annual bid system, with business being awarded to the lowest bidder. Specific bid criteria are used to ensure quality products.

“If I were to buy two-ply at $60 per case, and have the kids waste it, it wouldn’t be a good use of funding,” she says. “So we try to get the best quality for our standard.”

The district’s standard for toilet paper is 4.5-inch-square sheets, with a minimum of 1,000 sheets per roll, 96 rolls per case — individually wrapped and single-ply. The standard for hand towels is 8-inch rolls, both 350 feet and 800 feet long (to accommodate the district’s different dispensers). Products outside of standard specifications must be approved by Miller.

When products arrive, she double-checks them against the bid criteria, and has discovered discrepancies on more than one occasion. Being short-sheeted one-eighth of an inch per 4-inch-by-4-inch square is substantial when multiplied by 1,000 squares. It also makes a difference on the toilet-paper dispenser. And one vendor actually tried to bill her more for an inferior product.

“I said ‘no, this is not equal,’” she says. “We look for quality. The focus is on education, and providing the products students need is extremely important.”

Lori Veit is a free-lance writer based in Madison, Wis.