November 20, 1998
Restaurants and Restrooms
Nothing sours a savory supper sooner than stepping into a squalid, smelly bathroom. Have you ever gone to the restroom in a restaurant and found it unusable? Inadequate and unclean restroom facilities are the most under discussed health hazard in the restaurant business. To be sure there are plenty of restaurants with sanitary, well-maintained lavatories. However, there are far too many that do not even come close to an appropriate level of hygiene.
For the health and safety of diners and staff alike, restaurant restrooms should conform to tighter standards of cleanliness and quality. First of all, the size of the restroom ought to be proportionate with the restaurants seating capacity. Some restrooms are so small that it is almost impossible for one person to turn around or to take off a jacket. After a large, heavy meal no one wants to deal with the discomfort and inconvenience of an incommodious commode.
In addition to more space, many restrooms also need better ventilation to keep germs and unpleasant odors at bay. Bathrooms, like kitchens, need to be routinely inspected for cleanliness and functionality. Floors should be dry and unsoiled, sinks and toilets ought to be scrubbed and disinfected, and soap, hot water, and toilet paper should be available in bounteous supply. It is not uncommon for restaurant bathrooms to offer only cold water, a limitation which prevents people from cleaning their hands properly. Lets change those stupid little signs that say employees must wash their hands after using the bathroomgood hygiene is necessary for everyone.
Furthermore, the placement of restrooms in a private section of the restaurant when possible is another courtesy wed all appreciate. When youre going to the bathroom, you dont want everybody in the restaurant to know exactly when youre going! On the other hand, sometimes bathroom facilities are inconveniently tucked away on an upper or lower level of the restaurant. This cant always be avoided, but preferably the bathrooms should be in a discreet location on the same floor as the dining area. Furthermore, the perennially-crowded ladies room should have enough stalls. A customer should never have to wait in line for the bathroom. A line means either the facilities are inadequate or the menu needs to be changed.
Restaurateurs should remember that the quality of their lavatories can affect the palates of their valued customers. After all, the reality is that the quality of the waste is directly related to the quality of the food. If, following a big meal, a patron adjourns to the bathroom and finds it rank and grimy, he may well lose his interest in the dessert menu. And if the last thing a person remembers before leaving a restaurant is its filthy restroom, chances are she wont be a repeat customer.
Some restaurants seem to have the attitude that when you come to my restaurant , you dont have to go to the bathroom. Consumption, however, inevitably produces waste, whether youre dining at Taco Bell or Le Cirque. Bathrooms are expensive but they are necessary. Restaurants have to make sure their restrooms meet these upgraded health standards, or they may be washed up.
James C. Benerofe
November 20, 1998