I’ve always had great respect for people in custodial services. A family friend emigrated from Europe to start cleaning offices, and another high school friend’s father had a business that cleaned gyms and clubs in New York. In fact, he was allowed to borrow his client’s Lamborghini one day, and drove it to pick up my friend from school. It’s the first and only time—and quite possibly the last—that I’ll sit in a Lamborghini (I barely had my license at the time, so no driving).And why is it that in news stories and movies, the underdogs are always the janitor or custodian? Think of the Columbia University janitor who earned his undergraduate degree after 12 years, and Will Hunting from “Good Will Hunting.” Rooting for the janitor is the American way, and so is respecting the work they do. In other words, clean up your stuff!That’s why I was glad to read this recent NACS article, where the nonprofit organization ‘Keep America Beautiful’ shared some dirt on litter at convenience stores and fast-food restaurants. It turns out that there’s a psychology behind littering - approximately 85% of littering is the result of people’s attitudes. Simply put, people who see litter are more likely to litter. Notably, food packaging from convenience stores and fast-food restaurants makes up 5% of all litter in the United States. However, it accounts for approximately 19% of the “visible” litter stream, or those items that measure more than 4 inches.Time to get the litter situation under control!
‘It’s the Small Trash After All’
Other than the cast of lovable characters, part of Walt Disney’s legacy was how to operate an amusement park with world-class efficiency. He wanted to create the ultimate customer experience—and that included taking out the trash. Trash cans in Disney World are 30 feet apart based on Walt’s personal observation of guests moving throughout the park with food. How often do you go to a store and either can’t find the trash can or you feel like you need a hazmat suit to approach it?A team effort is required to regularly pick up the trash and properly dispose of it in a larger receptacle or dumpster. There must also be a concerted effort to clean up food and beverage trails and traces, lest you attract unwelcome, pesky visitors.If your customers are like the people in my apartment building, your recycling will be overflowing, too, because taking care of the environment is very important to Millennial consumers. And there’s no butts about it—smoking is on the decline, with only about 15% of U.S. adults lighting up in 2015, according to the CDC. So sweep up those cigarette remnants before they become a turn-off to customers thinking about entering the store, especially for foodservice.
Raising the Bar on Cleanliness
Mediocrity is a dangerous place for a brand. If you’re not raising the bar, you’re either operating with a false sense of complacency or on the decline in areas you may not even realize. It’s time to give teeth to the otherwise toothless memo for stores to “clean up their act.”
Distribute mobile forms that track the compliance of basic tasks that can elevate a brand. For example, in the form below, a regional manager would have to answer a 'Yes' or 'No' question about trash being at a reasonable level. Be able to pinpoint the store that keeps getting “no” on this question, or if enough “no” responses are recorded across the region, it might be time to adjust your trash disposal methods and/or pickup schedule.
Also, take note of the option to rate trash levels on a sliding scale. Receive an alert for any store ranked “1” with overflowing garbage. Add a video (or photo) to document the problem. Senior management will be able to see these results in real-time and choose to respond in real-time if they wish. That’s how technology raises the bar - through transparency and accountability.