Hammam Al Badi
Health and sanitary inspectors conducting an audit check of cleanliness and hygiene standards at any restaurant or store typically have a peek first and foremost at the outlet’s restrooms. After all, therein lies the ultimate litmus test of any corporate commitment to hygiene — not the storefront, nor the kitchen or dining area of the restaurant, or the display shelves laden with sumptuous fare, experts stress. A random selection of customers and diners gave an overwhelming thumbs-down when quizzed by the Observer on what they thought was the general state of restrooms in shops and restaurants in the Sultanate.
Some cited shock and disbelief at the woeful state of affairs of washrooms, particularly in restaurants, where toilet flushes malfunctioned, the ceramic was stained, toilet paper piling at corner, and broken dispensers oozing liquid all over the place, they said.
Omar al Kahali, a native of Saham, explained: “I have been to numerous restaurants around Oman, but while the owner is keen to make money, they do not make the necessary investment in clean and hygienic restrooms. Thus, while the restaurant features fancy furniture, luxurious curtains and drapes, and ornate ceilings — which would have cost the owner quite a bit — the restrooms are in a pathetic state. They are poorly maintained, and reflect the owner’s mindset with regard to cleanliness and hygiene. Any safety-conscious diner will worry that hygiene standards will be similarly lacking in the kitchen and food preparation department of the restaurant, and decide to stay away in the future.”
S J, a resident of Muscat, said restrooms serve as a window to the hygiene culture introduced by the management in the company — be it a storeroom, restaurant, pizza outlet, supermarket or mall.
“Restrooms can make or break customer relations depending upon whether the experience was positive, satisfactory or downright bad. As a foodie, I love to eat out with my family. While I come away with a positive experience after dining at various restaurants, the visit to the in-house restroom sours this experience and I swear never to visit the outlet again. I also worry for my kids who visit the washrooms sometimes oblivious of the unhygienic conditions they encounter.”
According to experts, a clean restroom engenders positive feelings in customers and encourages them to patronise the establishment. All it takes is regular maintenance, clean surfaces, plentiful supplies of soap dispensers, toilet rolls and wipes, and a time-activated fragrance dispenser to keep smelly odours at bay, they point out.
The Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Water Resources (MRMWR) prescribes stringent cleanliness and hygiene standards for those looking to open new restaurants. Regular inspection campaigns help enforce these standards, but according to S J, these norms apply primarily to the kitchen and dining areas, and not so much the restrooms.
“It will be of help if standards are complied with and enforced for the washroom and other common areas of restaurants and stores that are visited by customers, in the interest of public health in general,” she added.
Hammam Al Badi