The restaurant of mistaken orders is not your regular flashy pop-up. Its goal is to create a place where dementia patients can work, and be needed while making society at large better understand the condition. A lofty goal.
The creator, Shiro Oguni had his prejudices about dementia crushed at a group home where dementia patients lived together, and that’s when he came up with the idea.
“Like everybody else, my awareness of dementia at first tended towards negative images of people who were ‘radically forgetful’ and ‘aimlessly wandering about.’ But actually, they can cook, clean, do laundry, go shopping and do other ‘normal’ things for themselves. They might go a little off course now and then….”
The restaurant has been designed to avoid mistakes, but since each server has dementia, some mistakes will happen. As diners are prepared for this, they are easily forgiven and sometimes quite funny. As when an older lady shows her guests to the table, and then sits down with them, momentarily forgetting that she’s on the job. The first pop-up had 37% mistaken orders served, but a full 90% satisfied customers because the interaction here is key. It’s not about the mistakes, Oguni says.
“The restaurant is not about whether orders are executed incorrectly or not. The important thing is the interaction with people who have dementia.”
It’s important to Oguni that the staff share the laughter with their customers. That they are not laughed at. For Oguni to hear that the servers say such things as “I’m still capable.” is the goal, and cultivating tolerance.
“Calling someone ‘The demented Mrs. Whozit’ is completely different from ‘Mrs. Whozit with dementia.’ Dementia is not what a person is, but just part of who they are. People are people. The change will not come from them, it must come from society.”
The restaurant was a rousing success as you can see from the short film below.