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'The Restaurant of Order Mistakes' Employs Waiters With Dementia (2017) (spoon-tamago.com)
98 points by khc 4 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

Somewhat related though very different, there are restaurants called Dans Le Noir ("in the dark") - founded in Paris but now in several countries, though so far I've only been to the one in London.

You choose one of a few set menus without knowing what's in it (IIRC, roughly "meat eater", "fish eater", "vegetarian") and give any specific allergies or really hated food types. You are then led into a pitch black room with absolutely no light leakage (no phones/etc. allowed) where you'll be served and eat your food without being able to see a single thing.

I believe the kitchen staff are hired purely on their cooking, but the waiters are visually impaired people who can lead you to your table and serve your food flawlessly without sight.

Their sales pitch is more about the uniqueness of the experience than about supporting blind people, but the fact that it does create this unique job that they're better qualified to do than people with normal vision is nice.

And it's a really great experience, although not particularly cheap.


There was a place like this in San Francisco a few years back (I think it’s closed now), but I went once with a group of friends and it was absolutely fascinating.

I still have vivid and clear visual memories of the meal (and this was ~5 years ago). Even though I couldn’t see my dining companions, I remember our sitting together, where every person was sitting, and what we talked about. The brain has an amazing way of filling in other details when lacking physically visual ones.

Another interesting effect was the pace and style of conversation. I was with a group of newish friends - not particularly close but close enough that we could let down our guards a bit. We talked about fairly intimate things - relationships, life, desires, etc. without the visual distractions I was able to focus on the conversation in a way I hadn’t been able to before.

Also it was nice to not care about posture or manners - slouch away! :)

Dans Le Noir is just one chain, the concept is older:


It sounds like a fun idea... no knocks against it... but

Even in well lit environments you find things that shouldn’t be there, or the order gets mixed up. I guess as long as it’s not toxic, it’s plough thought it obliviously.

What do blind people do?

In a similar vein, there is a museum in Israel [0] that has a blind exhibit. They take you through several rooms laid out with different settings, all entirely in the dark. The guide is vision-impaired, and you don't get to see any of the other people in your group.

At the end of the experience they bring you into a room with lights, and you get to delve into what you learned and any assumptions you made about the other people in the group or the guide themself. It was an amazing experience.

[0] - https://www.childrensmuseum.org.il/eng/pages/childrens_activ...

Unfortunately the food is rather bad for the price (at least in the Paris branch). So it's a fun experience but you end up eating food that's barely better than cafeteria food at the price of a fine dining restaurant...

I was really disappointed...

The one in Montréal was good enough. Not haute-cuisine but worth the trip at least once.

They also have (had?) a "surprise me" menu. An incredible experience to be sure. Highly recommended to anyone. I couldn't guess the main dish in the end. (spoiler) It was shark!

There's a place like this in Stockholm, Sweden also. I've never tried it, so I'm not sure if it's the same concept with the menus though. Still pitch black, as i understand it.

(And for the Swedes here, the restaurant is called Svartklubben (the name is a pun in swedish), and can be found at Södermannagatan at Södermalm, near Nytorget.)

Back in the days of photographic film, Kodak and Fuji were said to have lots of blind workers in their darkrooms.

Off-topic: but that website needs an epilepsy warning! Horrible jerky scrolling experience (in both Firefox and Chrome)

Off-topic reply: vestibular disorder was referenced a while back by a Val Head who talks a lot of animation on the web. https://alistapart.com/article/designing-safer-web-animation...

It seems like a well-meant idea but how do you prevent it becoming exploitative? Exposing dementia patients to random members of the public in a service role with no understanding of the state of their condition seems like a pretty good way of frequently upsetting them. And how does employment by consent work when you can't actually quite remember why you're in a situation and how you got there?

It sounds like - probably to address these concerns - this is a short-lived 'activity' rather than a going concern, potentially with hand-selected and well-briefed guests rather than arbitrary customers off the street.

I wasn’t surprised to find that this happened in Japan, where there are strong societal norms not to make trouble / break the rules. When you combine this with a respect for the elderly I think you have a situation where it will go much better than if this happened in, say, New York City.

This seems funny (as a concept) in a really dark way, to the point where it feels inappropriate to implement with real people. It's hard to imagine laughing at mistakes made by people with dementia as being "in good fun". At least for the general public. (Friends and family, I understand it happens and can be appropriate.)

It was put together by Maggie's a dementia charity which in the UK has a very good reputation.

I was a bit surprised by this too because Maggie's is actually a cancer charity in the UK. [1]

As I say I imagine it's being handled fairly sensitively in reality. I'm more objecting to the whimsical feel-good description in the article which sort of denies agency to the dementia patients and treats them as funny props.

[1] https://www.maggiescentres.org/about-maggies/

In the US there is a trend to not write orders down (the reason is unclear to me:it’s saves paper and makes it mor personal?), short term memorize them and run to the computer and type them in.

This tends to lead to a fair number of mistakes, and makes those with allergies ver nervous.

It's a midguided attempted at showing off how smart and talented and sociable the staff are.

I don't know why you're being down-voted - this is the answer. It's a ploy, in most cases outside of long-time career waiters/waitresses, by many chains to make their staff seem more professional. It's a literal marketing tool that is taught to staff in many chain restaurants which employ younger, non-'career' staff.

I was just thinking "what does dementia have to do with written orders".

You say it's a trend but most episodes of Kitchen Nightmares I've watched they've at least had bongs (written notes) handed to the kitchen staff and posted somewhere.

The real challenge would be a restaurant with dyslectic waiters.

Avoiding writing the orders down may reduce the literacy needs of the wait staff.

They don't have to be literate. They only need to understand it for themselves, long enough to enter it into the computer.

The only time I get annoyed when my order is wrong is when they didn't attempt to take notes of some sort. They can make food doodles on the back of a napkin for all I care.

I don't think this is a trend. Experienced waiters have never needed to write things down.

Is that so? Human memory is notoriously fallible, but I could swear that 20 years ago waiters almost always wrote down orders and it was noteworthy when one didn't.

The article focuses on the mistake of not getting the dish you ordered. Which can indeed be fun if you are open when it comes to food.

But other kinds of mistakes can be a lot less fun. For example not getting any service at all, or having to pay more than expected.

I wonder how that restaurant deals with that.

> The article focuses on the mistake of not getting the dish you ordered. Which can indeed be fun if you are open when it comes to food.

As long as you don't have allergies...

If you have allergies I can imagine you'd just avoid this restaurant.

Or having the waiter ask to fuck your daughter.

My dad does shit like that sometimes. It's not cute.

In the UK we also have the National Star College (an educational establishment for people with disabilities and ABI) which runs two bistros in and near Cheltenham. These have a good reputation, mostly because the quality of the food is really important to them.



There's also Wriggly Worm, which has links to Star Bistro.


In the Netherlands there is a chain called Brownies and Downies staffed by folks with Down Syndrome. The Dutch are v pragmatic. I went and was humbled - the staff spoke way more English than I spoke Dutch after living there (I'm Canadian) for months. https://www.browniesanddownies.nl

Essentially the same idea was covered in a recent UK tv show: https://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-restaurant-that-make...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirchi_and_Mime ,along similar lines in Mumbai (IN)

For reference, it still seems to popup every now and then, not just in 2017: http://www.mistakenorders.com/en/home.html

I love this. I wonder: would something wonderful like this actually be illegal the US due to the fact that you'd technically be discriminating by hiring only those with dementia?

Its perfectly legal to discriminate if there is a bona fide occupational qualification.


I'm not sure why you're being downvoted - it's an interesting question.

My understanding is that this is would not be illegal because of how discrimination laws work in the US. We have protected classes that can't be descriminated against, but we don't have a generic "no discrimination" employment law.

For example, it's illegal to discriminate against old people, colored people, gay people, disabled people, etc when hiring. It would not necessarily be illegal to discriminate against neurotypical people because they are not a protected class.

I remember they also tried something like this where fully paralyzed people controlled robot waiters with their eyes from a bed.

Ask for your bill, they forget. So you need to ask again, they forget.

Sounds fantastically Japanese.

Url changed from https://mymodernmet.com/waiters-dementia-restaurant-tokyo/, which points to this.

The original URL has way more information than the new source. More pictures and more text.

It looks like more of the info was taken from the Yahoo! Japan source. The original URL may be the better choice.

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