Restaurant accessibility: How to run an inclusive restaurant

As a restaurant owner, you strive to make your restaurant welcoming to all customers. Yet without proper accessibility modifications, it can be difficult for those with disabilities to enjoy your delicious food. 61 million adults in the US have a disability. Prioritizing restaurant accessibility allows your business to be inclusive of all.

Designing an accessible restaurant can be daunting, but by following ADA standards you can provide a barrier-free dining experience for customers with disabilities. Not sure where to start? Take a look at our tips on how to make your restaurant accessible.

What is an ADA restaurant?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (or ADA) is a law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including restaurants. The purpose of this law is to make sure public spaces are accessible for everyone, regardless of physical ability. This law also requires equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Title III of the ADA directs businesses to make “reasonable modifications” to their operations when serving people with disabilities. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to make sure that your restaurant is ADA compliant. If you need to make alterations to your restaurant to improve accessibility, your business may be eligible for two federal tax incentives in order to fund the adjustments. There may also be state or local accessibility regulations for your restaurant as well.

6 tips to promote restaurant accessibility

Title III of the ADA states that restaurants must make sure their business facilities are accessible and meet federal standards. So what does accessibility look like? Take a look at these six tips on how to make your restaurant accessible.

1. Update entrances, exits and parking

Your customers’ restaurant experience begins before they even step foot inside. Patrons can’t enjoy your cuisine if they can’t get to your front door. Make sure that there is at least one route from your property’s arrival point to your restaurant that does not require the use of stairs. You may need to add an accessible ramp (less than a 2% slope), handrails or a lift.

If your business has parking, you must provide accessible parking spaces – including van accessible spots. You should have one accessible parking spot for every 25 spots in your lot. Check out ADA’s checklist to learn more about how many accessible parking spaces your restaurant needs.

The entrances and exits of your restaurant must accommodate different abilities. Your door should be able to open 90 degrees, and your entrances and hallways must have at least a 36 inch width. Check to see if your door handles and entrance ways can be navigated by people in wheelchairs. Not all buildings are the same, and the ADA outlines what policy your business should follow to meet the requirements.

2. Design an inclusive dining room

Once customers get through your door, you want to make sure they can navigate your restaurant freely. This means creating a 36-inch aisle to separate fixed seating. To meet the ADA requirements for wheelchair seating, 5% of your tables should be accessible.

Your goal is to make your dining room a comfortable space for everyone. You may consider reserving special hours for different groups like an early bird special for elders, a family-friendly dining hour or sensory-friendly events. Restaurants across the country are finding creative ways to make their business accommodate different needs, such as dedicating quiet dining areas for those with hearing or sensory challenges.

Accessible restrooms offer ample room for wheelchair users to steer around toilets and sinks. You may need to install an accessible stall with safety bars or add braille to your signage. The ADA further outlines how to design an accessible restroom.

3. Check service mobility

The way your restaurant is designed should allow people with disabilities to order and obtain food without assistance. If your restaurant offers self-service, it needs to be accessible. This means wide service spaces, reachable counters, accessible signs and an easy-to-navigate service route. If your menu is posted on the wall, have paper and online versions of your menu to accommodate those with vision impairments.

Customers of all ability levels should be able to get their food easily. Walkways should be at least 36 inches wide, and accessible check out counters must have a maximum height of 38 inches. Check that all your hallways, service routes, checkout stations and elevators comply with the ADA requirements.

4. Provide employee training

Thorough employee training is a must for any restaurant. Onboarding processes ensure that the employees clearly understand expectations and give them the confidence to perform their job successfully.

The ADA mandates accessibility in the workplace. Your onboarding process and materials should accommodate the various needs of employees with different ability levels. These training programs should be accessible for workers with disabilities, foreign language speakers and other demographics within your organization.

Your employee training should also give your staff the tools to accommodate all customers. This includes knowing where accessible tables are, asking diners about their allergies and any other accessibility procedures at your business. If a customer asks about accessible features, your staff should be ready to provide this information.

5. Create an accessible website

While the ADA does not address digital accessibility, reviewing the convenience of your website is good practice to ensure it can be navigated by all your customers. Following the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) international standards will allow people of all abilities to digest your content.

To start, your website should:

  • Add proper alt text to images so it can be interpreted by screen readers or Braille devices
  • Include headings, readable fonts, color contrast and white space
  • Use descriptive URLs, photo captions and text

Don’t have a restaurant website? When you partner with Grubhub you get access to Direct, a commission-free online ordering site for your restaurant. Direct uses integrated management and branded customer experiences to make your operations run smoothly. It’s also easy to customize to reflect your brand while prioritizing an easy customer experience.

6. Design accessible menus

Designing accessible menus can help ensure that every customer can use your offerings. Accessible menus use design techniques and organization so that customers can read menus comfortably and efficiently, regardless of their abilities. Start by using a legible font on your paper menus, and make sure the menu pages are not too overstuffed. Following basic menu engineering tips will make your menus readable, logical and enticing.

Organizing your menu based on different classifications will make it easier for diners to navigate. Adding semantic markups to these classifications will also help those who use assistive technology to read your menu.

Technology has made it easier for those with disabilities to navigate digital menus. Creating a digital menu for your restaurant in plain text format (not PDF) will help those with assistive devices interpret your offerings. If you offer a QR code menu, keep some paper copies on hand.

Expand your reach with Grubhub

Prioritizing accessibility makes it possible for your restaurant to serve more customers. Offering takeout and delivery services can help expand your reach – allowing customers to enjoy your cuisine from the comfort of their home. When you partner with Grubhub you get instant access to 33+ million customers who are eager to order their next meal. Our technology can seamlessly integrate your POS system and simplify your menu management, increasing efficiency and reducing errors.
Ready to expand your restaurant’s reach? Partner with Grubhub today.