Which fast food chain has the cleanest bathrooms?

Photo: m-1975 (iStock)

Sometimes it’s unavoidable: If you’re grabbing food in a fast food joint, you’re going to want to use the bathroom. I can tell you that the best fast food bathroom in Chicago is the one at Taco Bell on Clybourn Avenue in Lincoln Park, otherwise known as the Five-Star Taco Bell because of its rating on Yelp. Business Insider is more ambitious, though, and took a survey of 3,000 of their readers (in particular, the readers of its fast food coverage) to determine which fast food chain has the cleanest bathrooms overall.

The people have spoken and the winner is Chick-fil-A, with 55% of the vote. (That’s enough to win a regular election!) In descending order, the others are In-N-Out (30%), Starbucks (27%), Panera Bread (21%), Culver’s (20%), Chipotle (15%), Whattaburger (11%), and Five Guys (10%). Business Insider did not explain its methodology or what the precise question was or whether there was some sort of ranking system, so please don’t ask me why all these percentages add up to 189. McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway barely registered in this poll.

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This seems consistent with what I’ve observed about some of these chains. Most of them are on the smaller side; the major exception, Starbucks, has strict corporate guidelines about how often bathrooms should be cleaned (as I learned during my career as a barista when someone had to go in there every hour). Others encourage closer supervision by owners and managers: Chick-fil-A, for instance, allows franchisees only one location, which means management must be closely involved with day-to-day operations. Culver’s also appears to emphasize the role of franchise owners: Their pictures are hung on the wall just inside the front door. It would make sense that if someone with a stake in the fate of the restaurant besides an hourly paycheck is present, there would be more emphasis on things like clean bathrooms.

On the other hand, this poll may be taken with a grain of salt. (The most disgusting public bathroom I, personally, have ever seen was in a Starbucks.) Chains, as we all know, can vary, and the cleanliness of individual locations can, too, depending on the time of day and how long the line is and if they can actually spare someone to go back and scrub the john.

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About the author

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.