Like us on Facebook!

David Lissner
for restaurants

12 things wrong with restaurant restrooms: A woman’s rant

Ladies' lounge

An elegant ladies’ lounge.

If this is sexist, so be it…. Restaurateurs: Do not allow your ladies’ rooms to be designed by men!

I’m not going to name names, but I have visited way too many restaurants where the women’s restrooms were clearly not designed to fulfill even their basic function comfortably, let alone all the other things women do in the bathroom.

I don’t expect a return to the days when every fine establishment from restaurants to department stores devoted space to a beautifully decorated ladies’ lounge outfitted with comfy chairs, full-length mirrors and vanities stocked with a selection of toiletries, yet even strictly utilitarian restrooms need minimal amenities. Thankfully, laws now dictate such things as number of stalls and wheelchair accessibility, and it should go without saying that bathrooms must be kept in good repair, from the plumbing to the locks on the stall doors, as well as pristine and well stocked with supplies, but that’s not enough.

Here’s a checklist of what a decent ladies’ loo must have:

  1. Lighting: Turn up the lights! Nobody needs romantic lighting in the john! Give me bright lights, so I can make sure my clothing is adjusted properly, that I don’t have spinach in my teeth and that my hair isn’t a mess. (Well, OK, so my hair is usually a mess anyway, but let me see to do what I can about it.)

  2. Hooks: Install strong hooks so I can hang up my purse, my coat and any other articles of clothing I might need to remove before using the facility. Women’s underwear can require considerable disrobing, and nobody wants to put her handbag down on a bathroom floor. No male designer has ever tried to do his business with a purse slung around his neck, while holding most of his clothing in one hand.

  3. Counter space: Hardly any woman goes to the restroom without her purse. So we need somewhere to put it down! That means there needs to be a dry place near the sink so we can wash our hands. So make sure there’s enough counter space and that the faucets don’t leak or splash. Purse hooks at the sinks are nice, too.

  4. Mirrors: There has to be at least one. It should be big and in a well-lighted place, and — as mentioned — with somewhere dry beside it to put things down. Ideally, there should be another mirror at a counter away from the sinks, so women primping aren’t in the way of others who need to wash their hands. A full-length mirror is a great touch, too. But please aim the mirrors so they don’t provide a peek into the stalls!

  5. Temperature control: Why are so many restaurant bathrooms freezing in the winter and steamy in the summer? Are you sadists? Please don’t make us shiver while we’re half undressed or sweat while we’re tugging up our pantyhose!

  6. Wastebaskets: There must be a waste receptacle next to each toilet. No exceptions. If you don’t know why, you deserve the big plumbers’ bills you probably have.

  7. Paper: I said before that it should go without saying that the bathrooms must be kept well supplied. This goes double for the ladies’ room. Or triple. Not only do women wipe when men merely shake, we sit. On the seats. Since most women are taught never to sit on an uncovered public restroom seat, you either need to supply paper seat covers or be prepared for the use of extra toilet paper for do-it-yourself covers. Don’t use those stingy dispensers that only let you have two sheets at a time. Otherwise, send somebody in every few minutes to mop up after all the women who will hover and miss.

  8. More paper: Yes, I know that hand dryers are less wasteful, less messy and more economical than paper towels. But they are no more sanitary and you can’t use them to dry your face or blot your lipstick. Or wrap up any articles of clothing that might have become rendered unwearable due to, er, feminine-product failures or by being accidentally dropped onto to the scummy bathroom floor. (And speaking of feminine paper products, whatever happened to the vending machines restrooms used to have?)

  9. Space: Women tend to go to the restroom in groups. So make the ladies’ room as spacious as you possibly can, then add waiting space for lineups (though if women are regularly lined up outside your john, figure out how to put in more stalls). If your establishment caters to families, you also need extra room plus a changing table in both the women’s and the men’s rooms for parents with young children.

  10. No shared spaces: A window between the men’s and women’s rooms is a dumb idea. So is putting the sinks and mirrors in a public area outside cramped, dimly lit individual stalls. I really don’t like even combing my hair in front of strange men’s eyes, let alone checking whether I’ve managed to tuck the hem of my skirt into my waistband. I’m not too crazy about unisex restrooms, either, unless you send someone in frequently to wipe down the seats and mop the floor. Do I have to spell out why? (Maybe men aren’t necessarily sloppier in public restrooms than women, but when you combine the messes of them both — sheesh!)

  11. Obvious labels: The sign outside the restroom door is no place to get cute. Establishments that serve alcohol should especially make sure these signs are as clear as possible. Don’t make me compare pictograms to figure out which room I’m supposed to use. Two coconut shells vs. a banana? Give me a break!

  12. No automatic devices: I’m really tired of Harry Potter sinks and soap and towel dispensers that require the correct magical gesture to get them to work. Even when you can get the faucet to go on, the water is always too cold and turns off too soon. I also hate lights that turn off while I’m stuck in the stall, leaving me sitting in the dark. And if you’re going to have toilets that flush themselves, please make sure they’re set so they don’t go off while I’m sitting there, spewing their contents over my behind!

Make no mistake, restaurateurs, if your ladies’ rooms are inadequate, it directly affects your sales. When women find restrooms unsuitable, they tend to avoid using them, so they forgo eating and drinking and go somewhere else where there are more acceptable facilities as soon as possible. Have your ladies’ room checked by someone who uses them!

Want me to come and inspect your bathroom in person? If it meets my standards, I promise to bestow an official Leah’s Ladies’ Loo Certificate of Excellence, suitable for framing.