Deaf-Owned Restaurants and How They Speak the Language of Good Food

Deaf restaurant staff.

Deaf-owned restaurants are challenging the status quo and proving that you don’t need audible words to speak the language of good food. (Image: via Deaf Culture That)

Deaf-owned restaurants are challenging the status quo and proving that you don’t need audible words to speak the language of good food.

Deaf-owned restaurants are starting to increase in popularity as more businesses recognize that you don’t need to speak audible words to provide a good dining experience.

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In some restaurants, dining becomes more than just food. Aside from what one eats, there is also an expectation of good service and experience.

If you’re curious about how deaf-owned restaurants are taking the industry by storm, read this article to learn more.

As industries slowly break the stigma of disability, more restaurants are opening up to deaf staff.

The experience of dining in deaf-owned restaurants

The experience of dining in a deaf-owned restaurant is often pleasant. While some might wonder why they are greeted without words, diners get warm smiles, gentle gestures, and enthusiastic staff.

Over the past decade, new deaf-owned restaurants have been launched worldwide. Unfortunately, sometimes, people dining in only realize they are at a deaf-owned restaurant when they read the menu.

This is because, over the years, the need to advertise a restaurant as being deaf-owned has started to fade. Restaurants with deaf staff serve everything from crepes to vegan fast-food and even exquisite Moroccan couscous.

The experience of dining in a deaf-owned restaurant is often pleasant.
The experience of dining in a deaf-owned restaurant is often pleasant. (Image: via Travelzoo)

What makes deaf-owned restaurants great

A professor, author, and member of a multi-generational deaf family, Dr. Thomas K. Holcomb explains why deaf-owned restaurants are good.

Dr. Holcomb says that there is a can-do attitude that deaf people bring to the workplace, and although they have this positive attitude, they usually struggle to get hired in a restaurant.

Despite wanting to work as a chef or in other positions within a restaurant, deaf people often struggle to land the opportunity.

A solution discussed was having a restaurant entirely staffed by deaf employees. This means the servers to the cooks communicate through sign language or other digital forms of communication.

Since the dynamics are synchronized throughout the restaurant, the deaf-owned restaurants function without friction since everyone understands each other. As for the dining experience, people enjoy genuine service on top of delicious food.

Why opportunities for the deaf are important

The reason why deaf-owned restaurants are well-known is that people without hearing suffer from having fewer opportunities. The unemployment rate for deaf people towers at 70 percent, meaning only 30 percent can find jobs.

The owner of 1000&1 Signes in Paris, an entirely deaf restaurant, Sid Nouar, said he struggled to find experienced deaf staff. Nouar tried to hire an all-deaf staff, but he was not able to find skilled workers at that time.

Because of this, he had to work with his mother until he finally burned out. Years later, he opened in a more prominent location with a fully-deaf staff. This is one of the few instances where a business functioned on the “Deaf Ecosystem.”

Challenges business face

Setting up an entirely deaf business is not easy. This is why it is so rare and foreign for some people to hear.

Deaf businesses have unique problems, which have been a barrier to some companies. Here are the most common issues these businesses face.

Communications can be solved by using innovative technology like vibrating wristbands and tablets or just pointing to an item for the deaf and non-deaf to communicate.
Communications can be solved by using innovative technology like vibrating wristbands and tablets or just pointing to an item for the deaf and non-deaf to communicate. (Image: via Skift Table)

Communicating with the non-deaf

In a workplace, unless the staff is entirely deaf, it can sometimes be hard for deaf and non-deaf staff to communicate.

Since non-deaf staff regularly communicate differently, they will be the ones who have to adjust to deaf staff.

This problem can be solved by using innovative technologies like vibrating wristbands and tablets or just pointing to an item for the deaf and non-deaf to communicate. However, there might be better or more effective solutions.

Finding skilled deaf workers

According to Nouar’s experience, it’s hard to find skilled deaf workers from the get-go. For example, if you are in the culinary industry, it could be hard to find deaf workers skilled in a specific cuisine.

The real solution to this problem is to train deaf workers in a specific discipline. 

Understandably, most deaf workers lack experience. This is because opportunities are not commonly offered to deaf people in general.

Just like any other worker, training will help ensure the quality of their service and help them improve their skills.

The bottom line

Setting up a deaf-owned restaurant can be challenging. One prerequisite is having a willing workforce and sufficient capital for your staff training period.

However, deaf-owned restaurants prove that having a disability doesn’t stop a good worker.

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