Empathize with the visually impaired – A unique Pizza Hut experience

Mirza Omer Oct 17 2015
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A perfectly fine, healthy eater who can eat with the lights on chooses to do it with no light; makes no sense, right? Then again, I couldn’t avoid the remarkable voyage Pizza Hut has brought to Karachi.

This feasting in a pitch black dark room is the first of its kind in Pakistan. Pizza Hut has presented a totally new and different feel at one of its eateries in Clifton, Karachi, wherein visually impaired individuals welcome and assist the customers into the lounge area. The designated branch in Clifton offers stand-out experience of feasting in a pitch black room which invigorates the feeling of smell and taste without visual signals.

I was curious to know more about why and how this new and unique idea came to fruition, so I spoke to the CEO of MCR (Franchisee of Pizza Hut in Pakistan) Aqeel Hassan.

“Opening a dark restaurant in Pakistan is an experiment we are trying to do as per our corporate social responsibility. What’s interesting about this concept is that inside the dark room, a person who is perfectly fine and a person who is visually impaired and can’t see have to go through the same difficulties and have to eat in the dark.

By launching a dark restaurant, the message we want to convey is that we can successfully reverse the roles of people who can see and who cannot see,” Hassan said.

“The functional people in the dark restaurant are those who are unable to see while people like us who can see normally are not able to function easily in the dark room. This is done to spread awareness and make us realize how dark the world is for those who cannot see. The message we are trying to send across is that visually impaired people are equally important in this society compared to those who can see. We have launched this dark restaurant for a cause. We are trying to spread awareness that every person who belongs to this society is important and should be allowed to equally participate in different walks of life,” Hassan added.

As I entered the said Pizza Hut branch right beside BBQ Tonight, I understood that as opposed to changing the entire restaurant into a dark room, they decided to set the theme in a specific area, covered by dark curtains. Lockers have been set outside for visitors to store their valuables as no light emanating gadgets of any sort are permitted inside. As I was taken inside the dim room, I was taken aback for a while.

I could envision existence without vision and it was shocking.

I had food on my table which I could just smell and feel. However, I was not able to see. In little to no time, I felt lost. Soup was served as a starter. I had foreseen it would be truly difficult to utilize cutlery or have soup when you can’t even see the dish. It was not a simple undertaking. I was soon served the principle course that was a pizza; I took a stab at using a fork and knife, however, soon surrendered and began utilizing my hands to eat. Without a doubt, I had some trouble separating the slices and I felt bits of meat dropping on my lap. It was difficult.

Our waitress, Sidra, was visually impaired in reality.

“We basically interact through vocal communication. We are trained and know what is kept where, we tell our customers that if they need glasses they should look at their left or if they need any sauce they can get it from the counter on the right. It was difficult initially to communicate with the customers but with time it got fine,” Sidra explains.

“When we are baking a pizza, the dough is the same for all flavors, just the toppings change, similarly we human beings are all made from the same soil but have physical differences and limitations. People here usually highlight the limitations and disabilities a person has, I believe we should highlight a person’s good qualities and motivate him/her to work harder. Pizza Hut – by taking this initiative – is sending out a message of how environment changes can control us. A person with perfect vision is able to do nothing in the dark room as his environment is changed.”

The concept of a “dark restaurant” will increase your empathy for handicapped individuals and will make you realize how these people – regardless of their shortcomings – work and keep themselves motivated to get better and do well. We all should treat these people with equality and be sympathetic towards them to an extent that does not make them feel bad.

The Pizza Hut Dark Restaurant at the Clifton branch near Bilawal House in Karachi is inviting all individuals to partake in an entirely unique eating experience. Do make a visit. You will certainly witness a life-changing experience.

Mirza Omer

Mirza Omer:

Mirza Omer has been working for the Pakistani Media industry for a few years. From radio to television and from social media to print media, he has experience in most fields of the industry. He enjoys photography as a hobby and as a business, he is a celebrity journalist, and a former VJ.