As businesses tighten entry restrictions because of the pandemic, delivery and ride-share drivers are struggling more than ever to find open and usable restrooms. An app, playfully named Whizz, is trying to help. Described as being developed “by gig workers for gig workers,” Whizz is a bathroom finding app that is partnering with restaurants to provide gig workers with some much-needed relief.
The app displays partnered restaurant locations on a map, currently limited to Southern California and some locations in Arizona and Nevada. Users pick a nearby restaurant and show an employee their phone to gain access to their bathroom. While several public bathroom finder apps already exist, Whizz’s strategy is different in that it’s seeking partnerships with restaurants to provide not only bathroom access, but also deals for users of the app.
Whizz attempts to incentivize restaurants with free advertising in exchange for bathroom access and promotional offers. When you pull up a partnered restaurant in the app, it displays a coupon for a certain percentage off an item or meal. Whizz’s first partnership is with Waba Grill, a rice bowl chain, which offers 20 percent off a chicken bowl and drink through the app.
This interest in partnerships is what makes Whizz’s approach potentially more effective than other bathroom finders, which tend to rely on public bathrooms or large stores like Walmart or Target. Co-founders Keith Crudupt and Robert Logan, who have both driven for Uber, noted that delivery drivers are often denied restroom access, even at restaurants they’re running deliveries for. Logan said he always found this dynamic bizarre: “I’m helping your business, but you won’t let me use your restroom.”
“By partnering with restaurants, our users don’t have to come in and feel like they’re trespassing or doing something sneaky,” Logan said. “They can come in and just be straightforward and go use the restroom.”
Bathroom access is a problem that extends far beyond gig workers. Lack of access to clean, private restrooms has always been an issue for people experiencing homelessness, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. There’s also the problem of finding accessible restrooms for people with mobility aids and gender-neutral or single-occupant restrooms for trans and gender-nonconforming people. Truly public restrooms are few and far between, and among those that exist, it’s even harder to find ones that are hygienic and in full working order.
Though the app was developed with gig workers in mind, it doesn’t verify that you are one, and Whizz’s site also pitches its usefulness for travelers and “soccer moms.” Because anyone can download the app, would a person who is homeless be allowed access to a restaurant’s bathroom if they showed their phone, or would they still be turned away depending on their appearance? Logan and Crudupt said their main focus has been on gig workers because they’ve been drivers themselves, but they are “open to being a resource for homeless people.”
Logan, who has a background in social work, says he has a desire to help the community at large. The app’s launch had actually been tabled when the pandemic started, but after seeing articles about gig workers urinating in alleys, Logan and Crudupt realized “there’s a need and we should help out.” They’re working on the basics of the app’s function for now, but they have ambitions for gaining more partners and expanding their map beyond the Southern California area. They eventually want to update the app with information about parking, hours, wheelchair access, and changing tables.
The two have been personally traveling to each location on the map, including nearly 200 Waba Grills, to ensure its accuracy. They noted that in addition to the struggle of balancing jobs with app development, it’s hard for them as a Black-owned business, and as older men, to get recognized and raise funds for the app.
“Can I use your restroom?” shouldn’t be a question that anticipates hurdles. By adding the legitimacy of a business partnership, Whizz has the potential to help people who might otherwise be turned away. As Vice points out, this is a problem that needs a societal solution. But for now, there’s Whizz.