How A Restaurant's Bathroom Can Ruin My Meal

November 1, 2018

I enter the single-serve restroom of a popular Little Italy seafood restaurant and immediately notice there are no towels of any kind. Fortunately, I always carry a trusted handkerchief in my back pocket in case of such a situation. I use my foot to lift the toilet seat, then to put it down, then to flush it. I wash my hands using the automated soap dispenser and sink. I then dry my hands with my pocket square and use it to open the door, blocking it from closing with my foot as I discard my handkerchief Kobe Bryant-style and head back to my table. Then I begin to think about how everyone else confronts that same bathroom, including kitchen staff, and become disgusted. I can't stop thinking about it during my meal, which substantially decreases my overall pleasure in what would have otherwise been a wonderful dinner. As you may have gathered, I'm known to be a bit O.C.D..

So, yes, a restaurant's bathroom can ruin a meal. Generally speaking, employees use the same bathroom as the customers so, if there are no towels available, the employees must be touching the door handle AFTER they wash their hands. This causes automatic concern about restaurant and kitchen cleanliness. My level of revulsion substantially increases if it's a sushi or pizza place, or any other restaurant where cooks are hands deep in the food.

What about protecting against unnecessary waste you say? The Texas-sized island of trash floating in the Pacific? Surely, bathroom towels contribute greatly to our planet's garbage problem. I truly do care about our environment, but cleanliness is next to godliness, especially when food is concerned! So, what's the solution? Hand dryers? Hell no!!

In 2014, a team of scientists from the University of Leeds performed a study that concluded that jet and warm-air dryers introduced 27 times more bacteria into the air than good-old-fashioned paper towels, and these filthy microbes circulated for up to 15 minutes after use. Another recent study conducted by a team at the University of Connecticut Health Department and published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology concluded that hand dryers actually store and deposit many types of bacteria on the hands of its users, including fecal bacteria. How nasty is that?!
This Petri dish was stuck in the open plate of a Dyson hand dryer for 3 minutes and
grew several strains of deadly fungi and bacteria.
So, hand dryers are absolutely disgusting. Okay, what about actual, washable towels? Personally, I love this scenario but also understand that it results in a whole host of other environmental issues. These towels need to be collected, likely by a gasoline-fueled automobile with harmful emissions, then run through an electric-powered washing machine and dryer, then transported back to the restaurant. Although real towels reduce waste, they also result in a substantial carbon footprint.

What is the ideal bathroom situation, you ask? The ideal bathroom consists of sensored everything - from sink to soap dispenser to a biodegradable paper towel machine - and a push-to-exit door or a door with one of those foot-pull devices. Hell, let's make the door automatic, too. Oh, and if the restaurant doesn't put a garbage basket by the door, I always assume the owner is a nasty little door toucher.

I have not put my actual hand skin on any surface in a public restroom in well over a decade and I'm sick of throwing away my handkerchiefs. Restaurants need to get with it and think about us clean freaks! There are plenty of us out there.