I thought we should start with some of the good examples, deconstruct those, and then take those lessons on to the less savory aspects.
So here's a pop-quiz to get us started.
One of these images is the ladies room in an a members-only private club. The other is in a public restaurant. They're in the same office complex. A or B???
If you guessed that A was the private club and B was the public restaurant, you are correct. The private club has some nice amenities of course. There are hand-towels stacked up against the wall, and mouthwash with disposable cups, as well as hand lotion. The decor doesn't appear to have changed since the 70s, and the rest of the club is even dustier. The ladiesroom stalls are the same metal things you would find in a baseball stadium. There is one really weird amenity, actually -- it's a sonic glasses cleaning machine. I've never seen anyone use it. It looks like it hasn't been cleaned in a while.
The beautiful wooden door is the cubicle in the ladiesroom in a restaurant in the same office complex as the club. There are actually two hooks on the door, one for your briefcase or purse, and one for your coat. And the stalls have a mirror, so you can check your lipstick.
All the dark wood and amenities make the Soul of the Vine ladiesroom a much nicer, more elegant environment than the Ontario Club, which will be no surprise to anyone who has been to both. It's not just the food that's better. The service is better. The ladiesrooms are better. They are much better at making you feel special. Amazingly enough, the Soul of the Vine is very affordable. Its cousin, Far Niente, located one floor up is at a much higher price point.
But either one is a much better place to take a client, and these places are in the heart of Toronto's financial district.
A great many private clubs are struggling to stay alive, and it's no surprise, really. They have not moved with the times. They don't have business centres where the free-agent nation can drop in and work, because they have assumed we have an office downtown.
The food is often pedestrian at best. The coffee is often poor, and served in little cups that are half the size most people now want.
It's not really a ladiesroom, it's a litmus test for the whole operation. Or a thin-slice of the experience, to use the Gladwellian term.
Meet the ladies here.