A. How did you find this company? What are the main facts about its activities?
I once read an article about a restaurant in Warsaw offering meals in complete darkness served by blind waiters. After some research I found that it was a temporary location of one of the Danse le Noir restaurants.
Dans le Noir is a network of high-class restaurants originating in Paris with outlets in cities like London and Barcelona. What is unique about Dans le Noir is the fact that the food is consumed in complete darkness and all the waiters are either blind or with significant eyesight problems.
Upon entering the restaurants the guests are asked to leave all their light-generating objects (watches, mobile phones) in lockers. Afterwards they are led by a blind waiter into the completely dark dining room and seated directly next to other guests which, together with the dark surrounding, facilitates conversations with strangers. The guests are encouraged not to order a specific dish but instead try to guess what is served to them – this, according to the guests of the restaurant, is not so easy having to depend only on the senses of taste and smell.
B. What are the Ethical challenges this company is addressing?
The company proudly describes itself as a for-profit organization. Apart from the goal of earning money, it tries to help people with completely or partially malfunctioning eyesight. It does so in three ways: firstly, all the waiters are either blind or with serious vision problems, which gives them an opportunity of work in an environment where they can feel more comfortable than regular people for a change. Secondly, according to the founder Edouard de Broglie, ten percent of annual profits are donated to charity organizations fighting blindness and severe vision problems. Finally, a visit at the restaurant is meant to raise awareness about the guest and make them stop and think about the difficulties faced by blind people in the everyday life.
C. What makes this company really inspiring to you and why would you trust it?
For me the most inspiring aspect of the company is giving the blind people the ability to switch roles with the people having healthy eyesight. In the restaurant it is the blind waiters who feel comfortable, guide and assist the guests and make them at ease. The guests on the other hand, being put in the dark, unknown environment, are reported to be a bit uncomfortable, unconfident and clumsy.
What also inspires me is the unique experience of relying on certain senses only. Without their vision used the guests concentrate more on their senses of taste, smell, and touch to appreciate food. The unusual setting also makes it possible to engage in interesting conversations with strangers without the ability to judge them visually – which is what most people subconsciously to right upon meeting someone.
D.What are the possible challenges facing the company in the future and how do you think this company may improve?
The prices in the restaurants are high so the outlets appeal mostly to wealthy people. However, the price aspect does not seem to be much of a problem as the restaurants are located in the business centres of the cities.
What seems a bigger threat is the competition. Dans le Noir, while probably being the most well-known network of the kind, has to compete with a number of companies offering meals based on the same concept: Dine in the Dark, Opaque, and Blinde Kuh. This might be the reason why the company has made an attempt to diversify its services and open spa´s in Paris and Kiev, which I believe is a good strategy.