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The Best Bathroom?

The Grand America Hotel delivers style, detail in its public bathrooms.

Monday, August 02, 2010
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The average hotel guest probably doesn’t expect public bathrooms to feature Italian marble and a chandelier in every stall.

But The Grand America Hotel is not your average hotel.

The flagship of the Grand America Hotel and Resorts, the five-diamond property sits on 10 acres in the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. It boasts 775 guest rooms and suites, as well as some of the best bathrooms in America.

It can credibly make that claim because it is a finalist for the America’s Best Restroom Award sponsored by Cintas Corp.

The Grand America Hotel is not even sure how it came to be nominated for the honor.

“It’s something that took us a bit by surprise,” said Anthony Bartholomew, director of hotel operations. “You just go about executing your service values, which the owner of our company has set for us. Those values are simple: Be the very best you can be. It’s always flattering and rewarding when you're recognized for success executing those values. We’re excited about it.”

Any restroom in the United States that is open to the public is eligible for the contest, and this year’s entrants include hotels, restaurants and some unexpected spots such as Lawrence Dumont Stadium, home of the Wichita Wingnuts baseball team.

Ten bathrooms have been singled out as finalists, and The Grand America Hotel currently is in first place. The other hotel entrant, New York City’s Muse Hotel, is in fifth place.

“Nobody talks about what the expectations of a guest are as it relates to a bathroom,” Bartholomew said. “I think it’s one of those expected services and amenities. Maybe because it’s such a personal nature, but from my perspective, nobody talks about it unless something is not right. Our goal is to have a very upscale, residential feel. It’s remarkable when you take one of those expected service areas and make it completely unexpected. I believe we were successful in doing that.”

The contest is for the hotel’s public bathrooms, not what it offers in its guest rooms. With its 80,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel had to have extensive bathroom facilities.

“It’s a daunting task to create a five-diamond experience in a convention bathroom,” Bartholomew said.

But the hotel delivered.

“From public baths to guest baths, the response is always the same: ‘Wow,’” he said. “They’re remarkable, I have to say. They’re just terrific. I've been in this business for over 20 years, and they’re the finest I’ve ever seen.”

The design and materials back up the claim. Frank Nicholson Inc., which has provided the design for most Ritz-Carlton Hotels and many of the Four Seasons Hotels, designed the hotel, including the bathrooms.

The bathrooms feature Italian Carerra Marble, custom-made Tosso & Moscatelli Chandeliers crafted from bronze and crystal, and African Anegre Wood. The walls received four coats of paint, all applied by hand. The hotel employs a staff of 25 painters to maintain the look of the whole hotel, including bathrooms.

The commodes feature floor-to-ceiling doors for complete privacy. Each stall has a mini chandelier lighting it.

The ladies room features 28 stalls, a sitting area with sofas and desks for people to socialize or touch up their makeup. Bartholomew estimated the space is about 4,000 square feet.

“It’s very flexible space and very spacious,” he said.

The men’s room features the same materials and fixtures, without the sitting area.

At these bathrooms, you can forget about flimsy paper towels. Guests dry their hands with linen towels made in Italy

The other component to a superlative bathroom is its cleanliness. Public attendants refresh the bathroom every hour on the hour. The cleaning staff uses Eco-Lab products as well as Eco-Logic Solutions.

“We’re flattered to be nominated for the contest,” Bartholomew said. “Since we have been nominated, we’ve all thought a lot about it, and I hope that the readers will understand that if we pay that much attention and care to the quality of the bathroom experience, imagine what the rest of the hospitality experience must be like.”

The contest winner will be determined through an online vote at www.bestrestroom.com through the end of the month. Cintas will announce the results in September.
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