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It must have been a slow news day in Boston, because the Boston Globe decided to devote more than 650 words of editorial coverage to the lavatories found in the city’s best restaurants.

The Globe reports: “The toilets in higher-end eateries have become seriously designed conceptual comfort stations, with restaurants attempting to outdo one another. Relieve yourself at The Federalist in the XV Beacon hotel on Beacon Hill, and you'll find a grotto atmosphere of cobblestones, discreet stalls with floor-to-ceiling doors, and white porcelain sinks raised off the counter so no spills dampen clothing or purses. With two-ply toilet paper rolling freely and waffled-cloth hand towels amusingly stacked like mini Mayan temples, the Fed has got to be Boston's poshest public powder room, followed by The Four Seasons, with new restaurant Sibling Rivalry in the running.”

One interesting conclusion reached by some of the city’s restaurateurs is that women often will be more picky about rest room facilities, and will direct the choice of a restaurant based on how comfortable the lavatories are at one place or another.

Which sounds about right.

Less encouraging are the statements by a couple of people quoted in the piece, saying that for them, the condition of the rest rooms in a restaurant was more important than the quality of the food.

Which certainly makes you wonder where and what they’ve been eating.
KC's View:
Some people go to Boston for the history. Some for its fabulous restaurants. It never occurred to us to go for the water closets in the restaurants.

Actually, we do think you can tell a lot about a retailing business by the state of its bathroom facilities. While “a grotto atmosphere of cobblestones” may be a little over the top, there’s nothing wrong with having a really clean, pleasantly designed bathroom that will make consumers feel comfortable. And a lot of retailers that we’ve visited cursory attention to this part of the shopping experience, forgetting that it is one of the potentially most intimate encounters a customer is going to have in the store.

One of the best bathrooms in the food business is at Jungle Jim’s International Market in Ohio. When you find them, they look like grungy porta-potties that normally would be found on a construction site…but when you open the door, they are big and clean and beautiful…and the joke makes you laugh. (When was the last time you did that in the bathroom? Don’t answer…)

One good thing about the Globe story is that next time we’re in Boston, we’ll try to visit the Sibling Rivalry restaurant mentioned in the piece. For one thing, it is a great name. And we’re curious about both the food and the bathrooms….and the restaurant is located, quite appropriately, in Boston’s South End.