You adapt your menu with the seasons, ensure your drinks menu is innovative and exciting and provide exceptional front of house customer service. Oh, and you whip up food worth shouting about on social media. So, you’d say you put your customer front and centre when it comes to your offering. But do you really? Are you certain you’ve thought about everyone?

The fact is, in today’s digitised world it’s almost a given that your website should be up-to-date and packed with content. You know that already, of course; it helps in terms of driving traffic to your site, while also giving customers what they need.

Your clientele can access the information they want at the click of a mouse, but is your site easily accessible to customers with disabilities, too?

A harsh reality

For fast food giant, Domino’s, a less-than-accessible website led a blind man to sue the company over claims that he couldn’t order customised pizzas using the brand’s digital tools. Repeatedly thwarted by its lack of accessibility features, the man eventually gave up and the pizza firm had no choice but to enter a lawsuit, before being sued on grounds of inaccessibility.

It’s interesting, really, as Domino’s has championed its own cutting-edge digital services for quite some time. As harsh a reality as it may seem, it isn’t just the fast food company that should be worried. 

Lawrence Shaw of accessibility risk assessment site, AAAtraq, says over 93% of websites – in the catering industry and outside of it – fail on accessibility. 

“The bottom line is this: disabled people need to be able to enjoy easy access to websites like anybody else, yet most site owners simply aren’t doing enough to ensure this is the case.” says Lawrence, whose firm gives website owners a low-cost, fast track route to protecting their organisations from the risk of legal action.

Assess your level of risk

Companies needn’t pay anything in the first instance, with the opportunity to assess how their site fares thanks to a completely free risk report. All they need to do is enter their URL into the dedicated box on the site’s homepage, add a few basic details and wait for a personalised report to land in their inbox. It’s up to the company in question whether they’d like to proceed with the next stage, which is to purchase a more detailed risk assessment through the site.

It’s staggering, but up to 15 million people in the UK face digital accessibility issues when they use websites from leading commercial or public-sector organisations. 

It’s certainly an expensive problem for website owners to deal with – but it’s about more than just ensuring everyone has access to your site. “It’s about your brand reputation, too,” continues Lawrence. “Not doing anything isn’t a wise choice.”

Is accessibility a legality in the catering industry?

So, why assess your site in the first place – and is it a legality? Yes; it doesn’t matter what industry your business falls under; if you’re providing a service to the public, you should meet basic accessibility requirements. 

The Gov.uk site offers plenty of information for anyone who wants to know more, but in short: ‘Your service must be accessible to everyone who needs it.’ the site states. ‘If it isn’t, you may be breaking the law.

How can users access your site?

‘This means you need to start thinking about how users might access and use your service before you design or build anything.’

Accessibility extends to ensuring your physical premises are up to scratch for disabled guests, too, with plenty of UK restaurants and fast food companies already paving the way for others to follow suit. Café Rouge has made a pledge to become ‘the first major restaurant group to provide disabled people, carers and all those with access requirements details of its facilities at each of its restaurant.’

Meanwhile, Table Table has a full and thorough page on its site dedicated to information for disabled guests and their carers. What about you? Have you considered how you might do the same, ensuring both your physical premises and your site is geared up for all?

If you created a new public sector website on or after September 23, 2018, you need to meet accessibility standards and should have published an accessibility statement by September 23 this year. You’ll then need to review and update your statement regularly.Want to get started with your free risk report? Head to www.aaatraq.com and look out for an upcoming Fairway Insider article, in which we publish a report featuring how well some of the UK’s biggest catering brands fare in terms of website accessibility.