Why Robert Irvine Pays Attention To Restaurant Bathrooms

Chef Robert Irvine in front of black panel
Chef Robert Irvine in front of black panel - Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

When you walk into a new restaurant, it's tempting to immediately start assessing the operation. Is the dining room full? What's the vibe? Was the host cheerful? You'll probably begin taking stock of the cleanliness as well and start noting the condition of common dirty restaurant spaces. Is the table neat? Are the floors sticky? But as you order drinks and start browsing the menu, you might not think to evaluate a critical area: The bathroom.

Known for his attention to detail, celebrity chef Robert Irvine worked with struggling kitchens on "Restaurant: Impossible" for 21 seasons. The Food Network star is no stranger to the back of the house and knows all the warning signs associated with a poorly run food joint. And yet, when walking into a restaurant, he doesn't look at the kitchen or the dining area to spot red flags. Instead, he always pays attention to the bathrooms. Why? Well, it turns out the condition of a restaurant restroom is the biggest sign of a well (or poorly) run kitchen.

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Look Behind The Toilet Seat

Restroom sign on a brick wall
Restroom sign on a brick wall - Gerenme/Getty Images

Robert Irvine sees bathrooms as a proxy for the rest of the business. In an interview with Business Insider, Irvine shared his initial strategy for evaluating the quality of a restaurant. "Well, the first thing I look for," he says, "is are the bathrooms clean?" He views bathroom cleanliness as a good starting point for the rest of the business, "because if the bathrooms are clean, the kitchen's clean, everything else is clean." On the other hand, if the bathrooms have overflowing trashcans or wet floors, that's a sign that the same level of cleanliness is present in the kitchen.

Irvine isn't the only high-profile chef to use the bathroom trick. In an interview with GQ (via YouTube), David Chang recalls the golden advice his father taught him. Before eating at a restaurant, his dad "would always look at the bathrooms" before deciding to sit down. Nowadays, Chang even goes a step further. "The key," he shares, "is are they cleaning the back of the toilet?" To him, this level of detail "speaks volumes" about the overall restaurant operation. If employees are strict about such a small detail, they're likely doing everything else right, too.

Other Dirty Areas

Diner table with kitchen in the background
Diner table with kitchen in the background - Marcoventuriniautieri/Getty Images

Beyond bathrooms, diners can keep their eye on a few other areas to spot a dirty restaurant. The best place to look is likely the closest: Your tabletop. Sticky surfaces, leftover crumbs, and disheveled condiments indicate that your table probably wasn't cleaned properly after the previous guests. You can always politely request additional cleaning from the wait staff before sitting down.

Once you're seated, know that there's one table item in particular that should be handled with caution. During an investigation, Good Morning America tested the bacteria levels present on common restaurant items like ketchup bottles and salt shakers. The worst offender? Menus. According to the doctor testing the samples, the menus they tested had "about 100 times more bacteria" than what you would find on a typical toilet seat. So, next time you're out to eat, consider washing your hands after handling the menu. And while you're there, don't forget to check the back of the toilet!

Read the original article on Daily Meal.