As a restaurant owner, you want to bring your love of food to as many people as possible. In your mind, this might mean a restaurant crowded with plenty of tables and booths, a robust menu with all sorts of specialties, and a boisterous environment. However, what you might not realize is that crowded, boisterous restaurants with vast menus can pose inconveniences or even be dangerous for people who need more accessible accommodations. If you’d like to make sure you’re serving all types of people from your community, check out these ways to make your restaurant more accessible.
Purchase Larger Booths
When many people think of making a space more accessible, they tend to think only of creating spaces that are easier for people who use wheelchairs to navigate. The reality is that there are people who use walkers, canes, and crutches; who have service dogs; and who are people of size, all of whom often need more space at a restaurant’s table to eat and talk with friends comfortably. By switching out old-fashioned, narrow booths seats in favor of large restaurant booths, you ensure that your patrons have plenty of room to sit comfortably, move about as needed, and store any items that they have without those items spilling into other patrons’ spaces.
Make the Outside More Accessible
Many times, a customer who uses mobility aids and doesn’t see accessible space in your parking lot won’t even bother to try to come in and check out the food. Start with the parking lot itself. Do you have a handicap spot for wheelchair accessibility? If so, are the lines well-painted? Is the space free of debris? Do you let people who don’t need the spot park in it? Once you have a well-lit, properly painted accessible parking space, consider the sidewalk. Is there a ramp for wheelchairs? Is the curb on other portions of the sidewalk well marked and free of trash or crumbling pieces of concrete? It’s also a good idea to put a bench outside, especially if you live in an area where people may rely on rideshare apps to get around town.
Create an Inclusive Menu
What a lot of people abled people don’t realize is that many people who have chronic illnesses or other illnesses that require them to need mobility aids also have food allergies or aversions. Even someone who has no outward physical symptoms may have food allergies that can make your restaurant dangerous if you aren’t careful. If you want people to enjoy your restaurant regardless of their allergens, it is important to learn how to create safe zones in your kitchen as well as how to properly avoid cross-contamination. In addition to learning how to work with allergens, consider creating a more inclusive menu by adding vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, and other specialty menu items. Even if you only offer one of each, those who need them will enjoy being included.
Remember, you don’t want to do too much, too fast. After all, doing so not only alienates the customers that you already have but can make you and your staff feel overwhelmed. Rather than try to change everything at once, start with one project and make sure it’s implemented correctly before moving to the next. This way, you can be sure that the accessibility changes you’re making are sustainable.