Restaurant offers Sensory Hour for customers with autism

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 20th June 2018

TODAY a Sydney restaurant on a ground-breaking mission of inclusion will host its first Sensory Hour for customers with autism and their families.

Part of the Rashays Casual Dining chain of 22 restaurants and four food court locations, the Punchbowl restaurant’s Sensory Hours will be every Wednesday from 5pm to 6pm.

To lessen the problematic sensory impact of the restaurant, lights will be dimmed, and electronics and noisy machinery will be turned off.

The extra staff and extra support required to initiate the Sensory Hour activities means there is additional financial cost to the restaurant.

However, Rashays sees that as a long-term investment resulting in more customers accessing its restaurants and a more inclusive and happy community overall.

“Our aim is to be the most inclusive restaurant in Australia,” Punchbowl store owner Bashar Krayem said.

Sensory Hour follows a recent move to make all Rashays restaurants “deaf friendly” by 2019.

Staff are being taught Auslan, (Australian sign language) and working to reduce the barriers for members of the deaf community seeking to access the restaurant.

Profits, willingness to spend locally

Sean Williamberg, inclusion officer at the NSW Business Chamber and former restaurant owner, said inclusive restaurants mean happier communities resulting in a more productive society and willingness to spend locally.

“Profitability from making a restaurant more inclusive triples on average as most of us do like to access restaurants with at least two other people,” Mr Williamberg said.

The Sensory Hour dinner was inspired by the Maori word for autism, “Takiwatanga”, — which means his/her own time — and the teaching of Islam to look after your peers.