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Understanding Regulations: Does a Cafe Have to Have a Toilet for Customers?

By Nikita Nielsen · 12. March 2024

Does a cafe have to provide a toilet🚻?

This common question among cafe owners involves navigating a mix of health regulations, customer service standards, and practical considerations.

This guide simplifies the rules regarding the provision of restroom facilities in your cafe, ensuring you can easily understand and comply with the necessary regulations without getting tangled in legal complexities.

Toilet Facility Requirements for Cafes

cafe toilet

The success of a cafe hinges on an equilibrium of comfort and compliance. Nobody savours a cafe experience without access to a toilet.

Regulation authorities expect cafes to provide toilet facilities for customers, particularly if the establishment seats 10 or more and permits on-site food and drink consumption.

However, for smaller cafes with less than ten seats, where customers primarily opt for takeaway, there’s no legal obligation to provide customer toilets in your cafe.

Nevertheless, it’s vital to remember your staff. Whether you’re offering espressos or running an ice cream shop with sundaes, UK law requires you to provide restroom facilities for your employees.

And if you’re running a cafe that’s open late, just remember that you need to have a toilet available for customers, because any business serving customers after 11 PM is required to have accessible restroom facilities.

Seating Capacity and Toilet Facilities

Surprisingly, the seating capacity of a cafe has a significant influence. The number of seats you have can determine if you must provide toilets for your customers.

In the UK, cafes with a cosy arrangement of 10 or more seats are generally required to provide customer toilets.

However, even if your cafe has fewer than 10 seats and serves food and drinks, you might still be required to provide toilets for your customers based on a High Court decision.

If your cafe is small, with seating for 16 people or less, you are required to provide at least one toilet and a wash basin with hot and cold water for your customers.

If your cafe grows and accommodates more people, you’ll need to offer separate men’s and women’s toilets to cater to a diverse clientele.

It’s essential for all cafes, regardless of size, to ensure they have the proper number of toilets🚽 to serve their customers adequately.

Legal Obligations for Licensed and Unlicensed Premises

If your cafe serves alcohol, you are entering a space where you must adhere to specific legal requirements regarding the provision of toilets, regardless of the number of seats in your establishment.

The law mandates that adequate toilet facilities must be provided for customers when alcohol is available, ensuring that customer needs are met alongside the enjoyment of your cafe’s beverages.

Licensing laws require careful attention to the details of your cafe’s operation, including the provision of toilets.

Once you decide to serve alcohol, the requirement to have toilets for customers becomes a clear-cut aspect of your legal responsibilities.

Operating Hours and Toilet Accessibility

As night falls and your cafe remains open, the responsibility to provide toilets for customers becomes a practical necessity.

Late hours mean fewer public restrooms are available, so it’s important for cafes to offer these facilities.

Providing toilets during late-night hours is not just about fulfilling legal requirements; it’s also about ensuring customer comfort and satisfaction.

When other businesses are closed, your cafe’s toilets become even more valuable to patrons enjoying their evening coffee or snack.

Disabled Toilet Facilities

disabled cafe toilet facility disabled cafe toilet facility

Accessible toilet facilities are a vital part of creating an inclusive environment in any cafe.

When planning your new cafe or restaurant, it’s important to ensure that everyone, including people with disabilities, is welcomed and accommodated.

This is not only in line with the Equality Act 2010 but also demonstrates a commitment to thoughtful customer care.

Accessible toilets should be designed with features that make them easy to use for everyone. This includes:

  • Clear and understandable signage
  • High contrast visuals to assist those with visual impairments
  • Adequate lighting to ensure safety and comfort

Proactively including these features shows that you’re not just reacting to potential customer needs or feedback, but are actively creating a welcoming space for all guests.

Building Control and Accessibility

Before you begin construction on your cafe’s bathroom, it’s wise to get to grips with Building Regulations 2010.

These regulations are essential guidelines for ensuring your restroom is accessible to wheelchair users and meets legal standards.

Your goal is to create facilities that are not only compliant with regulations but also comfortable and welcoming for all customers.

Best Practices for Designing Accessible Toilets

The design of an accessible restroom is as much an art form as it is a technical process.

It’s not just about meeting specifications; it’s about creating a space that is:

  • Organised and uncluttered
  • Equipped with floors that resist slipping
  • Fitted with doors that glide open effortlessly
  • Outfitted with stable toilet seats
  • Designed with emergency cords that reach the ground
  • Well-ventilated and well-lit

It’s these details that make all the difference in providing a dignified and comfortable experience for all your guests.

Staff Toilet Regulations

hand washing

Within the cafe industry, your team represents your most valuable asset. Similar to customers, they also have needs, including access to restroom facilities.

As a café owner, you’re legally obliged to provide adequate and suitable sanitary facilities for your team, complete with toilets, hand basins, and drying means.

While it’s ideal to offer separate staff toilets, sometimes space dictates that they share washroom facilities with customers.

This isn’t a deal-breaker, as long as privacy is guaranteed with lockable toilets and washing facilities.

Hand Washing and Hygiene Facilities

Every cafe needs to have hand washing stations that come with hot and cold water, soap, and a way to dry hands. It’s not just about meeting the minimum standards, though.

The wash basins should be big enough for a proper clean—meaning hands and forearms can be washed without any fuss.

These basins need to be within easy reach for all employees, making sure that anyone, especially those handling food, can keep their hands clean without having to wait around.

Tips for Providing Toilets in Small Cafes

cafe restroom cafe restroom

Small cafes possess a unique allure, yet the challenge of incorporating all the necessary amenities can seem daunting.

If you’re the owner of a small café, there’s no need to worry; it is entirely possible to include the required facilities without sacrificing ambiance or customer comfort.

In many cases, a single, well-designed unisex toilet can fulfil both experiential and functional needs efficiently.

Space-Efficient Solutions

When space is limited, creativity becomes your best friend. Here are some strategies to optimise space in your bathroom:

  • Opt for wall-mounted toilets to reclaim valuable floor area.
  • Use sliding doors instead of traditional hinged doors to conserve space.
  • Consider combination units with toilets and wash basins to save on space and water usage.
  • Choose a pleasant aroma to make even a compact toilet space feel inviting.

With smart storage solutions, you can maintain a stock of supplies without overcrowding the area.

Balancing Customer Service and Legal Requirements

Operating a small cafe is heavily focused on providing personalised service, and this care should extend to your customer toilet facilities to distinguish your establishment.

Sure, you might not be legally required to provide a restroom for your customers, but doing so can significantly enhance their experience and, in turn, their loyalty to your establishment.

In the end, it’s about striking the right balance between offering top-notch service and staying within the lines of the law.

Collaboration with Local Authorities on Restroom Facilities

As public toilets become less common, cafes and similar venues are increasingly looked upon to provide restroom facilities.

Local authorities play a crucial role in this aspect by offering guidance and support to ensure that the facilities provided by cafes meet both customer needs and legal standards.

Consulting with Local Authorities

When it comes to providing toilets in your cafe, local authorities can be a valuable resource.

They can offer specific advice based on your unique situation and may offer exemptions under certain conditions.

Therefore, it’s beneficial to consult with the health and safety department of your local council to ensure that your restroom facilities are compliant and well-suited for your customers.

Planning Permission and Building Regulations

Before you start construction, it’s crucial to ensure your plans align with Building Regulations and local planning permissions.

Remember, while planning permission might seem like a bureaucratic hurdle, it’s there to ensure your facilities are up to snuff for all your customers.


This guide has provided a detailed look at the requirements and considerations for toilet facilities in cafes.

It addresses the need for thoughtful placement and accessibility to ensure that all guests and staff members are accommodated.

Whether you’re managing a small cafe, a coffee shop or a restaurant, the goal is to offer a space that meets regulatory standards while being welcoming to everyone.

These considerations are vital to the functionality and inclusivity of your cafe business.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it a legal requirement to have toilets in a cafe?

There’s no need to worry about providing toilets in your cafe as long as you have less than 10 seats and no one is eating or drinking inside. However, don’t forget to provide restrooms for your staff.

Do cafes serving alcohol have different toilet facility requirements?

Cafes serving alcohol must adhere to legal obligations by providing proper toilet facilities, regardless of seating capacity.

Are there specific design requirements for disabled toilets in cafes?

Absolutely! Disabled toilets in cafes must adhere to the Equality Act 2010 and Building Regulations 2010 to ensure accessibility and proper equipment for all. So, it’s important to meet these requirements.

Can local councils assist with the planning of toilet facilities in a cafe?

Yes, local councils can provide guidance on toilet facility requirements and help with planning permission and building regulations for cafe owners.

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