Don’t fall victim to this embarrassing special event snafu.


A crowd of 5,000 was sadly underwhelmed by the lack of portable restrooms available at the Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa, last weekend. Crowdgoers waited 30 minutes in lines 60-people deep for a half-dozen restrooms, says an article by The Des Moines Register. Yikes! 

Lines grew even longer as folks arrived to see former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton take the stage at the political powwow. The 3-hour event should have had at least 20 restrooms based on this table from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the PSAI: 

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Here's another chart from Hanson & Fitch, a temporary site services company based in California. These numbers are only to be used as a guide, as the exact number of restrooms can vary based on the type of event.

So, what can you learn from this embarrassing — and avoidable — snafu? (Other than the obvious — nothing actually gets fried at the “steak fry.”) Make sure you provide enough restrooms. Simple enough, right? Wrong. It’s not as black-and-white as you might think. Pumping restrooms is a skill you had to learn, so be sure to put as much learning into organizing restroom service for special events because they can be your biggest moneymakers. 

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A handy brochure from the PSAI outlines six areas to focus on when determining how many restrooms a special event needs: 

1. Type of event and traffic flow. It’s not a cookie-cutter profession, so don’t assume what works for one event will work for another kind of event.

2. Number of attendees and duration of the event. Seems pretty straightforward: More people. More restrooms. But just how many?

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3. Outside temperature. When it’s hot out, people drink more, which means they’ll be making more trips to the restroom.

4. Food and beverage availability. Hint: If alcohol is served at the event, add 10-20 percent more restrooms.

5. Special needs. ADA-compliant restrooms are required at public events, so be sure to discuss how many to include.

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6. Terrain and curbing. Flat surfaces to place and service restrooms. No-brainer, right? 

Your job is to help determine what a special event client needs and set the necessary cleaning schedule to minimize overuse. 

A great opening question to ask special event planners: What do you want people to experience at your event? 

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If you haven’t done so already, make a checklist of things you regularly need to review with special event clients (Hint: we just gave you six). That way you won’t miss any important factors when determining the number of units they need. 

Another option is to create a worksheet for potential customers to fill out with the basic questions so you have it on file for future special events. Have a stack of these worksheets handy in the office and in your work rig, so when dispatchers take a call from a new customer they won’t have to scribble illegible notes on scratch paper. Be sure to make an electronic form you can email to customers, too! 

If special events are your bread and butter, make sure you have the optimal number of restrooms in stock to provide top-notch service: How Many Restrooms Should I Buy?   

How do you calculate the number of restrooms necessary for a special event? Post a comment below!


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