Restroom Rental Industry Outlook 2020

Going into 2020 mid Q1, it’s a fitting time to take a look at new trends in training, service, industry technology innovations, and at old challenges and recommendations for new entrants into the nationwide portable restroom rental market. ALW has gathered a wide range of portable restroom rental business owners’ impressions of future threats and opportunities for growth of their businesses and their thoughts on possibilities and priorities for operational innovations over the coming year and beyond. Here are some observations and expectations, as expressed by portable restroom rental services business owners nationwide and some insights and recommendations offered by one of the United States’ preeminent industry authorities, to help business owners and operators embarking on Q2 2020 strategic planning.
Portable Restroom Business Owners’

Growth Expectations

We asked many luxury portable restroom rental services providers and portable toilet rental vendors in markets throughout the country about their growth projections for upcoming periods and their concerns regarding any near future threats to their businesses.
Here are some representative samples of the kinds of responses we pretty consistently received to our inquiries about short- and longer-term growth expectations from unique niche services providers of the standard porta-potty units as well as luxury restroom trailer rental vendors, and their outlooks for their corners of the industry:

Dwight Chandler, Piedmont Portables and TCS

In February of 2019, Piedmont reported optimistic revenue projections, from a budget rationale driven by the company’s continuously stable long-term customer base. Dwight Chandler expressed that over the years, “There has been very little turnover of clients.” He attributes Piedmont’s consistently high customer retention rates, which he believes have and will continue to provide the foundation that enables its continued financial sustainability and growth, to consistent service by the company’s proven reliable service-centric team.
Among the company’s primary challenges to future growth plans, Chandler identifies underpriced competitors, “There are companies who try to low-ball pricing to get market share. Of course, the only way they can do that is to provide customers with low-quality service, which is not good for the industry. Most customers these days understand that they can’t get a very low price and high quality of service. Cheap pricing normally results in cheap service.” He refers to his company’s pricing policy, which offers an ideal example of pricing and branding best practices, “We don’t try to be the cheapest. We’ve built our reputation on our high quality.”
Beyond the local pricing issue, the only other possible major external force that Dwight sees as having significant potential to negatively affect Piedmont’s growth plan is, as he puts it, “the same thing that can affect every other kind of company in the industries we serve—an economic downturn in housing or other construction. That affects the portable toilet market.”
He recalls previous occurrences of growth impact from changes in larger economic conditions, and he offers a positive perspective on how to weather such periods of serious challenges to financial health of businesses in the industry, “In 2008 and ‘09, we were affected, but nobody had to get laid off. The economy eventually recovered, and we moved on. If you run a pretty tight organization, you can withstand economic challenges in our industry, as long as they’re not too extreme.”

Brad Simpson, The Lavish Loo, Luxury Portable
Restrooms and Showers

In May 2019, Brad Simpson, Owner and operator Denver’s unique high-value-added luxury restroom trailer rental service, The Lavish Loo, talked about the company’s strategic growth plan. The Colorado outdoor events season is May through September. The remainder of the year, Simpson was working to identify other means of generating income through The Lavish Loo, “I started exploring Arizona because the service is needed year-round there. We will be opening a branch in Arizona, we’re hoping to get it started this fall.”
At the time ALW interviewed Brad for the May Spotlight feature, he already had recruited someone in Arizona who was positioned to come on board to help with the planned Arizona startup. Intending to build a thriving business in the Grand Canyon State, Brad announced, “We will be based out of Phoenix, and we’ll service Tucson and areas throughout the state.”
Future growth plans for The Lavish Loo are exceptionally optimistic, looking far beyond the 2020 rollout of the company’s Arizona extension, “Ultimately, the goal is to franchise The Lavish Loo. I want to put another year or two into generating strong sales and then franchise the model.” Brad clarified, “Everything is in the infancy stages. When things come together, we want to end up franchising.”

Andy Christian, Franchisee, Royal Restrooms
Jacksonville, Florida

In August 2019 ALW spoke with the first franchisee of Royal Restrooms, Andy Christian. Andy and his wife Linda started with two luxury restroom trailers they bought from corporate franchisor Royal Restrooms. Andy and Linda kept their day jobs and delivered their trailers for use at private events on weekends, and the business began to grow.
Eventually, the Christians started a sister business for shower trailer rentals they provide to hurricane disaster recovery areas. Today, their thriving Jacksonville Royal Restrooms franchise provides services throughout the majority of the eastern and central Florida market region as well as the state’s southwestern coastline market segment. The company has a busy staff handling delivery, services, maintenance, and administrative management of around a hundred luxury restroom units and shower trailers.
The Jacksonville franchise’s revenue channels have proven to be consistently highly productive, with around 75 percent of the company’s income generated by restroom trailer rentals and about 25 percent from shower trailer rentals. The company also supplies many restroom trailers to other area vendors who need to supplement their inventory of luxury units. Andy explained, “Some of my best customers are other people in the business.”
Regarding any potential 2020 and future threats to his business, Andy observes, “What I’m seeing in this industry is bigger companies buying out smaller ones. In Florida, there’s not as much competition. I think the service has gone down, and that’s not good for the industry. A couple of companies are getting bigger and bigger. We ‘ve been approached, but we like what we do and want to keep it going. But, it (the buy-outs) can push out the smaller companies. That means customers are less likely to get customer service that is as good as when the competition is stronger. When there’s less competition, it also (adversely) affects the pricing.”

New Waste Water Conversion Technology Roll Out

In the related industry of wastewater management, recognized industry authority Gray Brothers Septic Services, Philadelphia Pennsylvania is vigorously executing its own 2020 growth plan — one that profoundly departs from the typical models of a septic services businesses. SoMax BioEnergy is nearing the sales launch of a transformative technology that has high potential to impact the portable restroom rental, septic services, and waste treatment industries.
Gray Brothers CEO, Dan Spracklin is a long-time collaborator with, and advisor to Villanova and other major academic institutions working on environmental questions involving wastewater. Spracklin and his team of five top industry engineers have developed a revolutionary technology that converts waste material — during hauling — into renewable energy. The company is now in the final stages of preparing to launch a sister company, SoMax Bioenergy, Inc., to produce and distribute the stunning technology.
The Gray Brothers company, now celebrating its 90th year in operation, has moved from its former 10,000 square foot space into a 110,000 square feet facility, in which both Gray Brothers and SoMax will operate. In October 2019, Dan announced to ALW that the first SoMax manufacturing line will begin production in Q2 of 2020, using $400K in grant money the company has received for wastewater treatment.
Asked what he expects to be the significance of the new SoMax technology, Dan Spracklin’s response was, “I believe it’s going to revolutionize the wastewater hauling industry and the wastewater treatment industry.” By late 2020, the technology may begin to make its way into the mobile units hauling wastewater from portable toilet rental units, adding to upfront technology investment costs for vendors. In 2021 and coming years through the next decade, vendors hauling wastewater may begin to realize returns on those investments.

Insights from National Industry Leader David Sauers, Principal, Royal Restrooms

We asked David Sauers, who is one of the two principals of one of the United States’ leading luxury restroom rental business franchisors, Royal Restrooms (along with partner Robert Glisson), for his perspectives on the future of operations and growth for Royal and its multitude of franchisees through 2020 and beyond:
Do you find there any new training features that should be incorporated by portable restroom rental services providers going forward, to help elevate the industry?
We focus on pretty much one market dynamic, restroom trailers and shower trailers, and all our training is centered around that. I think one thing other companies miss is that they don’t do training for shower trailers as something different. You have to take more time, be more methodical, be able to fix things, correct mechanical issues, etc.
We pick up a lot of our business from other companies because of lacking sanitary conditions, or issues with air conditioning, faucets not working, or other mechanical problems. Employees need more training when it comes to routine maintenance and cleaning of shower trailers and restroom trailers.
Are there any service upgrades that you would recommend for portable restroom rental companies at this time?
Communicate. Speak directly to your clients. Upgrade as necessary. For smaller, or even larger companies, operators need to look into, and invest in mobile apps and make processes more computerized, so they’re able to keep up with their clients in services, not rely on paper processes.
So, switch to electronic systems. From a restroom maintenance standpoint, there are now smarter restroom management apps that help monitor restroom facilities failures. Some apps can tell you how much water is left, how much holding capacity, notify you of electrical issues, and report other really good information almost instantaneously with iPhones and Androids.
What do you see as the most significant challenges to new entrants into the industry, and what recommendations would you offer people looking to launch startups over the next year?
When you’re coming into the business new, for a restroom trailer operator it’s relatively easy to get in and start. You have one or two restroom trailers, to start. Maybe you get on Facebook and get some rentals. But, it’s really difficult to make a cold run at market share. It’s a slow way to gain market share.
Because it’s difficult to gain a lot of exposure at once, with larger competitors gobbling up the market share, you almost have to have a little bit of a niche that you especially create to go into. From a smaller company standpoint, I think it would be easier to fill that niche. That’s what we do. We already have a large market presence, so when you join up with us, you can get to work right away. You’re not going to find you’re just sitting and waiting.

Advice for 2020 New Market Entrants from David Sauers, Royal Restrooms

One thing we’ve seen is that people are just not charging what they’re worth. Companies are fighting against each other for certain jobs. I wish companies would charge what they’re truly worth. A job done 10 years ago might have been $10,000, but now people may be trying to do that same job for $4,500.
We’re competing against ourselves when we do that, to the point that nobody’s making any money. I wish companies would look at the money they’re leaving on the table.
Beyond that, I’d advise — work smarter, plan your event, and instead of trying to do every one of them, do a few of them correctly.

General Industry Outlook for 2020 and Beyond

From coast to coast, in one report after another from business owners the US portable restroom services industry in 2019, we heard similar exhilarating growth plans for Q2 through Q4 2019 and throughout 2020 and beyond into the new decade.
Overall, it’s fair to say that the outlook of the many of the industry’s most successful business owners proved to be very optimistic in terms of their prospects not only for strong growth, but also in terms of their sense of freedom to experiment with new structural models, such as adding revenue lines, converting to more comprehensive operations on their digital platforms, and even undertaking bold interstate expansions into new regional markets.
For industry newcomers, Andy Christian reflects the kind of realistic perspective and managerial philosophy required to build a successful business in this competitive industry, “Even though we’ve grown and are pretty big, we’ve never lost sight of customer service and responding to customers’ needs on any issues. There are always going to be some issues, a clogged toilet, a storm knocks out power, etc.. There’s always something that can go wrong. We pride ourselves that we take care of an issue quickly. I’ll drop everything.”
Simple, straightforward, ideal advice for restroom rental businesses looking to grow throughout 2020 and the years beyond, is also offered by another successful entrepreneur in the industry, Charlie Hatler, Owner of Pit Stop Portables, Chattanooga, Tennessee, “We’ve grown the business by service. We’re basically in the service industry. So, to succeed, the important thing is to provide good service. And, keep the equipment in good shape. We have to keep the trucks in good shape so that we’re not breaking down and missing service.”
Charlie’s comment echoes the wisdom offered by the most successful entrepreneurs in the business, from the rapidly rising stars, to the preeminent experts. It speaks plainly on the best way of thinking about and responding to the most common industry challenges for business owners and about opportunities that the year 2020 and the new decade are sure to present. So, for the final word from ALW on the outlook for 2020 in the portable restroom rental business, we’ll offer another comment from Charlie in Chattanooga:
“Provide good service — that’s the key. If you do that, you can charge a little bit more. You might not get the new account at first, but you can later. If they’re paying too little, then they’re probably not going to be getting good service for very long. So, they’ll then be willing to pay more appropriately for a well-serviced unit than for one that’s not being cleaned. If you do a good job, you’ll be alright.”

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