Someone has to do it: Your guide to (chain) restaurant restrooms

I get it. No one wants to talk about the inside of a restroom. They can be dark, scary, and if located inside of a BP station, dangerous places. But since we’re all grown-ups now, it’s time to face the difficult stuff head on, like those guys in the western movies. It’s time to man-up and face the facts: everybody uses the bathroom, even women.

Besides our common need for restroom facilities, human beings share another central need that further links us all together – our insatiable taste for chain restaurants. Just go with it. In light of these two basic needs, it’s inevitable that at some point in your life, the two paths will cross and you’ll be forced to step inside a bathroom while dining at your favorite chain restaurant. Here’s where I may be able to help. I’ve done the research. These two paths have crossed many times in my 27 years. Hopefully this guide can prepare you for what you’re about to experience before you push (or, in some cases, pull) open the bathroom door.


Pros: When you step into the bathroom at Chili’s, you are immediately transported to a town on the southern Texas border, almost in Mexico, but not quite in Mexico. The southwestern motif calms the nerves and makes the experience sort of feel like a party. Also, the double sinks provide enough counter space to satisfy even the most skeptical couple on ‘House Hunters’.

Cons: Not completely comfortable with distance between urinals. As a general rule when it comes to urinals, when it doubt, farther apart is better.


Pros: The restrooms at America’s favorite neighborhood grill are inviting. In fact, everything at    Applebee’s is inviting, if you don’t count the food. The black and white tile brings a retro vibe with a homely twist. It’s almost as if you were using the facilities at your grandma’s house, only other people are in there with you.

Cons: I understand Applebee’s is all about the home town feel, and I appreciate that. However, pictures of people I know in the bathroom are somewhat haunting. The entire 2001 varsity baseball city champs are staring at me, and I’m freezing up.

Red Lobster

Pros: If there’s one thing Red Lobster is in need of, it’s a renovation. The dated décor coupled with the disgusting smell of live lobsters in open tanks can sometimes be too much to take. This all sounds negative, I know. However, the overall nastiness of the restaurant actually improves the quality of the bathroom. It’s an escape, an oasis in the desert of lobster smell. The air is fresh, the lighting is superb, and more often than not, there will be a Jimmy Buffet song playing.

Cons: Red Lobster at 4:30pm is a crowded place. And the average age in the waiting area is 83 years old. It’s like being on the set of a ‘Life Alert’ commercial. Be prepared for long lines, and don’t be caught off-guard by the occasional scooter/hoveround fly-by.

THE Outback Steakhouse

Pros: If you’re anything like me and have spent the majority of your adult life wondering what the toilets look like in Australia, you need to visit THE Outback Steakhouse – tonight. From the tin kangaroos and wooden boomerangs hanging on the walls, to the rustic dark wood providing important Australian accents, the whole experience feels like an adventure. It’s as if you’re on a jungle safari and the urinal is an exotic tree, and the mirror suddenly seems out of place.

Cons: For some people, the gender signs can be confusing. Even though at this point in my life I’m absolutely certain what ‘Blokes’ means, I never feel 100% comfortable until I see that first urinal. Be careful.

Olive Garden

Pros: The facilities at Olive Garden are just what you’d expect; intricate, sophisticated, and bordering on fancy. They look like they were built by Ceasar himself. The white tiles kind of look like marble, but are in reality probably some sort of synthetic material that came from Lowe’s. But it doesn’t matter. I feel like I need to dress up to step into these bathrooms, and once inside, there should be a person who provides clean towels for your hands and occasionally feeds you grapes. I never want to leave.

Cons: Sometimes (or so I’ve heard) synthetic marble from Lowe’s can become slippery, like right after the guy with the grapes has mopped the floors. Watch your step.

There’s my list, Olive Garden is the best, Chili’s is the worst. Let’s hear your list. But please, no pictures.

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Categories: Lists

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