Looking for a simple lunch, a deaf woman recently went into an Alabama restaurant and jotted down her order on a piece of paper. The waiter hustled the request to the kitchen, where preparers tried to decipher the woman's handwriting.
But when the sandwich she wanted was delivered, it contained tomatoes, which she had said in writing she did not want. Frustrated, the woman went back-and-forth with the waiter for a few minutes to explain exactly what she wanted. The sandwich ended up having to be remade.
"That experience might keep her from going back to that restaurant,” said Grace Vasa, CEO of technology firm Juke Slot. “Unfortunately, such communication mix-ups are not isolated incidents in the larger restaurant field." The inability of restaurants to communicate effectively with all customers both threatens to hurt their businesses and serves as an opportunity to generate additional revenue. But what might seem like an operational hurdle actually can be an easy fix with long-term financial benefits.
Self-ordering kiosks featuring capabilities such as sign language and foreign language translations allow people with conversational difficulties to communicate more easily represent solutions that minimize order errors and strengthen the customer experience. Such technology would enable restaurants to cater to a different segment of the population – scores of people who struggle with basic communication, not only those who are deaf.
Just as important: It’s good business, industry experts say.