Tips for Making a Senior Friendly Restaurant
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Having a senior citizen friendly restaurant could improve your business. Older adults are an important demographic for restaurants for several reasons. First, the percentage of the population that is over age 65 is projected to more than double in the next 50 years. And older adults often have more disposable income and free time to eat out. A recent Cornell University study found that seniors eat out more than their millennial counterparts.

So how can restaurants appeal to an older demographic without compromising their main mission? With just a few small tweaks, you might just find yourself a whole new fan base.


1. Menus

One of the easiest things restaurants can do is increase the size of the font on their menus to 13pt or greater. As we age, our vision changes significantly, making it more difficult to read small text. Also, avoid fancy, cursive-type fonts.

In addition, our color vision also changes as we age. As a result, restaurants should avoid using blue or green text on menus. These are the colors that the eye loses (or blurs) most quickly as it ages. Text in these colors can look blurry or fuzzy to some seniors. Black text on a gold or yellow background provides the best contrast without glare.


2. Lighting

Another thing restaurants could do to is to increase the lighting in their restaurants…none of that mood lighting! As we mentioned, older adults may have vision problems. And lower light makes it difficult to read menus and increases the risk of falls.

Dim Restaurant Lighting: Bad Experience for Seniors
Dim lighting in restaurants may photograph well, but they present visual issues for elderly patrons.

3. Waiting Areas

If your restaurant has really busy times, you should make sure to have plenty of available seating in the waiting area. In fact, you might even consider designating one or two seats for seniors or disabled individuals. The younger generation isn’t always interested in giving up their seat for an older adult. So providing some signage that reserves seats for those who need it most could win you some fans among older adults.


4. Carpet/Rugs

We can’t stress enough that seniors often suffer from vision reduction or visual issues. And having highly patterned carpet or flooring is very difficult for a senior to navigate as they can’t get their visual bearings. In fact, they may discern a step/stair where there is none, or think the walking surface is uneven. The last thing you want is for an older adult to experience a fall in your restaurant.

Carpet
Highly patterned or dark carpet is hazardous for seniors to navigate.

Many restaurants in cold or wet climates will use “runners” on their carpets to protect them. As a restaurant owner, you need to be vigilant about the placement and upkeep of these runners. Seniors may have difficulty seeing the edges or may not lift their feet as high as younger adults. This can also lead to falls if runners are not secured or an edge causes a senior to trip.


5. Tabletop Items

The items you use on your table top can make a huge difference for seniors. Brands like Oneida have sharpened their focus on their tabletop offerings to account for the needs of older adults. Tabletop items include the flatware, glassware, and china used to serve your guests. A few simple considerations can make all the difference for your older guests. For example, plates that feature a border or different color rim can assist older customers in dining.

China

Subtle visual cues such as color and a border can aid residents in their dining. Color can make the food more attractive and make it easier to distinguish if the food contrasts with the color of the plate. This is helpful to those struggling with depth perception issues.

Certain Oneida dinnerware patterns also include a push point which is a flatter ridge on the edge of the plate to help older customers to ladle food.

Perimeter China by Onedia

Featured: Perimeter China

  • Non-Scratch / Velvet Foot – Prevents surface damage in back and front of house
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  • Push Point – Helps patients ladle food
Shop Perimeter China by Oneida >
“Push Point” raised rim design from the Marble collection by Oneida

Flatware

When it comes to flatware (or silverware as it is sometimes called), you may have to be more flexible in your approach to service customers with different needs. Having flatware with a textured grip is helpful to just about anyone. But it also can be helpful to use a lighter weight flatware for older adults.

However, there is an exception to this rule. If an older adult has a tremor, a different approach may be warranted.

“For those dealing with tremors, heavyweight flatware helps stabilize the hand,” says Oneida.

Featured: Cabria Flatware

  • 18/10 Stainless Steel – For long lasting durability
  • Ergonomic – Easy to hold
  • Textured – Easy to grip
  • Stylish Design
Shop Cabria Flatware by Oneida >

Glassware

Oneida also recommends glassware that is designed with ergonomics in mind. That means glassware that is designed to be easily gripped and more difficult to tip over.

As a general rule, the tabletop space should be designed to provide appropriate spacing (i.e. don’t crowd things) and good contrast (i.e. white plates on white tablecloths can be difficult for those with vision problems) to improve the dining experience of older adults.

Featured: Solace Glassware

  • Tempered – For durability
  • Ergonomic Shape – For better gripping
  • Stylish Sleek design
  • Fits Standard plastic lids
Shop Solace Glassware by Anchor Hocking >

6. Wait Staff

Wait staff could do so much more to make the senior restaurant experience more enjoyable. These types of changes cost virtually nothing and can pay hug dividends in how seniors feel about the customer experience of dining at your restaurant.

For example, if a hostess sees a senior standing while waiting who has a cane, walker or seems particularly frail, bring them a chair to sit in while they wait.

If you see a senior having trouble opening a door, help them! It is often greatly appreciated, even though it may seem like a small gesture.

If a party has a senior member, walk them to their table slowly, and check to make sure they are able to follow you. Take note of different elevations in flooring, such as stairs or going from carpet to hard flooring and alert the senior(s) to this change in flooring, assisting if needed.

While speaking to seniors, staff should never refer to them as “sweetie,” “honey,” or another endearment as this is often offensive to seniors. They are not children and they are not dumb. If a senior is hard of hearing, wait staff should speak slowly and in a deeper timber, as the higher pitched sounds are difficult for seniors with hearing problems.

If the environment is noisy, they may need to speak more loudly, but it isn’t typically appropriate to yell at seniors with hearing problems in more quiet environments. Many senior’s hearing aids work just fine in these environments.

Basically, seniors like to be treated with respect and just like any other customer as much as possible. It is may be worth considering having all the wait staff take an online module or training session about how to work with seniors.


This post is sponsored by Oneida.

Oneida

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Comments

  1. Ellen Heywood

    You barely mention hearing problems, and it’s not just older diners with that problem. Many restaurants keep their music up so loud that it is impossible to hear the dinner covervation. Restaurant design often does not address the dining experience concerning noise level. In addition, diners who drink alcohol get louder as they drink more. All of these factors keep customers from returning.

    • Wasserstrom Author

      Excellent points! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kelly Hughes

    Can you cite a source for the Cornell paper? Your link goes to a blog, which also does not cite the source. I cannot locate the paper you have mentioned.

    • Wasserstrom Author

      Unfortunately, we only have the blog reference as well. However, Cornell does have a searchable database of their research. We are not sure what department may have sponsored the research, but this might be a place to start: https://scholarship.sha.cornell.edu/

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