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Edward J

Bathroom Parade, how to manage it?

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Just curious as to how other restaurant owners handle the problem of people waltzing in and making a direct bee-line to the washrooms and then waslking out again?

Just had an up-teenth "discussion" with one such person who insisted that I,as a restaurant owner must provide anyone and everyone washroom facilities.

I maintained my "boilerplate" schtick by reminding the person that washrooms are only for customers. As usual the person was agitated and insisted I was "rude".

I guess I could lock the washrooms and have the keys behind the expresso machine, to be doled out to customers who need it, or I could go one step higher and put an apartment buuilding style "buzzer" lock on the door. I am reluctnat to do so, but one more incident and I will----immediately

What do other owners do?

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Just curious as to how other restaurant owners handle the problem of people waltzing in and making a direct bee-line to the washrooms and then waslking out again?

Just had an up-teenth "discussion" with one such person who insisted that I,as a restaurant owner must provide anyone and everyone washroom facilities.

It depends on the jurisdiction - In Maryland, if you have a liquor license and serve alcohol for consumption on premise, your patron would be correct, you do have to provide public washrooms without restriction as a condition of your liquor license.

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How much of an issue is it really, how many are you getting a day?

What would your reaction be if someone came in, but asked first?

And is it really affecting your business? Because your suggested measures probably will.


I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Firstly, my place is a 16 seat cafe that only serves pastry, coffee and artisan chocolates, and I only have 1 guest washroom. I do not serve alcohol.

Secondly, I have never refused anyone who asks me first if they can use my facilities.

I do get upset when people walk in, ignore my or my staff's greeting, eyes automatically seeking out the washroom sign. This can happen twice a day, or it can happen once a month.

It's not the bathroonm itself that bothers me, it's the attitude. Ignore me or my staff, become upset or downright arguementitive when I ask them what exactly it is they want, or when I state with a completly blank, neutral tone that "washrooms are for customers only".

Locking the washroom has become a tactic employed by many other restaurants in Vancouver, Stah-bucks has keys or buzzers, same with Mickey D's, and even the public library does this. Many nightclubs have installed blue lights in the washrooms, as this makes it imposible to see veins or arteries.....

This has been an issue in the past, and the health dept has appeared on various media explaining that restauants did have the right to refuse people who weren't customers the facilities.

The majority of Vancouverites are aware of this. Some will oder something, and while it is prepared, use the washrooms. Others say they will, and when finished, question my staff on pricing or ingredients of various items (ignoring the menu board...) then simply state that everything is too expensive and quickly walk out. And others, well they choose just to argue.

Thoughts?

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Thoughts?

I think you should forget about it. Two people each day is no big deal. If it were six smelly hobos per day with poor aim, then I would say you have a problem. Barring that, there's no way I would deny anyone access to a bathroom. If someone needs to go, they need to go. What's the alternative?

No reason not to try and sell them a pastry and coffee on their way out, however. In fact, guilt them into buying one -- "Hey, how about buying a pastry? They're really good, and it beats pay toilets."

If you say it with the right inflection and a sincere smile, that could be a couple new customers each day.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Yeah, I agree...honestly just get over it. I agree that if it were a LOT of people, who like, peed or crapped all over the place constantly then it would be a problem. But if a couple people a day come in looking for a public restroom, and their only "crime" is not buying a coffee, that shouldn't be a big deal.

Why would you run the risk of alienating potential customers by refusing service of a restroom...seems petty. Even if they don't buy something that one time, they might remember the cafe in the future and be inclined to return as a patron.

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As a customer, I may not remember every place that was neutral about my using their bathroom, but I *will* remember the who were unkind, or especially kind. I don't know what sort of neighborhood you're in, but when I was pregnant, I was incredibly grateful for the places that let me use their bathrooms without a quibble, and tried to make up for it later, or at least suggested to my friends that they patronize those locations.

Unless you're having a huge problem, is it worth it to make your toileting on a par with service stations?

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'wichcraft uses a system where there is an electronic lock on the bathroom doors, and the combination is printed on your receipt, which you get after ordering from the counter and paying, before sitting down. It's not a perfect system, because most people don't realize the number is there until they've been to 'wichcraft a couple of times and have needed the bathroom after losing or discarding their receipt.

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I really don't think you should do anything about it, especially since it doesn't seem to be many people. The thing is, whilst you don't want to be advertising your toilet facilities and ushering in people off the streets to use them, you also don't want to be an asshole who actually won't let someone nip in if they're desparate, even if they're a kid, or a pregnant lady, or someone elderly.

Think of it this way: Imagine you are out and about in town one day. For whatever reason, you get caught short (maybe guys should be imagining they are female...less easy to pee behind a bush!). There are no public toilets about (pay or otherwise) and you'll never make it home, so you pop in to a nearby cafe or restaurant. Ok, so I personally would ask, but maybe you're too embarassed. Anyway, one of the staff comes up to you as you are on your way to the bathrooms and says "Sorry mate, customers only." You ask nicely, beg even, and apologise profusely for using their facilities. They still won't let you, and ask you to leave the restaurant.

Now, are you ever likely to think of that restaurant fondly in the future, let alone think about going there?! If a restaurant forced me to wet myself, I'd be pretty pissed (!) off with them!

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I think those unfamiliar with some areas in Vancouver are missing what he's politely keeping low-key in his posts. An overdosed junkie or a customer accidently getting stabbed with a dirty needle are legitimate concerns.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Well - if someone comes in with a crappy attitude then tell them to piss off and go crap their pants.

If someone comes in and asks "could I please use your bathroom" -- well of course they can.

If someone comes in and rushes to the bathroom and doesn't give you a chance to do squat --- well, not much you can do.

I guess all the people working there have to have a type of "dude going into bathroom to shoot up" or "dude going into the bathroom because he doesn't want to go pee on someones doorstep" radar and go from there.

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As a customer I have no problem with keys behind the counter. This is a pretty common technique. I would just recommend giving the keys freely to anyone who asks. Simply needing to ask is going to deter a lot of non-customer users.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks for the replys

Jenni, if you notice I stated that I never refused anyone who asked. I just have a problem with people who think it's a right or something to come in off the street, use the facilities, and go back out on the steet again.

That being said, I haven't had a problem with druggies for quite some time now.(and I'm knocking on wood as I type this...)

Meh, maybe I'm too sensitive.

But I have made up my mind that if I get one more person who specifically walks past my counter and ignores my or my staff's greetings and heads straight for the washrooms without saying a word, I'll put a lock on the door.

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As a consumer, a bathroom key kept at the counter doesn't bother me. On the whole I think places that do it this way tend to have nicer bathrooms.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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But I have made up my mind that if I get one more person who specifically walks past my counter and ignores my or my staff's greetings and heads straight for the washrooms without saying a word, I'll put a lock on the door.

May as well put that lock on now then. Someone will eventually ignore your greeting. But perhaps it's because its a proverbial "emergency."

I'm still in the "cut the public some slack" camp.

As a consumer, I dislike locked restrooms. I dislike asking the clerk for the key. (I'm not in prison or elementary school -- I don't need permission to use a toilet.)

I dislike walking to the bathroom with a key that is usually connected to a length of PVC pipe. I wonder if anyone has washed and sanitized that PVC pipe* and key -- ever. I don't really know where to put the key while using the bathroom. I'm certainly not putting it in my pocket, that's for sure. There's never a key caddy. So usually it sits on the edge of the sink. Or on the hand towel dispenser.

And then, after washing my hands, I have to pick up the PVC pipe/key combo, which is likely contaminated with eColi, salmonella, and every other fecal germ imaginable, and walk it back to the counter without somehow contaminating my hands.

Point blank -- if a restaurant puts me through those kind of hoops just to urinate, I will find another restaurant.

* Or similar anti-theft device. But they're all identical. PVC pipe, brass bar, acrylic wand, doesn't matter. It's a germ magnet. On the whole, I'd prefer a retinal scan or similar means of entry that doesn't involve extra microbial transfer. The door handle is nasty enough. Why add an extra layer?


Edited by ScoopKW (log)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I understand the specific difficulties of a PNW cafe owner worrying that his restroom might turn into a shooting gallery.

But I'm in the "cut the public some slack" camp. A coffee shop's WC in New Orleans spared me a public, humiliating, intestinal incident. The times on the road I've pulled into a McDonalds to use the facilities, not the counter are countless, and when driving across rural Michigan, priceless. It's just good restaurant karma.Without them I'd have been , er, up to my ass in trouble.

Don't get me started about Santa Monica, "The home of the homeless" where businesses have signs saying "No Washrooms." Not just at restaurants, but at businesses like Borders. I understand their issues with hobos in the Men's, but c'mon!


Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

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margaretmcarthur.com

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But I have made up my mind that if I get one more person who specifically walks past my counter and ignores my or my staff's greetings and heads straight for the washrooms without saying a word, I'll put a lock on the door.

May as well put that lock on now then. Someone will eventually ignore your greeting. But perhaps it's because its a proverbial "emergency."

I'm still in the "cut the public some slack" camp.

As a consumer, I dislike locked restrooms. I dislike asking the clerk for the key. (I'm not in prison or elementary school -- I don't need permission to use a toilet.)

I dislike walking to the bathroom with a key that is usually connected to a length of PVC pipe. I wonder if anyone has washed and sanitized that PVC pipe* and key -- ever. I don't really know where to put the key while using the bathroom. I'm certainly not putting it in my pocket, that's for sure. There's never a key caddy. So usually it sits on the edge of the sink. Or on the hand towel dispenser.

And then, after washing my hands, I have to pick up the PVC pipe/key combo, which is likely contaminated with eColi, salmonella, and every other fecal germ imaginable, and walk it back to the counter without somehow contaminating my hands.

Point blank -- if a restaurant puts me through those kind of hoops just to urinate, I will find another restaurant.

* Or similar anti-theft device. But they're all identical. PVC pipe, brass bar, acrylic wand, doesn't matter. It's a germ magnet. On the whole, I'd prefer a retinal scan or similar means of entry that doesn't involve extra microbial transfer. The door handle is nasty enough. Why add an extra layer?

I absolutely agree about those devices. The only time I'm okay with those is when the loo is clearly used as a merchandise storage location. (And those I find sort of repulsive, even if it's necessary.)

You might try being passive aggressive, and sticking a sign on the exiting side of the bathroom door - "Hi - hope everything was to your satisfaction. If you ran in without saying 'hello', we hope you stop to at least say 'goodbye'. We like to be social that way..."

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Ok, so you don't mind if people ask nicely, that's cool. And I get the whole not wanting random drunk/out-of-it/crazy people off the street to come in and mess things up.

One stupidly simple suggestion, but do you have a sign up? Just something simple like "Bathrooms are for customers only". Put it in a prominent place, and that may actually put off some of those who don't ask, just because they'll be too embarassed to be stopped and caught. And if someone does ask, because they're really desparate and just have to, even though they can read the sign, you use discretion and let them use the bathroom or not, as you choose.

Or perhaps you need a sign that says "Non-customers: Please ask before just walking in and using our bathrooms - we'll be nice if you are!"

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Virtually every single establishment in New Orleans' French Quarter displays a sign stating "restrooms for customers only". 24-hour bars, plus open containers on the street, equal way more bathroom business than any cafe might like. Why not consider a simple sign on your door? Seems to work around here.

And call me silly, but if I entered a cafe to use the restroom, I'd feel compelled to purchase something...a bottle of water, a pastry for later. Since when is it okay to use the facilities for free? I can't tell you how many espressos my better half slurped down in Italian coffee bars so I could use the facilities with a clear conscience.

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When you've got to go, you've got to go... locked restrooms and signs that say 'customers only' are very user-unfriendly. When I need a bathroom I need it without extra hoops to jump through! I'll often walk into a suitable venue and go straight to the restroom - then I'll buy something to eat/drink after my personal needs have been attended to. I wouldn't do it in a full-service restaurant unless I was planning to eat there, but it sounds like you're in the grey area.


Edited by Kajikit (log)

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Yup..........

So why not a hardware store or a supermarket when ya gotta?

It's the attitude: I'll go whereever I please, and if I'm in a good mood maybe I'll buy a coffee afterwards.

Maybe.

Problem is, I've had one too many customers say the same thing, then back out of it, or even worse, question me or my staff on the price of 18 different items, (intentionaly ignoring the prices beside each item) then walk out.

Fer gawds sake if you don't want to buy anything, then either ask me for permission first, or at least throw a loonie (CDN 1$ coin) in the tip jar on your way out.

Would you say that is fair?

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It's a human necessity. I am sure it's not fun for those people either. It certainly isn't fun for me! I actually DO try to go to places like Department stores as much as possible. Why don't you just put the key as FG suggested? I agree the key is gross, but that's what hand sanitizer is for!!

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As a customer I have no problem with keys behind the counter. This is a pretty common technique. I would just recommend giving the keys freely to anyone who asks. Simply needing to ask is going to deter a lot of non-customer users.

I agree, I'm fine with a key, too. One with a metal loop on it, so you can hang it from the doorknob, always seems like a good idea; I just use hand sanitizer after I hand it back. I confess to sometimes making a no-eye-contact bee-line for the loo, but this is because I'm feeling embarrassed/uncomfortable, and don't know where to look; it never occurred to me that it my be offensive, but I'll be thinking of this from now on.

One thing: Unless a dreadful emergency is pending, I only use the loo in places that I tend to normally frequent (e.g. I occasionally duck into City Bakery just to use their facilites, but I frequently go there for coffee/pastry). Normally I'd just use one in a department store or B&N.


Edited by Mjx (log)

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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here is another good reason to post a sign at the door. I suffer from the aftereffects of treatment for prostate cancer. I can be cheerfully walking down the street and all of a sudden I absolutely have to go NOW! In France I would run into any bistro or bar where they are required to allow the public to use the loo, no questions asked. At least your sign on the door forewarns me that I had better find someplace else because I don't have time to explain myself and certainly don't have time to have you say no. I usually come back out and buy something to show my appreciation, so the next time you see a man coming in doing a dance please point him to you facility, he may just be in dire need!


Paul Eggermann

Vice President, Secretary and webmaster

Les Marmitons of New Jersey

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