The Japanese restaurant staffed by people with dementia.

A diagnosis of dementia is a confronting one, whether for the person directly affected, or the family and friends who love them. According to the World Health Organisation,  55 million people worldwide have dementia and this number is predicted to triple by 2050 largely due to population growth and the ageing population.

For the millions of people currently living with dementia, a condition that describes a range of cognitive impairments that affect a person's memory, thinking, reasoning, and ability to perform daily activities, work is often in short supply. 

And in our fast-paced society where expectations are high and speed is everything, our empathy and patience with those who can't keep up are limited. People with dementia are placed out of sight in care facilities even though research shows that meaningful work and connection can help with some symptoms.

Proving that there is another way to include people with dementia in wider society, an eatery concept in Japan has been hiring people with dementia for many years.

The owner of the Tokyo-based 'Restaurant of Mistaken Orders', television producer Shiro Oguni says he wanted to take a kinder and more inclusive approach.

Watch: The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders. Post continues below. 

Video via Instagram @catchupscoop

“Dementia is so widely misunderstood,” said Oguni speaking in an interview about his restaurant that originally opened as a pop-up in 2017.


“People believe you can’t do anything for yourself and the condition will often mean complete isolation from society. We want to change society to become more caring and easy-going. So dementia or no dementia, we can live together in harmony."

As Oguni says, if all the dishes on the menu are delicious, what does it matter if the staff get confused about your order? 

"Our restaurant is stylish and serves great food. If your order was mistaken, you can shrug it off and enjoy what comes your way anyway.

"It's a place to foster this kind of open-minded caring freedom and communication. The naming allowed our customers to enter with an open mind. They expected mistakes and so were okay with it. It created an air of easy-going acceptance."

Proving that it wasn't just an act of kindness for the wait staff with dementia but rather a smart business decision for customers too, 37 per cent of the orders taken at the first pop-up were 'mistaken', but 99 per cent of the customers said they were happy with their meal. According to the website, 95 per cent also felt that it helped promote their understanding of dementia which shows that this whole concept is simply good for everyone.

In a recent article in The Washington Post, the latest incarnation of the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders is at a 12-seat cafe called Orange Day in Tokyo where dementia patients are hired to work once a month and wear orange aprons to signify the colour of dementia care.

“It’s so much fun here. I feel like I’m getting younger just being here,” said Toshio Morita, one of the cafe's wait staff, who only began showing signs of dementia two years ago.


The cafe team use a number of techniques to help their older colleagues while they carry out their shift. 

There is a rest chair available to them near the kitchen, younger volunteers help take customers’ orders and tables are assigned a single flower in a different colour instead of a number to help staff remember where to take the orders.

These simple, yet inclusive steps help all members of staff contribute to the running of the restaurant. It helps provide purpose and meaning.

“A lot of elderly people are either in nursing homes or are just sort of shut away in their homes, so I hope that our initiative will give people with dementia something to look forward to,” said Yui Iwata, who works at Orange Day. 

"If people get a deeper understanding, it would become easier for people with dementia to go out, as well.”

Original owner Shiro Oguni was inspired to start the very first Restaurant of Mistaken Orders pop-up after being served a dumpling instead of a hamburger at a nursing care facility. 

He said he was about to highlight the error but instead thought, "This is the world people with dementia live in. It's no big deal. 

"It's okay to make mistakes."

The only mistake here is why there aren't more Restaurants of Mistaken Orders in every town and city around the world. It seems like this is a concept that is truly beneficial for everyone.

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Senior Lifestyle Family Writer. For links to her articles follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Yuki Morishima (D-CORD/The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders.

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