You Probably Won’t Get What You Ordered In This Restaurant!

But at this extraordinary Japanese eatery, people don’t come for the food.

Senior Japanese woman relaxing in a restaurant.

(metamorworks /

Welcome to the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders. In this Tokyo eatery, all the waiters have one thing in common: Dementia. And, as NPR  reveals, they may or may not remember your order, with an estimated 37 percent of staff likely to get it wrong. 

Yet ironically, this is a place that people visit to experience something unforgettable; the joy and power of human togetherness. A reported 99 percent of customers love their experience. And this restaurant has already captivated people in Japan and around the world with its novel approach to raising awareness of the condition, while highlighting and celebrating the retained capabilities and humor of its team members, all living with dementia on a daily basis.

An innovative and heartwarming social experiment

Shiro Oguni created the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders before the Pandemic to drive awareness of and spotlight the quirks of dementia.

The JapanGov portal underlines why aging and dementia are relevant in this “super aging society.” In this country, a predicted 20 percent of people will be affected by dementia by 2025. But this is a global challenge too. According to the World Health Organization, over 55 million people have dementia worldwide, 

Oguni has a vision of making society in Japan and internationally more open minded, tolerant and relaxed about dementia, as the restaurant’s website explains. 

Sometimes the team’s unintended human blunders are simply endearing. The waiting staff often just help themselves to some of the beverages they are serving along the way, blurring the line between server and patron, though younger helpers are always on hand to rescue them from sticky situations.

But Oguni has a more profound goal; restoring dignity to his workers. He wants to give back  their sense of social purpose, and interaction with others, so often cruelly taken away from seniors. This is underlined in a video posted on Facebook from Being Patient, an organization offering Alzheimer's news and support.

In it, we learn that the project has already spread its wings. Now there’s a similar UK cafe staffed by volunteers with dementia.

Serving an unforgettable experience

Oguni knows that many will see his initiative as too unconventional. So the eatery’s website attempts to reassure them with a poem:

You may think it’s crazy.
A restaurant that can’t even get your order right.
All of our servers are people living with dementia.
They may, or may not, get your order right.
However, rest assured that even if your order is mistaken,
everything on our menu is delicious and one of a kind.
This, we guarantee.
‘It’s OK if my order was wrong. It tastes so good anyway.’
We hope this feeling of openness and understanding will spread
across Japan, and through the world.” 

As Oguni shares in this 2021 Facebook video, “Dementia is so widely misunderstood. 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 easygoing so dementia or no dementia, we can live together in harmony.”

It seems that Oguni is already realizing his goals. A pop-up edition of the Restaurant of Mistaken Orders was dished up at a Chinese eatery at Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, shown in the video below. The intention here, as the website reveals, was not just to let Ministry employees sample the concept, but also to bring back the hints of  “a society where people can live with peace of mind even if they have dementia.”

Commenters leaving feedback to the video clips back this view, having only positive things to say about the initiative:

“Such a brilliant idea. So many happy faces and spontaneous laughter and no worries about 'doing it wrong'. Love it!”

And this: “What joy it brought to those people. They felt vital and needed. We need a restaurant like this in Canada.”

Commenter imagesandshadows, meanwhile, has this to say: “The message that it spreads is wonderful- we should have a cafe like this in every neighbourhood all over the world.”

Critics may see this project as echoing aspects of Victorian freak shows. This is because the main actors, the dementia-stricken waiting staff, may be objects of ridicule as they navigate the maze of cognitive impairment. But the obvious joy on the faces of staff and customers should dispel any doubts. Affection and empathy, not mockery and voyeurism, fill the room.

The comment of one 90-year-old waitress, during the restaurant’s launch event, serves to refute this idea too. Responding to a comment from a customer who observes that she’s so youthful, unlike her own mother who thinks that she’s reached the end of the line, the server responds with: “I used to think that too.” The customer then asks for a photo saying “I want to show my mother how active and vital a 90 year old woman can be, if she wants to.” The delighted waitress is happy to oblige.