Ivor Bradley of the Creamery scans a bar code that opens the door to a restroom during a training session at Good2Go in S.F.Photo: Santiago Mejia / The Chronicle
A new gatekeeper stands in front of the restrooms at the Whole Foods on Stanyan Street. Wearing a shirt with “Good2Go” embroidered on the chest, he offers a combination of advice and advertisement: If you want to use the toilet, he tells customers, request a receipt with a computer-generated code from the customer service desk or download his company’s app.
This is San Francisco, after all, where even pit stops are becoming mobile-enabled — and monetized. Does Good2Go make toilets easier to find, or does it further the digital divide? Perhaps both.
According to Fran Heller, CEO and founder of Good2Go, the inspiration for her San Francisco company came from her running group in Menlo Park, which often followed routes along unfamiliar streets. Google Maps couldn’t tell runners in need where to find a nearby toilet. Neither could Waze. Eureka! Economic opportunity presented itself.
“San Francisco really struggles, as does any busy urban area, with inadequate access to restrooms,” Heller said. “People don’t know where they can find a restroom, or if they think they can find one, you’ve got to negotiate access, and it’s fraught with problems.”
Four years after its founding, Good2Go has $7 million in seed funding, according to investment database Crunchbase, and restroom-door hardware installed in 11 San Francisco businesses, with a mobile toilet truck appearing at events in the fall. For now, the service is free, but later this year, it will switch to a pay-as-you-go proposition.
Most of the early adopters are cafes: Several Peet’s locations, plus independents such as the Creamery in SoMa and Fifty/Fifty in the Inner Richmond. The Stanyan Street location is the first Whole Foods to convert to the technology.
To use Good2Go, a toilet-seeker approaches a participating business and opens the app, which prompts her to join the queue. When she’s up, a computerized QR code appears on the screen of her phone. (At the Whole Foods, a screen next to the door lets holders of paper receipts know who’s next.) She waves the code under a reader, and the door opens. (Science!) Another wave of the hand next to a sensor inside the restroom lets her out, at which time the app invites her to review her, uh, experience.
The company handles the door technology and requires participating merchants to install hands-free fixtures and diaper-changing tables. The promise to them, according to Heller, isn’t just new customers who may seek out a restroom and leave with a latte, but eventually, a share of the revenue when Good2Go starts charging.
You didn’t think that technical innovation was for free, did you? Sometime this fall, around the time when the company is placed in 20 locations, Good2Go plans to switch to a subscriber model: $2.99 for a day pass, $19.99 for one month, with further discounts for multiple months. Heller said her two target customers are tourists and office-less workers, such as Uber and Lyft drivers.
Whole Foods did not return The Chronicle’s queries, but any regular Stanyan Street Whole Foods shopper can tell you that tourists on Haight Street make up a significant part of the restroom line and homeless San Franciscans another. Sharing door codes and holding doors open for each other was common. Now, each one must wave a unique Good2Go code under the reader. (The app won’t prevent you from holding the door open for the next person in line, however.)
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by Jonathan Kauffman