Welcoming Disabled Customers into the Hospitality Sector

Enjoying a night spent dining at your favourite restaurant, surrounded by friends and unhampered by accessibility is a treat that many of us are lucky enough to enjoy regularly. But for individuals living with disabilities, such evenings can be stressful or even humiliating experiences.

The Purple Pound

Back in 2015, disability charity Scope teamed up with the Extra Costs Commission to conduct research into how disabled customers were being treated by retailers and hospitality operators.

Quite simply, it wasn’t good news for either side, as the research revealed that businesses were losing out on £1.8bn a month by overlooking the needs of disabled customers. Although a staggering number, it’s just a drop in the ocean when compared to the overall £249bn worth of the ‘Purple Pound’ – i.e. money spent by disabled people – untapped by businesses hampered with accessibility issues and a lack of education.

Despite the obvious incentive, there are still far too many instances where disabilities are not catered for in the hospitality industry, which understandably leaves individuals feeling frustrated and disappointed when they’re unable to access a venue with the same ease as everybody else.

Help Me Spend My Money

To combat this trend – and to allow more people to experience the best hospitality experiences the UK has to offer – social enterprise, Purple, has launched the Help Me Spend My Money campaign. The campaign aims to ensure that restaurant, bar and café operators all offer the same service to everybody, with a focus on open communication and accessibility.

As reported in Big Hospitality, Purple have offered operators some initial ideas on getting started, contained within a ‘Charter for Change’, which encourages businesses to offer disability awareness training in-store, recreate menus in braille, and signing up to the government’s Disability Confident Scheme. These starting points allow for businesses to make small but meaningful changes to how they operate.

Purple’s mission lines up well with the experiences of many disabled people. Research by the Department for Work and Pensions found that disabled people ranked shopping, eating out, and grabbing a drink as the three most difficult challenges they face, based on accessibility. The room for improvement is clear, and Help Me Spend My Money will inevitably play a large role in assisting the hospitality sector to do right by their disabled customers.

Diversity on Screen

The call to action of Purple’s mission has also brought to the fore the effect that diverse marketing can have on consumers who are disabled. Rather than portray Britain in all its diverse glory, some marketers have been accused of shying away from everyday issues, such as disabilities.

Determined to buck this trend, Channel 4 previously launched the ‘Superhumans Wanted’ competition ahead of Rio 2016. The competition saw brands go head to head to create an advert which embraced disabled talent and issues, with the winning brand earning £1 million worth of commercial airtime during the Rio Paralympics.

Now, Channel 4 have announced the return of the Superhumans Wanted competition, encouraging brands to follow in Mars’ winning footsteps to create diversity on screen. The logic behind the move is sound: by dispelling the stigma around disabilities and creating relatable adverts for a wider section of society, brands can access new revenue and bring down barriers in one move.

Demonstrating Hospitality

Following both Channel 4’s declaration that ‘diversity sells – and we’ve proved it’ and Scope’s research into how much retailers are missing out on the ‘Purple Pound’, it’s clear that the hospitality sector has the chance to benefit from welcoming disabled customers onto premises.

We’re proud to be working with clients in the hospitality sector who are already embracing a more inclusive offering. Blandford Comptoir in London has shown that wheelchair access can give more diners the opportunity to visit and enjoy a luxury restaurant experience, whilst disabled customers looking for a relaxing drink in Manchester will find visiting The Metropolitan in Didsbury a straightforward experience, thanks to an expanded outdoors area and friendly, well-trained staff.

There’s still a long road ahead of the hospitality sector if every business is to successfully change their attitude towards customers with disabilities. But by working together to make such issues more visible across the industry, and embracing new ideas and innovations, the task is far from insurmountable – and accessibility for all surely isn’t too far behind.

The team at James Robertshaw are keen to help everybody enjoy their downtime – whether it’s grabbing a drink at a London bistro, or settling down for dinner in Didsbury.

Working with our hospitality clients, we’ve created an inclusive experience for everybody no matter the weather. To find out more about how our products have benefited our hospitality clients, head to our case studies page, or if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch.

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