In the realm of restaurant bathrooms, we must remember: We are not going it alone.
What is the mind-set of a customer who leaves trash on the floor or walks out with a soap dispenser? Why can’t restaurants keep stalls clean and plumbing functional? Users and owners each have their issues, ranking restroom practices as the No. 1 Ongoing Restaurant Vexation That May Never Be Resolved. Detente by way of understanding is in order.
“If you walk into a bathroom and it’s dirty, you’re done,” says Ris Lacoste, speaking on behalf of customer expectations and as proprietor of some of the handsomest private unisex restrooms in town. “Keeping them clean is an absolute must.” The chef, who owns Ris in the District’s West End, says her bus staff is responsible for a thorough cleaning before service begins, but all Ris employees are expected to monitor the situation during hours of operation.
When a restaurant makes bathroom patrol a top priority, that can translate to four passes through every hour on weekends. Hosts at Osteria Morini are tasked to do this, says manager Jesse Hiney, during which time they restock supplies and retrieve empty wine glasses. Sometimes, even that’s not often enough — because people get sick, and because customers can feel entitled.
Morini provides linen-like hand towels and “nicer” soap, he says. But “people steal our soap dispensers — the kind that cost $15 to $20 on Amazon. Funny thing is, they are stolen from the men’s restroom. A gift for the wife? I don’t know. . . .”
Last summer, in between 30-minute restroom checks at Kinship in the District, someone managed to steal art off the wall — R&D menus written in co-owner Celia Laurent’s own hand. “It is, and isn’t, puzzling,” she says. “We see a lot of different behaviors.”
A few years back, Hiney says, a guest who wasn’t even dining in the restaurant broke an automatic flush sensor in the women’s restroom and then attempted to flush it down the toilet. Her move disabled one of three stalls for a couple of weeks before it could be fixed. Beyond what a plunger can correct, repairs done by professionals outside the restaurant staff are the norm for high-tech sinks and toilets.
Marjorie Meek-Bradley sees greater challenges in the high volume of a fast-casual restaurant bathroom: “There are a lot more people going in and out the door here, and it can look like a sign that you don’t pay attention to details.”
Consequently, “I feel like we have to clean them up more often,” she says. At Smoked and Stacked in Shaw, it can be tough to slip away during the lunch rush, but “we do check them probably three times a day. . . . Guys can be pigs.” The chef-owner elaborated further, but you probably get the gist. In the interest of fairness, Hiney finds Morini’s women’s restroom more of a mess more often: “I wouldn’t even venture a guess as to why this is so,” he says.
Henceforth, a detente-level pact. If the party of the first part (restaurants) and the party of the second part (customers) agree to the restroom rules that correspond to their own best practices, we shall all experience greater levels of relief:
●You weren’t raised in a barn. Pick up after yourself.
●Don’t steal. Leave nice things for others to enjoy, as intended.
●Report supply shortages or emergency messes or plumbing malfunctions to the manager or host stand.
●Keep things clean, well stocked and in good working order.
●Choose sinks and hardware that minimize splash-ups.
●Provide sturdy hooks for hanging up bags.
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