How Many Portable Restrooms Should I Buy?

Deciding how many restrooms to have in your inventory is not a black-and-white issue. Learn what factors to consider and take the time to do some basic math.
How Many Portable Restrooms Should I Buy?
It’s best to stick to OSHA rules for the calculating the number of restrooms per site.

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Operating a portable restroom business comes with challenges. And deciding what type and how much inventory to keep on hand offers another set of challenges. You buy the best trucks and trailers to pump restrooms and move units, so why wouldn’t you invest in as many restrooms as you need? 

You should consider several factors when deciding how much equipment you need to beef up your fleet, and when it’s time to order new inventory and expand your business into new markets or service areas. 

We’ve simplified this by outlining some basic considerations to keep in mind when outfitting your new portable toilet business or updating inventory for a 20-year-old company. 

Keeping restrooms on hand

Like many other service industries, portable restroom businesses see constant ebb and flow in the number of customers. Are you torn between keeping a few extra restrooms on hand in case business picks up and overstocking your warehouse with costly units that aren’t used? If you have restrooms that aren’t being used regularly, then you’re losing money on maintenance and storage. 

If you’re not worried about those fringe costs, then do some quick calculations — number of events, units per event, etc. — to figure out how many restrooms you would likely need and go shopping. You’ll be ready if the business begins booming when a neighboring town kicks of an annual music festival and they call on you for all your available restrooms. But keep in mind, more toilets mean you’ll need more workers to service the units and probably more trucks for delivery and pick up. 

Another perspective? If you choose to go with a lower inventory, you could increase your prices because of high demand for your product. Supply and demand at its finest. Higher prices will make it easier for you to absorb the cost of doing business, and make it easier for your business to grow.

Bottom line? Be realistic when you’re planning and ordering restrooms. Don’t assume you’ll have a full schedule of special events, but don’t put yourself in a position where you’re continually telling customers you’re sold out. 

Number crunching

Now let’s crunch some numbers. A new portable restroom costs anywhere from $600 to $1,000 so unless you won the lottery recently, you probably won’t be running out the door to buy all the units you can jam in your warehouse. However, if you take pencil to paper to do some math, you might realize you can afford to take on additional inventory, and ultimately more work. 

Again, the more restrooms you own, the more drivers you’ll need and the more trucks you’ll have to purchase and maintain. Keep in mind you’ll also need more insurance to protect your business, equipment and employees. 

As the economy starts to balance out again, perhaps you can manage the increase in businesses, so now might be the perfect time order additional restrooms. 

More restrooms, more business

Maybe you’ve reached a business plateau and you want to make a change. Money is coming in and profits are balances. This could be the ideal time to invest in an expansion with more restrooms to meet the needs of more customers or to branch out into new markets. 

As with any other business question, you have to consider whether your business can sustain a profit after a major expansion. Just because a company relies on market share as a measure of success does not mean that company will be successful. 

Here are some basic questions you should ask before going out and spending thousands of dollars on more restrooms and more equipment.

  • Would an expansion increase your overall profitability?

  • Will you be able to afford to take on more restrooms, trucks and drivers?

  • Will you be able to sustain the expansion over the short- and long-term?

  • Do you have enough wiggle room in your profit margins to sustain a possible temporary dip in profitability? 

Create a clear-cut expansion plan before purchasing additional equipment. 

Restroom rulebook

The number of restrooms you need — or choose to have — will depend on many factors, such as the number of special event and construction jobs you place units at annually, how many attendees and workers use the units, and even food and beverage consumption at the events. 

You will need to try to estimate how many special events that you are looking to take care of each weekend, and about how many attendees there will be, and also try to estimate the amount of construction opportunities in your area. If you plan for more construction jobs, you will need to have more units in your fleet, because they may be on those job sites for a long period of time. For special events, you will generally get those restrooms back after the weekend. 

Generally, it’s best to stick to OSHA rules for the calculating the number of restrooms per site. For a construction site, there should be one restroom for eight to 10 workers per 40-hour workweek. However, many job sites seem to forget about all the delivery drivers that spend time on the job site as well, so be sure to factor that in. 

For special events, there should be one restroom per 100 to 125 people to prevent overuse. Keep in mind the length of the event will make a difference. If there are a lot of people for a shorter amount of time there could be a higher demand for use, such as a marathon where there is high demand usage before the start of a race.   

You’re the only one who can determine how many portable toilets you should have on hand. It all depends on your ability to expand or downsize your business when the time is right. Just remember the goal is to keep your business profitable. 

About the Author
Erin Van Schepen is marketing coordinator for On Site Companies, a portable solutions company based out of St. Paul, Minn. For 25 years, the company has provided quality equipment coupled with excellent customer service. Read more about On Site’s story at www.promonthly.com/editorial/2014/07/best_foor_forward, or visit www.onsiteco.com.

How many restrooms do you have in your inventory? Why? Post a comment below. 



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