Blackout Dining

The Lempert Report
November 09, 2022

Phil: So, Sally, tell us this story about blackout restaurants, that there are now 14 of them across the world, and what's the effect that people are having? This is, you know, so unique. It's not, you know, we've talked before about going into restaurants where it's all dark, it heightens the senses. We've done that story before years ago, but this one has a twist where all the wait staff in the restaurant are either visually impaired or blind. What's this about? 

Sally: Well, it's really cool, Phil. I love several things about this, but the deal is, the one that I've been looking at and reading about is in Jaffa Israel. And it's actually located in this center called NaLaga’at Center, which is actually a theater where there are performers and creators working there that have disabilities. So, Blackout is located in there, and like you said, the entire waitstaff has some sort of vision impairment disability. So the idea is that you walk in and in a lighted room, you are able to read the menu and order. You do have the option of ordering a surprise dish for each course if you want to, instead of choosing something. And then they give you a key, and the key is for you to lock your phone up so that you don't have your phone while you are dining. 

Sally: And then they will lead you in a, they describe it as "leading a conga line of people into the dining area where the lights are down". And you are working with a staff that is visually impaired. Now, what's really cool about this is that the feedback that people are giving is that they find that their food is more enjoyable, maybe their senses are heightened a little more, I don't know. But also what I loved about this is that they have deeper conversations with the people that they're dining with. I imagine that phone being away has something to do with it, but also the lighting being low. And then the third thing that I really love about this is that people are getting exposed and interacting with people that have disabilities and seeing that they have capabilities just like everybody else. 

Phil: Now this story is written by Samantha Barron. It's a first person story. She and a friend went to this restaurant, experienced it, to your point, I love what she said. I found that the limited use of eyesight seemed to enhance my other senses. While chewing my entree, I relied purely on taste to figure out each ingredient. She and her companion decided not to talk and focus on the food. And, you know, I love exactly what you said. I noticed that when we only ate and didn't talk, our taste buds seemed more alert and intensified. We also noticed that in between dishes when we did converse, our conversations went into more personal depth than they usually would while dining out. She says, I credit these conditions to blackout. Yes, you know, I hope that they expand to more than 14. 

Phil: Frankly, it's an experience that I would love. I would love to try this. I know that years ago there was one in Brooklyn, New York didn't get a chance to go there before they closed. But, there's some learnings here. Even the fact that they insist on everybody putting their phones under lock and key before you dine. It's great. I can't tell you how many times I'm going to a restaurant and I see, you know, a couple or more people around a table. Nobody's talking to each other. Everybody's on their phone sometimes or even texting each other. But, you know, let's bring back that conversation. I think that that's so important.