Toilet cafe seeks to raise awareness of sanitation

A toilet-themed cafe in Indonesia is giving patrons food for thought, thanks to a local doctor’s efforts to raise awareness of sanitation.

Both food and drink are served in colourful, squat-style toilets raised to table height at the Kafe Jamban, or Toilet Cafe, in Semarang, the capital of Central Java province.

Patrons ladle fruit cocktails or meatball soup from the pans while also sitting on toilets, and receive a presentation on the importance of using a toilet properly and keeping it clean.

Founder and doctor Budi Laksono said he wanted to do business this way to raise awareness of the role of toilets in preventing the sometimes fatal local diseases.

“In Indonesia 24 million households still lack access to toilets and people are dying of dysentery, typhoid and colon infections,” he said.

Around 63 million Indonesians still practice open defecation, the World Health Organization said in 2012, second only to India’s 626 million.

Budi said the cafe is open two hours daily and only for customers with reservations.

Some Indonesians criticized Budi after he appeared on a television talkshow talking about his cafe earlier this month.

“I’m all for people using toilets, but food in toilet bowls? That’s uncivilized and disgusting,” one Facebook user said.

Budi said any publicity was good. “There were initially negative and positive responses, but the news made people curious and attracted them to come,” he said.

Most people were won over, he said. “After I made presentations to them, they became supportive of our campaign.”

Budi said his foundation Wahana Bakti Sejahtera has helped build more than 10,000 toilets in Central Java for poor residents under its program “Toilets for All Families.”

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