Imagine you are in a restaurant in Japan, you order your favorite food and the restaurant serves you the wrong order. What will your first reaction be?
Of course, you will call the waiter, ask him/her to serve the correct order. But yet again, you are served with a different dish. The last thing you want when you go out for a meal is to have your order messed up.
You may think it is crazy!! A restaurant that cannot even get your order right!
But what if I tell you that the waiters at the restaurant are people living with dementia!! They may, or may not, get your order right.
“Restaurant of Mistaken Orders” in Tokyo only hires waiters with dementia.
Visitors who ask for soup could get a salad while those who order a burger might instead be served pasta.
One waiter shows her guests to a table and then sits down with them. Another serves a hot coffee with a straw. Everybody at the table pitches in to help, and say “We did it!” This is a typical day at this restaurant.
“Restaurant of Mistaken Orders” is indeed a place where mistakes happen. However, it is not about whether orders are executed incorrectly or not, the important thing is the interaction with people who have dementia.
One in five senior citizens in Japan suffer from dementia, and their numbers are still set to rise as the nation grapples with an aging population. These elderly people look for ways to spend their time while seeking to supplement their household income.
The idea for ‘The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders’ came to Shiro Ogun when he realized that there is a widespread stigma, prejudice, and discrimination against people with dementia.
One usually thinks of them as being a little scary, aimlessly wander and use abusive language.
Ogun collaborated with Yukio Wada’s group home (for people with dementia) and in June 2017, they had a two-day pre-opening, set in a small restaurant with 12 seats. The waiters were six people from Wada’s care facility and the customers were limited to their friends and acquaintances.
The restaurant was in a trial period from June 2–4 in Tokyo’s Toyosu district. “Restaurant of Mistaken Orders” gets its name from a book called The Restaurant of Many Orders.
Three months after that, they opened the restaurant again ahead of Sept. 21, World Alzheimer’s Day. A waitstaff of 18 welcomed 300 customers in three days. It was a great success.
The restaurant has been carefully designed to avoid mistakes. So even if the waiters messed up, the chefs perfected their cooking to almost Michelin-star level.
The customers too greet the waiters with a smile and often say, “It is OK if my order is wrong, it tastes good anyway.”
This is such a cute way to bring awareness to mental illnesses!
However, Ognu says that even though The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders was a success, there are no plans to make a permanent or directly managed restaurant.
“Our role is to first grow a big flower and to send its seeds far and wide. After that, I think it is best that those who take up those seeds run it in their own way in their own regions,” he added.
The “Restaurant of Mistaken Orders” has won one of the world’s highest creative accolades, the Cannes Lion. Various awards and accolades have also been received both within Japan and overseas.