Gross Restaurant Bathrooms Make Me Question Everything

Even if the food and service are impeccable, a filthy restroom can ruin the whole experience.

A Gross Restaurant Bathroom Can Ruin Your Whole Meal

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There’s more to a great restaurant than amazing food, a beautifully stylized dining room, and impeccable service. Sure, these things can contribute to the overall restaurant experience, but there’s one sensitive area that can change a customer’s perception of a restaurant in the blink of an eye: the restroom. For the love of bleach and multi-ply toilet paper, attention shall be paid to these often overlooked rooms. 

Leaky faucets, moldy grout, and dirty floors would never be allowed in a kitchen, so why is it so common in a restroom? Whenever I walk into one that has low, subdued lighting, I wonder if that five-watt bulb over the sink is for ambiance or to keep me from seeing the cracked caulking around the soap dispenser. A lavatory should be an extension of the restaurant. Nobody wants to feel like they’re eating dinner during the Gilded Age but then cross the threshold of the restroom and be transported to Little House on the Prairie. One of my favorite restaurants in New York City in the early '90s had the most wonderful meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. I’d go there often, satiating my appetite for all the food I’d left behind after moving from Texas. The bathroom was one step away from an outhouse. There were wooden pallets on the floor to keep customers from wading through puddles of what I hope was just water. I felt like Marian Paroo in The Music Man crossing the footbridge for her first kiss, but all I wanted to do was release my bladder. 

Hey, restaurants: try harder. Customers don’t want to see a toilet brush stashed behind the commode anymore than they want to see a hair in their salad. They both bring to mind uncleanliness. Enough with the little wicker baskets of dried potpourri that rest on the tank of the toilet. They’re always covered with dust because how does one dust dried potpourri, anyway? And stop storing paper towels in those wicker baskets too, because how does one dust a wicker basket? We don’t need the fanciest of lavender hand soap in a glass decanter, but if there’s a giant bottle of bright pink dish soap sitting on the floor that matches what's coming out of the soap dispenser, we see what you did there. 

We want a bathroom that has thought behind it. It should be a place with such good lighting and design that we are desperate to take a selfie in it. I once worked at a restaurant that was known for its bathrooms as much as the food. Each one was an homage to a pop star with mosaic tiled walls and pop culture paraphernalia. Upon entering, a dedicated playlist blasted overhead so you listened to Michael Jackson, Beyonce, or Dolly Parton as you did your business. There were probably selfies involved for many, but this was back in the day when cell phones produced photos with just one or two pixels worth of quality. 

If the bathroom isn’t going to look like it came out of a home decor magazine, at last give us clean. It needs to be checked thoroughly and often throughout the day because, let’s face it, humans are disgusting. Wipe down those countertops on the regular. Pick up those half-squares of toilet paper off the floor and empty the trash can as often as needed. Trying to put a crumpled paper towel on top of an overflowing pile so it doesn’t fall onto the ground is a Jenga game nobody wants to play. And mop! Just last week at a perfectly fine restaurant, I practically slid into a urinal. When I walked out of the restroom, I had to question the floors everywhere else in the place. After attending to the floor, don’t leave the bucket and mop in the corner because all that does is remind us of what was once underneath our feet. Cleanliness is next to godliness, but a dirty bathroom is literally right next to where we 're eating our dinner.

Not every restaurant requires a complete renovation of their bathroom, they just need to put a little effort into them. Customers will always remember two things about their dining experience: the best thing and the worst thing. A gross bathroom might be just enough to cancel out how good the food is. And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: give us hooks!

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