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Purple Table Reservations

In late 2013, we opened a restaurant outside of Boston, MA.  For the last few years we have been hosting monthly “Memory Cafés” for those living with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia and their caregivers.  These cafés offered a safe and quiet meeting spot for lunch, staff that understood the needs of these special guests, and good conversation. The month café called “Lovely Linda’s Lunches” is in memory of my beautiful mother who passed away in 2013.  She had early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and loved going out to eat.

In March of 2017 at our café, we had a wonderful conversation about the difficulties of going out to eat with a family member with Alzheimer’s and then about how many families eventually abandon the idea of dining out altogether!

I then told the group about a young family who had come in the previous month.  They wanted to celebrate a special family occasion and upon arrival the mother gave us a summary of “do’s and don’ts” for the table to help her son with autism make it through dinner.

Armed with the mother’s list, the server, chef, and I were able to make their experience relaxing and enjoyable.  They spent quite a bit of time with us that evening, despite thinking initially that they would be in and out in an hour!

While I was telling this story to the folks at the Café, I considered just how many guests may have come in and struggled, without us realizing, through dinner because they did not want to make multiple requests of the staff or disclose a family member’s diagnosis. I knew there had to be a way for guests to flag their reservations and for our staff to be provided with instructions regarding what to do once that table had arrived.  At that moment, Purple Table Reservations became a reality.

I used my knowledge as a restaurateur and the wonderful internet to piece together a training manual for my staff.  We launched Purple Table Reservations here the following week!

Our initial post from our restaurant page went viral, and we were overwhelmed with hundreds of emails, messages, and comments about how this type of reservation could help so many.  People shared their stories, struggles and hopes with us.  I knew this had to be bigger.  I also knew that I could create a program that all restaurants could offer.  Over the next few months, I did just that.

We now have an online directory and mobile apps (Purple Table Reservations) for customers to search for Purple Tables by city/town/state/cuisine type, and a platform for restaurants to enroll.  Once enrolled, all restaurants receive access to our comprehensive Getting Started & Best Practices, Staff Training Manual, Daily Checklist to make sure each reservation is reviewed and placed, and more.  We are adding resources weekly to the Restaurant Portal such as picture menu templates, videos, and sensory baskets (coming soon), etc.

Purple Table reservations are designed to provide additional dining accommodations for those who are living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, Autism, PTSD, a hearing or vision impairment, or other physical or cognitive condition. When making a Purple Table reservation, you have the option to provide the restaurant with further details; however, no further details are necessary. A Purple Table reservation is all that is needed.

Families should know that when they make a Purple Table reservation at a participating restaurant, the restaurant and staff will go above and beyond to make sure they are accommodated. They will provide things such as a quieter, well-lit, table closer to restrooms, and extra patience and attention from the staff. Families should know that the staff has been trained to understand different needs and how to best accommodate those needs. Each restaurant will do what they can to make your dining out experience a success.

Going out to lunch or dinner at a restaurant should be a lovely and relaxing experience to look forward to.  This does not come easily to all families. Many special families choose not to go out to eat because it can be a challenging and overwhelming experience for someone they love.  We wanted to change this.  Purple Table Reservations will change this.

Purple Table Reservations is going to make dining out enjoyable again for all, and restaurants that sign up will soon have A Seat for Everyone in their community.

Please help us spread the word to restaurants and within your social and actual communities!

Jenifer Apazidis, Founder
Purple Table Reservations
A seat for everyone

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the NLM Family Foundation.

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