“We’ve certainly seen an increase in visitors from people with disabilities, their families and carers by making our venue more accessible,” says Tomas Walsh, owner of the Venue in Thornton Cleveleys.
From ramped entrances to the main floor and the Spirit Function Suite to chairlift to the first-floor function room, La Mezzaluna and accessible washroom facilities on all floors, Thomas has done all he can to make sure customers can get through the doors to his restaurant and bar, but he hasn’t stopped there.
“We’ve found that flexibility has been at the heart of helping those with a disability.
“We have a couple, who are both blind, and visit us several times a week. A member of staff greets them from the taxi and guides them to a table. Our chefs accommodate their requests and our team provide full table service and even sit with them and read through the menu,” adds Tomas.
The Venue doesn’t have barriers to its customer service and all of its staff have taken part in Access Fylde Coast’s free disability awareness training, to give them a better understanding of disability and how best to assist a disabled person.
And, it is plain to see just how important it is to Tomas to provide a fully-inclusive environment – even blending customers’ food or basic sign language.
“A customer we regularly welcome is a wheelchair user who has problems eating solids along with several other disabilities but this is his first choice for somewhere to eat as we’ll blend down his choice of food and assist him and his family with any requests on the day.
“We regularly welcome a group of deaf service users to our venue our staff do their best with some limited sign language but always have a pen and paper handy just in case.”
COVID-19 has brought challenges for many businesses, but the Venue, on North Promenade, is one of many businesses across the Fylde Coast, which has ensured that social distance measures do not alienate or make life even harder for disabled people.
Tomas says that measures at the Venue include:
- A one-way system – While only one of the entrances is accessible via a ramp, our staff clear the way for anyone who needs to use the ramp on exit to stop anyone getting too close.
- Signage indoors – We’ve tried to make them as big, bold and using contrast colours so people with visual impairments can see and understand, but our team again will assist anyone who is struggling or needs any guidance.
- We also offer full table service so that customers don’t need to be queuing or standing for prolonged periods of time along with our smartphone ordering service.
- Our team also understand that many people are exempt from mask-wearing and won’t put you in an awkward position for not wearing one. We understand that some customers struggle with hearing, so have clear visors available for our team to use instead of a mask along with that trusty pen and paper.
And, taking some time to consider the needs of others, has seen the Venue reap the rewards.
“We have customers with varying disabilities and our feedback has been phenomenal. We do our utmost to work to accommodate their needs from helping someone with sight issues to their table or our chef’s making alterations to how food is served to make it easier to eat.
“We’re not perfect but we listen to all the feedback given to us and do our best to adjust our practices to accommodate everyone.”
And Tomas’ recommendation for other businesses in the hospitality industry?
“The hospitality industry should be accessible to everyone and certainly shouldn’t cause a worry when dining or drinking out. We honestly believe that it is our duty to ensure that we provide a safe welcoming environment for all.”