Mo and Carol Sattar, owners of Boca Raton’s Original Pancake House, face problems common to restaurant owners everywhere — customers that don’t speak English, an aging population with
less-than-perfect vision, and an active blind community that sees no reason to stay at home.
What these groups have in common is their taste for Original Pancake House fare. But finding experienced servers who are bilingual and don’t mind spending extra time with customers is proving to be a challenge.
“South Florida is a cultural crossroads,” said owner Mohammed Sattar. “Not only do we get visitors who don’t speak English, but we’ve got a large retired population. We had to find a way to serve them.”
They turned to Menus That Talk(TM), a Miami company that manufactures a line of talking menus for restaurants, cruise ships, museums and other public places. The menus are compact — about the size of a DVD case, portable and multilingual.
What co-owner Carol Sattar likes is their ruggedness and ease of use. “Customers simply select a language they prefer, then press a button like Omelettes, Crepes or Senior Specials,” she said. A voice responds, describing the dishes and their prices. When they’re ready to order, a Service button summons a waiter.
Preparation for the Pancake House was quick and easy. They sent their printed menu to Menus That Talk who organized it to work with the menu’s buttons, then translated it into Spanish. With an approved script, English and Spanish voice actors recorded the menu. A “face plate” was designed, and in less than a week a set of bilingual talking menus was delivered to The Original Pancake House.
“Customers appreciate the practical side,” says Ms. Sattar. “This gives them access to the full menu without needing to ask for help.”
Menus That Talk can deliver much more information than a Braille menu, and as Miami Lighthouse President Virginia Jacko points out, only one in ten blind persons actually reads Braille.
Beginnings: Menus That Talk CEO Susan Perry was having lunch with her niece, a young woman with advanced macular degeneration who cannot read a menu from any distance. “When my niece asked if I would read the menu specials to her, I realized I had forgotten my glasses, and we had a good laugh,” said Perry, “but the incident begged the question, why can’t menus talk to customers?” After nearly a year of development she and partner Richard Herbst showed the first completed menus to restaurant owners.
“Restaurants face some unique challenges,” says Herbst. “They are serving more diverse customers with shrinking wait staffs. Managers are under pressure to get food choices and cuisine descriptions in front of customers. We’re filling those needs with a device that anyone can use. And,” he added, “Menus That Talk satisfies basic Americans With Disabilities requirements.”
The Menu currently supports two languages simultaneously; the company offers English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Italian and Russian. A version that will offer up to six languages will be ready shortly. A detachable external earpiece provides privacy, also interfacing with modern Telecoil(R)-equipped hearing aids for added service to the elderly and hearing-impaired.