Hospitality Hall men's room

Porcelain Priorities

Dean Stowe Shoemaker has a healthy obsession about restroom stalls and soap dispensers.

Yeah, yeah — Hospitality Hall’s grand entrance, sweeping views, and environmentally conscious design are impressive. And its learning kitchen, golf shop, and café up the ante on the coolest teaching spaces on campus.

But Stowe Shoemaker wants you to know all about the restrooms. Take notice of the details in these utilitarian spaces, he said, and you’ll get a sense of the standards the Harrah College of Hospitality is setting for its students.

The restroom at Sketch restaurant in London stands out to the college’s dean. The gender-neutral loo replaced its stalls with futuristic pods, extending its food-art-music experience throughout the restaurant.

But trendy wasn’t what Shoemaker was after here. Think more along the lines of the classically styled properties like Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. “What stands out to me about the Bellagio is that every time I’ve been there, there’s been someone cleaning it. And it’s bright enough for me to see that it really is clean.”

Hospitality Hall’s stalls will be tended by students working in the first-floor café — just as they’ll be expected to do when they take any position in the industry after graduation.

“This is not just a building for them to take classes in; it’s a reflection of our philosophy of integrating our curriculum with the industry. It reinforces that we’re a true hospitality program — not a business school that happens to use hospitality examples.”

Shoemaker’s Restroom Peeves

Some of the other details you’ll notice in the restrooms:

Dispensers — Instead of positioning the soap dispensers between every other sink, Hospitality Hall sprung for automatic dispensers built into each basin. “One of my biggest pet peeves is when the soap is a ways away from the sink and up high so by the time people get their hands back to rinse off, they’ve dripped soap all over the countertop.”

Likewise, the massive rolls of paper towels (often inconveniently located at one end of a bank of sinks, leading to more dreaded drips), have been replaced with stainless steel countertop boxes with folded towels.

Extra space — In the women’s restrooms, a corner will soon have seating added. Gender-neutral bathrooms ensure transgender students and guests have comfortable spaces while also providing more space for parents who need to attend to children’s diapers. And Shoemaker lobbied to ensure Hospitality Hall features a campus lactation room.

Meanwhile, the men’s room urinal dividers are larger than typical and you’ll never find a target around the urinal drain. “Restrooms should not create a locker-room feel.”

Doorways — Germaphobes will rejoice at the wide, door-free entrances to the restrooms, a design choice that counteracts another of Shoemaker’s pet peeves: too-small wastebaskets that are overflowing with paper towels tossed as guests avoid touching door handles.

Stall locks — Those little round locks with nubs that slide into the stall frame have a way of wearing out, “leaving you trying to keep the door shut with your foot. I hate that; it’s awkward.” So higher quality materials and slider locks were chosen to withstand wear, keeping stall doors squarely hung and securely shut.

Covering the Costs

Those finishing touches did increase some line-item costs, initially raising the concern of construction and facilities personnel.

“They wanted to standardize as much as they can across campus, and that makes sense from their perspective,” Shoemaker said. “The state has an obligation to look after taxpayer money — which I totally respect.”

So the college turned to its donors, who covered nearly half of the building’s $59 million construction costs.

“Industry executives know exactly why we needed Moen faucets instead of the standard issue,” Shoemaker said. “It’s a widely held belief that when an organization puts the effort into their restrooms, they’re probably paying attention to the details in the less tangible parts of their business. If it’s dirty, well, you get the sense they’re neglecting other things too.

“For us, that means they know the college is paying attention to our curriculum and the kind of investment they’re making in their future employees.”

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