Some American Restaurants Commit To Provide Sanitary Products To Their Female Customers

Several restaurants have decided to offer menstrual products in their bathrooms.

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Who has never run to the nearest supermarket at the last minute to buy tampons? This could become a distant memory for some American women, provided they picked the right restaurant. A recent article of Eater magazine reports that several restaurants in the United States made the decision to provide free tampons and pads to their female customers. Although they have slightly different ideas in mind, the three different operators who agreed to discuss the matter with Eater all have on goal in common: to provide a comfortable solution for their female customers.

By offering sanitary products in the bathroom of her restaurant El Jardín in San Diego, Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, a contestant of Top Chef Mexico, and jury of the American edition of the show, has a feminist agenda. In accordance with the philosophy of her matriarchal restaurant, where she intends to put forward several generations of women, offering sanitary products felt like common sense. Through this initiative, the chef also sees a way to teach her teenage daughter that periods are not a taboo:

"I couldn’t tell her she couldn’t [...] call it what it is. It’s about normalizing it."

In other restaurants, comfort is mentioned as the main reason to justify providing these products in the bathrooms. At Homer in Seattle for example, the interior designer and co-owner Sara Cox set out a glass jar of complimentary menstrual products to ease things for her customers. Same for the Oriole, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago where Clara Sandoval, the general manager, explains that the aim is to anticipate the customers' needs.

The Bathroom, Not Such A Trivial Place 

She came to that conclusion after a workout session at a gym in Chicago. The profusion of all sorts of products in the changing rooms (deodorants, towels, headbands) and the lack of sanitary products made her click. That’s when she decided to offer some in the bathrooms of her restaurant in order to make her customers more comfortable.

Indisputably, we all perceive the bathrooms hygiene as a reflection of the state of a kitchen in a restaurant, consciously or not. That is probably why some are designed with great care and taste, as sumptuous places, where one can always find soap, towels and luxury creams.

Nowadays, this doesn't apply only to prestigious restaurants. Some hype places also decided to put a lot of efforts in decorating their bathrooms, since it came to the owners' attention that it is a way to stand out and gain visibility, especially on social media.

An Investment Which Can't Be Overlooked

When she launched this initiative, the chef Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins initially offered entire packs in self-service but ended up having to refill the stock every hour. Since then she put a sign explaining these products are meant to help in time of need.

Every month, she spends a total of 70 dollars out of her own pocket to provide quality sanitary products to her customers. An investment which can’t be overlooked in her opinion, considering the recent scandals about toxic components found in some products. At the Oriole restaurant, Cara Sandoval declares spending around 40 dollars to refill her stock.

These numbers must be connected to what is really at stake here for many women who face period poverty. The Scottish government recently decided to combat this issue by offering free menstrual products to all the country’s students. In the United States as well, things are going forward. In the state of Washington, universities now keep sanitary products stocked in their bathrooms.   

By Claire Verriele, published on 11/01/2019