We’ve all been there. Literally.
The dirty restaurant bathroom that makes us wonder about the kitchen. As Anthony Bourdain said in Kitchen Confidential, ‘If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like.‘ You can argue that there are different crews with different responsibilities, but Bourdain is not alone; most of us see it as an omen. A poll from Cintas, a provider of restroom supplies to the restaurant industry, found that 79% of respondents would avoid a restaurant if they knew the bathrooms were dirty. 88% of them agreed that the state of the restrooms says something about the kitchen’s hygiene, and 94% said if they personally encountered bathroom nastiness, they wouldn’t return.
There’s spillover in our minds, but there is actually little hard data to support a connection between a dirty bathroom and a dirty kitchen. According to Doug Powell, publisher of the BarfBlog, health inspectors will take note of the general state of a restaurant restroom and include impressions and any obvious violations in the report, but they don’t pull out the swabs and test kits like they do in the kitchen. Correlation or not, when we eat out, we want to know about the table and the throne. While the state of the restroom sometimes makes it into the review on sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor, restaurant bathrooms, like favorite dishes and ambiance, really warrant their own crowdsourced reviews. Since personal preferences can be very personal, there’s no shortage of potty apps out there to help you find the right place at the right time. Here are some of our favorites:
- Bathroom Scout directs you to more than a million user-reviewed restrooms worldwide.
- Flush’d won us over with its motto: No one takes this sh*t as seriously as we do.
- The Charmin-sponsored Sit or Squat has ease of use going for it, dividing all its mapped facilities into two categories: safe to SIT; or maybe you want to SQUAT.
- Refuge Restroom locates safe and welcoming restroom access for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming individuals.
- The Looie is not for everyone, and that’s by design. For $25 a month, the New York City-based app offers its members entry to restrooms housed in restaurants, hotels, and office buildings—all places that normally deny public access. In exchange for admitting its members, the Looie team provides the janitorial services to its partnering establishments.
Cintas, the company behind the poll, gives an annual award for America’s Best Bathroom. Last year’s award went to the town of Minturn, Colorado for a public restroom that resembles a passageway into a Rocky Mountain mine. Past nominees include a distillery’s restroom in a whiskey barrel, a Las Vegas casino men’s room with urinals set into authentic, graffiti-covered sections of the Berlin Wall, and a Presidential porta-potty made for Barack Obama’s inauguration. You can find all the winners and top nominees at America’s Best Restroom Hall of Fame.