Restaurant dining can be a very stressful experience when you are blind or partially sighted. These 25 tips are guaranteed to make your next dining experience more pleasurable!
1. When you order your meal, ask the server to have the kitchen staff cut the steak, waffles, French toast, salad, etc. into bite-size pieces. Be sure to say "bite size"!
2. Ask the server to have the kitchen staff spread jam, honey, peanut butter, or ketchup on your toast so you can simply enjoy the meal when it is served.
3. Ask the server to make substitutions. For example, you may prefer penne pasta or shell pasta instead of spaghetti for ease of eating.
4. Ask the server to have condiments (ketchup, soy sauce, tartar sauce, etc.) placed in a bowl or ramekin, so instead of fighting with the ketchup bottle on the table, you can simply dip your fries into the bowl.
5. Ask the server to get the kitchen staff to place your slice of cake/pie/brownie or other food item into a bowl. You may prefer to use a spoon rather than a fork!
6. Ask the server to have the kitchen staff remove bones, shrimp tails, seafood shells. There is nothing worse than biting into a shrimp tail. The same goes for garnish (e.g. lemon wedges).
7. When the meal is served, you can ask the server to describe the location of food items on your dinner plate using the clock face. For example, the mashed potatoes are at 12 o'clock, the peas and carrots at 3 o'clock, and the chicken breast at 6 o'clock. Or you can use the tip of the fork to identify food items by texture and shape.
8. Keep your hands low and in contact with the table when reaching for your glass, the bread basket, or other item. This way you will not accidently tip something over. Also, check with your free hand to ensure the area is clear of objects before placing the item back down onto the table.
9. Place your napkin in your lap in case you drop something.
10. Pay attention to the weight of the fork. Everyone is guilty of "empty-fork" syndrome. It means you are having a GREAT time!!
11. Hesitate a few moments before lifting the fork to your mouth. If anything is going to fall off the fork, it will fall off at this time.
12. Every once in a while, take your fork or knife and push food items into the centre of your plate.
13. To determine the cutting edge of the knife, run the blade of the knife between the tines of the fork. You can feel or hear the serrated edge. (Be discreet -- Don't saw back and forth like you are playing the violin!)
14. If you must cut food items on your plate, turn the plate so the food that needs cutting is at the 6 o'clock position.
15. Use your knife (or bun) to push food items onto your fork.
16. Check for a straw in your glass by discreetly running your index finger around the edge of the glass before you drink for the first time. It is awfully embarrassing if you accidently shove a straw up your nose!
17. View the menu on-line prior to your visit to the restaurant. Some restaurants offer braille menus (e.g. Red Robin and Boston Pizza).
18. You may want to ask the hostess to seat you in an area with better lighting (e.g. to avoid glare from windows) and easy access to restrooms. If you have a favourite table or booth at a restaurant, ask the hostess what number it is so you can reserve it next time!
19. When the hostess seats you at the table, you can ask her to describe what is on the table (e.g. candles, centerpiece, and condiments).
20. In dimly lit restaurants, you may want to bring a small portable flashlight, like a book light, to illuminate your plate.
21. If you are unable to read the menu, the server will gladly overview the menu selections. Be sure to fine-tune the selections by mentioning food preferences, dietary restrictions (e.g. vegetarian), food allergies, or cravings. Don't be afraid to ask for prices!
22. Ask the server to identify when he places objects on the table (e.g. drinks and bread basket) so you know when the item arrives and where it is placed on the table. You can also ask the server to come by your table periodically so you don't have to try to flag him down if you require additional assistance.
23. Plan ahead: If you think you will be eating something with a dark sauce, wear dark clothing. This might sound extreme, but this way you can relax and not worry about your neighbour spraying you with spaghetti sauce.
24. You can easily determine how much to tip by asking the server for the GST. The GST is currently 5%so you can triple the number for a 15% tip. Of course, the hand-held payment terminals have buttons that correspond to various percentages.
25. Practice eating skills at home so you feel comfortable in company!
I encourage you to take advantage of the kitchen staff. They want you to enjoy your meal. When I dine out I want to enjoy my company not fight with my food!
Don't forget to relax and have fun!