When we’re at a restaurant, we tend not to give too much thought to the restroom. Even if they’re stunning, we go in, we do our business, we wash our hands (hopefully), and we get out. But if you stop and think about it, the restroom is just as important a space as any other part of a restaurant, and we bet that there’s a lot you didn’t realize about them.
Head chefs have lots of responsibilities, one of which is to keep very close tabs on the price they’re paying for food, booze, and other supplies. While many instinctively can tell when they’re being overcharged for food, however, most don’t pay very close attention to how much they’re paying for toilet paper. If they’re not careful, they could easily fall victim to being ripped off by their supply company.
Many restaurants only have one restroom and only one soap dispenser. Sure, there might be a sink in the kitchen, but if an employee uses the restroom and starts washing their hands only to realize that there’s no soap left, they’re probably not going to seek out soap.
This is one of the most important rules of thumb in a restaurant: If the staff doesn’t care enough to keep a place that the public uses clean, how much attention do you think it pays to cleaning a place that’s out of public view?
We don’t advocate doing this regularly, but if it’s an emergency and there’s no other option, choose a restaurant that’s fairly full and just walk on in like you belong there. Don’t stop to ask the hostess if you can use the restroom because they might say no. Odds are nobody will say anything to you, and if they do, just say you’re looking for someone. If in a worst-case scenario you can’t find the restroom to save your life, ask a busser.
The amount of people who don’t wash their hands after using the restroom is fairly shocking, and everyone touches the door handle on their way out. After you wash your hands, use your elbow to push the paper towel lever down, and after drying your hands, use the paper towel to turn off the tap and open the door. Keep the door open with your foot, toss the paper towel into the garbage, and walk on out with bacteria-free hands.
The main reason electric hand dryers exist is to make it easier for the restaurant, not to make it easier or more sanitary for you. Think about it: Restaurants don’t have to pay for paper towels or be constantly emptying the trash, and you have to stand there for a minute while lukewarm air barely dries your hands. Tests have also proven that hot-air hand dryers are the least effective in keeping your hands clean because damp hands attract more bacteria and paper towels remove more bacteria than hot air. So if given the option between the two, always opt for the paper towels.
All restaurants should provide hooks in their bathrooms, and with good reason: The bathroom floor is generally filthy, and putting your purse and/or coat on it is a great way to contaminate them. If there’s a hook, use it!
Restroom attendants are a dying breed, mostly because they’re completely unnecessary. But having one there to turn on and off the tap for us and offer us a towel (and perhaps a dash of cologne) is an old-fashioned luxury, and they’re the ones who have to spend hours every day hanging out in a restaurant bathroom, so do them the courtesy of giving them a buck if you encounter one. You only really find them in expensive restaurants these days, so what’s one more dollar on top of an already-expensive meal?
More and more restaurant and bar restrooms are doing away with mirrors these days, for a few reasons. One, if it’s a single-person restroom they want you to get in and out as quickly as possible, not loiter in there applying makeup; two, they need to be constantly cleaned because they’re magnets for fingerprints and graffiti; and three, they have to be replaced multiple times annually because they’re so prone to breaking and scratchitti.