Good Food, Good Access, Great Results!

The Comfort of Social Distancing

With cafes and restaurants opening up again after the long hibernation it’s time to celebrate with a night out at our favourite eatery. With social distancing in place it may mean that people will be more comfortable at the dining table without the elbows of the diner next to them prodding them in the ribs and the person opposite spraying them with food every time they laugh. It also gives savvy eatery owners an opportunity to reflect and reset the elements in their spaces that they may have previously ignored or been unaware of before lockdown that deterred patrons from visiting.

Eateries need to implement strategies that will get people back to their establishments. They need to consider new and effective ways to keep patrons there. We have all had many months of home delivery, for many a new but convenient concept. We have a new understanding of how comfortable it can be.

So, why change back to going out for dinner?

At home we can order what we want without leaving the couch. We can choose from 100s of restaurants and menus, experiment with a variety of cuisines, choose where we eat – the couch or the table. We can choose how we eat – cutlery or hands – we can create quite intimate spaces for a romantic dinner or have the Game on the TV loudly and cheer between bites. We can now of course also invite others over to join us in the comfort of our own space.

Eateries need to consider how to compete not just with other eateries but with other options for eating.

So, what are some of the issues that eateries need to focus on to get as many diners as possible back? According to The Age, October 27, 2020 Good Food Guide, ‘The most common complaint about restaurants is not about prices or the food, but about noise levels, or ease of access for those with physical challenges.’

These issues are not new, but the impact is overwhelmingly underestimated and ignored by many eatery operators. If people can’t hold a conversation easily and hear each other without yelling, and they can’t move around easily and use facilities such as a bathroom they won’t come to the eatery regardless of how good the food is.

People won’t necessarily tell the eatery operator that these are issues, they will just go somewhere else that provides better access, Good access and comfort are not just about a person using a wheelchair. However, if we use a wheelchair as a minimum template for space requirements, we will inevitably cater for more people including those using mobility aids such as prams and delivery trolleys.

Hearing, vision, sensory sensitivity are all important considerations for people when they choose an eatery, Often, they will be there for an extended period of time with the aim of enjoying a meal with family and friends. If the noise level is reduced by use of softer floor surfaces, noise reducing furniture such as rubber tips on chair legs, and ceilings and walls that have been treated with noise reduction materials, it is more comfortable for everyone. If colour contrasts are used to highlight tables from floors so that it is easy to see where to place a glass on the table rather than it falling on the floor, or the menu is provided in a font size large enough for Baby Boomers to read without having to ask someone to help or straining to see the menu, more people will come.

In addition, with the move to more outdoor dining it is essential that ease of access is considered for everyone and that uneven surfaces that create trip hazards, which create risks for everyone, particularly those who have had a few drinks, should be modified. Effective shade and shelter will be critical for eateries who want to attract more patrons. If Apple and Nike can consider Universal Design in their products and services to appeal to the widest market possible so too can all small businesses, including eateries.

Access Institute has a range of Good Access is Good Business Handbooks, including those targeted to Cafes and Restaurants and Retail, with loads of hints and tips to make your business more accessible to more people more of the time. We can also provide advice with Parklets for outdoor dining and footpath trading. 
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