Right Intentions, Wrong Order: The Restaurant of Order Mistakes

Ever ordered your favourite dish in a restaurant only to get something completely different? The first Friday in June held very similar experiences for several hungry customers in the Toyosu district of Tokyo, who wandered into The Restaurant of Order Mistakes. The name, strange and whimsical, was derived from an old Japanese story, and is a pun on its eponymous ‘Restaurant of Many Orders’. Popping up out of the blue for the weekend of 2 to 4 June, The Restaurant of Order Mistakes brought its amusing charm to customers and waiters alike, the latter of whom all have either Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.

Set up by the team behind Maggie’s Centres (cancer support teams who teach and encourage cancer patients to live a wholesome life) in the UK, the restaurant aimed to give its customers a unique perspective into the lives of patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. By showing society these patients, who are often looked down upon as “less functional” (especially in East Asian countries), the restaurant’s creators aimed to dismantle the stereotypical stigma found against Alzheimer’s and dementia patients – not just for their waiters, but all over the world. This is certainly a step forward for Japan. Currently, it is the law in Japan that private companies with over 200 employees must have physically or mentally disabled staff making up 2% of their numbers. However, initiatives like The Restaurant of Order Mistakes make directives like this seem less arbitrary. It highlights that inclusivity of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients is not just a gimmick, but is a necessary concession to people who are really, at the end of it all, just like us.

And it can’t be said that this restaurant wasn’t a success. Customers noted that the waiters were all smiles; friendly and welcoming. In spite of them getting their orders wrong most of the time, they appeared to be having fun working, and the customers they served were encouraged to be equally understanding as a result of their amiable behaviour. Mizuho Kudo, dancer and former Red Cross member, visited the restaurant and later recounted her experience – she had ordered a hamburger and received gyoza dumplings instead, but found it funny and charming instead of annoying, as one would expect when getting a wrong order at a restaurant. Perhaps telling customers about the restaurant’s purpose acted as a good introduction to the need for such a stigma against Alzheimer’s and dementia patients to be destroyed, leading to a much friendlier work environment for the waiters, and in turn the amusement of the customers.

The Restaurant of Order Mistakes may be gone for now, but its organisers have been encouraged by the Toyosu outlet’s success. Another pop-up store is in the works for now, and its opening has been planned for 21 September – significantly, World Alzheimer’s Day. Until then, we should continue to update our own awareness of our peers with such diseases, and work to stop discrimination and stereotypes against them in our own time.

For more information on the restaurant’s organisers, visit the Maggie’s Tokyo website here

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