“The room is so dark that your eyes never adjust,” said Mireille Evans, a first time customer of the Dark Table restaurant.
She was excited to hear that Calgary was finally opening this diner, as she has heard different things about it in the past, and wanted to try it out for herself.
Evans was aware that the people who would guide her to her seat, and serve the food, were all visually impaired.
“The staff is completely in their element, whereas we are the ones who need their assistance for everything,” said Evans.
She also said that guests would need assistance if they needed to get to the washroom, as there would be no way to find their way there by themselves.
“The only glimpse you ever get is the exit light, or a quick flash when the curtain is drawn,” said Evans.
Owner and founder Moe Alameddine came up with the idea for the restaurant after going on a trip to Switzerland, where he saw how different it was over there.
He has successfully opened Dark Table in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, and said at first everyone thought that he was crazy.
Alameddine had worked in fast food for most of his life, and knew that this idea would be a huge risk.
“This kind of restaurant we transfer the trust,” said Alameddine.
“We trust the blind people to do the job, as they’re the ones guiding,” he said.
Dark Table was first opened 11 years ago, in downtown Montreal, close to McGill University, which helped bring in many curious students.
Three years later, Alameddine decided to move to Toronto and try to open up another one.
All visually impaired servers are hired through the Canadian Institute for the Blind (CNB), and go through training, in order to properly navigate around the restaurant, as well as bring over the correct dishes.
When people arrive, they are given the menu at the bar that is dimly lit, so they know exactly what they are ordering.
According to the website Darktable.ca, the goal is for those dining, to use their other senses, such as smell, taste, and touch to help them enjoy their meal.
Sandy Tavares, the restaurant manager, explained that she has dealt with customers who have not been able to handle dining in the dark.
She recalled an incident two weeks after the opening in Calgary, in which a girl who needed to be removed.
Tavares said that the girl was located in the far back corner of the restaurant, and could not see any light.
Sitting close to the door usually helps people who are scared, said Tavares.
“We will always try to accommodate if we can,” said Tavares.
“If they can’t handle being in the room, we bring them back into the light.”
There is a protocol to follow when this happens, in order to make the person feel comfortable, and it is up to them later on, if they would like to go back and try again.