Eating out in a restaurant is one of life’s pleasures. My mom, an elderly wheelchair user in poor health, still loves to go out, read through an interesting menu and served a meal someone else cooked. This activity is one we try to do fairly regularly. Generally some advance planning about the accessibility of the venue is needed, but eating out is definitely doable for us. So, you might ask, what’s the problem?
The problem is the menu. A seemingly simple piece of the overall picture causes both of us a lot of angst. Let’s start with the waiter or waitress who hands me a menu and not mom once we are seated. Yes, she is in a wheelchair, but she can certainly read and make her own decisions. Just food for thought.
Then there is the menu itself. A restaurant that wants to provide excellent service to customers will provide a menu that is easy to read for all guests. Mom is 83 years old, and though quite sharp, her eyesight is not what it used to be. I have to admit mine isn’t so great anymore either, especially now that I wear bifocal contacts after many years of near perfect vision.
Simple solutions exist for the increasingly common problem of visual impairment as the population ages. Below are my menu suggestions to accommodate this large group of diners:
- Print the menu using a reasonably sized font. I realize you might want to fit more items on each page to save money on printing, but trying to read the tiny fonts is annoying. Use the smaller fonts only if your clientele tends to be under 40.
- Choose an easy to read font. Bold clear letters are much easier to read than script or cutesie swirly fonts. Choosing a font for your restaurant menu smartly can transform your menus from an expense to an asset. Are some of the fonts in the example believe easier to read for you than others?
- Use a light background on the menu. A white background is easier on the eyes than a black background.
- Make sure your restaurant has sufficient lighting. If a cell phone flashlight is necessary to read the menu, you probably need to brighten up the room.Ceiling pin lights over each table help a lot for sighted individuals who have some difficulty reading menus.
- Take it a step further if you can by offering braille menus for the blind or near-blind guests.
- Offer verbal menu suggestions to supplement the menu and describe how the dish is made.
- Keep a few pairs of inexpensive reading glasses at the hostess stand for when you notice a patron has difficulty reading your menu. This will really impress your guests.
- Provide a menu for each person at the table. Do not make assumptions about capabilities based on outward appearance which can be offensive.
Guests with with impaired vision will be most appreciative if you make thoughtful and sensitive efforts to ensure their comfort. These efforts build good-will and promote customer loyalty, and perhaps best of all, do not break the bank.