Under the Customer Service Standards of the AODA, service providers must make their goods, services, and facilities accessible to customers with disabilities. Our last article outlined how restaurants can make menus and other written information accessible. In this article, we cover best practices for accessible restaurant service. In particular, we look at how hosts and servers can find ways to make their premises welcoming to diners who need accessible features that a restaurant does not have yet.
How to Provide Accessible Restaurant Service
Individual diners will know what makes a restaurant accessible for them. For instance, one diner may need a ramp or a level entrance, while another needs an automatic door. If a restaurant lacks the features a diner needs to enter its building, staff could bring the diner’s food to them outside. Alternatively, they could provide delivery service and waive any additional fees they usually charge for this service. Similar services may also be appropriate for diners who cannot use a restaurant’s seating options.
Restaurants must welcome all diners who enter with assistive devices or service animals. Service animals are legally permitted in restaurants, including in dining rooms.
Servers taking orders should understand how to communicate with diners, both in person and remotely.
Restaurants where patrons order their food at a counter should make this process accessible for all diners. Staff at restaurants without accessible counters or line areas can offer to take diners’ orders somewhere else. For instance, staff could take diners’ orders at their tables. In contrast, some diners may order at an average-height counter but need assistance carrying their orders. Likewise, some diners may need assistance at buffets. Staff may need to go through a buffet line with a diner or serve portions. Alternatively, staff may need to tell the diner what the buffet is offering. Then, staff can go through the line and select food the diner requests.
When a restaurant does not have menus in the format a diner needs, servers should read the menu aloud. Servers should also be prepared to read menus aloud upon request. Diners will explain how they would like the menu read. For instance, one diner might like to know what the main headings are. Then, the diner can choose to find out more about certain sections. Another diner might first want to know the names of all the meal choices. Then, the diner might ask for descriptions of certain dishes. Other diners may want to read the whole menu and return to items they are most interested in.
Accessible restaurant service ensures that all diners have a pleasant experience. For many diners with disabilities, excellent service is as memorable as excellent food. Diners treated with dignity will want to come back for a second meal.