James Michael Lafferty, CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding Image Credit: Supplied

Dining out is on the rise again as the world attempts to get back to normal following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a survey commissioned by Fine Solutions, the away-from-home division of Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH), one of the world’s leading wellness groups and manufacturers of hygienic paper products, has highlighted the importance of hygiene in the dining experience post lockdown, with over 89% of UAE customers surveyed unwilling to revisit a restaurant with poor restrooms hygiene.

The survey by Kantar Middle East was created to understand the customer perspective and the correlation between loyalty and restroom hygiene. The survey of 500 respondents was conducted online across different nationalities, affluence levels and emirates.

The main findings show that customers placed more importance on cleanliness in the restroom (50%) than in the kitchen (48%) or interior — the area including tables, chairs, floor and billing counter (47%) — when it comes to hygiene factors that matter most in a restaurant. Elsewhere, cleanliness and operational condition (62%) were found to be the most important hygiene factors in a restaurant restroom.

James Michael Lafferty, CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding, said, “This survey comes at an important time for both consumers and brands as we navigate the new normal of everyday life in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic. We understand the importance of hygiene, it drives everything we do as a business. And this study emphasises how highly customers and consumers place these considerations when it comes to their choices and their behaviour.”

The survey has uncovered some interesting findings on consumer preference towards hygiene and cleanliness in an era, when business can be affected by poor customer reviews and social media coverage.

In terms of demographics, cleanliness and availability of disinfecting products in the restroom were rated highly important by Emiratis, western expats, and respondents with monthly household income of more than Dh16,000. Interestingly, while toilet cleanliness rated higher among female respondents, the availability of disinfecting products such as wipes and sanitizers on tables polled higher among males.

Taking a deep dive into hand hygiene, 79% of customers preferred paper towels over hand dryers, citing speed, health and texture as the main reason for their preference.

Absorption power, biodegradable aspects and texture were the three most important attributes for paper towel users. Sterilized paper hand towels were also preferred to regular paper towels by 66% of those surveyed. The overall preference for paper towels fits in with a number of scientific studies which show that hand dryers tend to spread 1,300 times more germs than paper towels.

Lafferty added, “The unique Fine Dine Program has been designed to recognize the efforts of F&B establishments in improving hygiene level at their facilities, and also to link consumers to a network of restaurants and dining options in the region with high hygiene levels.”

Fine Hygienic Holding provides restaurants and a range of other businesses with carefully tailored solutions to ensure a clean and hygienic environment through their away-from-home division — Fine Solutions.

*The percentage figure given corresponds to the number of respondents who gave a rating of 9 or 10 to the survey questions.