Many chain restaurants have websites that include their menus. This can be a great convenience if you'd like to know what they offer in advance of visiting, or if you want to order online or by phone. This article will review the online menu accessibility of the Applebee's, Denny's, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, and Red Lobster restaurant chains. Keep in mind that many local restaurants also have their menus online, not just large chains.
Of course, if you're at the actual restaurant and you have an OCR app such as KNFB Reader or Abbyy TextGrabber, you can photograph the menu and hope the app reads it comprehensibly. Another option is to have a person with you read the menu aloud.
Both Internet Explorer for Windows and Safari for Mac were used to evaluate website menus. Window-Eyes was the screen reader used for Internet Explorer and VoiceOver was used for Safari.
Applebee's Online Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments
Applebee's is a chain of family restaurants serving a wide variety of foods including burgers, steaks, pasta, and chicken. The restaurants stay open late and offer a menu for kids.
Applebee's website did not have any clutter. Navigating the site with the headings, links, Tab key, or Arrows worked well in both Internet Explorer and Safari.
When I loaded applebees.com for the first time, the site loaded with a nearby Applebee's location on the homepage. It wasn't the closest Applebee's, but it wasn't very far. Activating the "Location" link near the top of the page presents a search box. Results are clearly displayed. With each result was a link for viewing the local menu.
When the menu page loads, use heading or link keys for navigation. The menu is broken down into categories, including Entrees & Main Dishes, New Apps & Bar Snacks, Handcrafted Burgers, Kids, and Lunch Combos.
Activating the "Handcrafted Burgers" link presented a new page with a list of the many types of burgers served at the Applebee's location I had selected. Individual burgers could be located with headings or link hot keys. Each entry contained the name of the burger, what was on it, and the price. Activating the name link loaded another page with information about social media.
A Nutritional Info link, which opens a PDF document, is provided on all pages of the Applebee's menu. The VoiceOver Find command or the Window-Eyes Find command made it easier to find specific items and information. The PDF document had headings at the top of the page rather than next to the number. For example, "calories" was a table heading, but the heading did not appear next to the number of calories for an item.
The Applebee's website worked well with both Safari and Internet Explorer. It was a bit cumbersome to read the nutrition PDF document, but using the screen reader's Find command helped.
Denny's Online Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments
Denny's had a big online menu that includes categories such as Breakfasts, Sandwiches, and Dinner Entrees, along with an offering for kids. Links for these categories were located near the top of the page and were clearly labeled. There was also a link to download the full menu as a PDF file, but this feature did not work well with Safari or Internet Explorer.
Activating the "Breakfast" link loaded a page with many options. Navigating by headings was an easy way to review the choices. Above each breakfast item heading was a picture with a description. For example, the description for the Belgian Waffle Slam listed all the items that came with that option. Below the heading was a "View Details" link.
On the next page, nutrition information such as calories, fat, and protein was presented in a vertical format that was easier to read than a table presentation. For example, next to the word "calories" was the number of calories in the dish. It was inconvenient that the item's price was not listed.
It was possible to find an item on the Denny's online menu and review its nutrition information with either browser. Including prices would improve the experience. The inaccessibility of the menu's PDF file was a disappointment.
Olive Garden Online Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments
Olive Garden serves moderately priced Italian food and includes a menu for kids.
The Olive Garden homepage presented a lot of information, but it was not cluttered. There were some headings. Links were clearly labeled. The Find hot key was a useful navigation option.
When the home page loaded, I was immediately asked to allow Olive Garden to access my location. I chose to not allow access. With both Internet browsers, this made it impossible to get to the list of items within each menu category without first manually providing location information. Every page has an edit box plus instructions to put in a city or zip code before navigating. Once that information was provided, a list of the closest restaurants was presented. Each listing contained the restaurant name, address, phone number, and a "View Menu" link. Once a restaurant was selected and that link was activated, the menu could be accessed.
The menu for the selected restaurant could be viewed as a grid (default) or a list. The Dinner menu contained many items including appetizers and main courses. Just above the selection for grid or list view is a link to show more categories. When this link was activated, the entire Olive Garden menu was displayed in specific categories including Appetizers, Lighter Italian Fare, Traditional Favorites, and Create your Own Lunch Combination.
Selecting the Lighter Italian Fare link loaded several options. Each option included the price and a link to more information. Selecting an option loaded a page with a description of the dish. Below the description was a heading labeled Nutrition Facts and a link labeled Expand. The information can be read without activating the Expand link, but for VoiceOver, the table was easier to read when expanded. All the column headings were listed first and then the numbers were displayed. This made it a bit difficult to read, but it was certainly decipherable.
The site works well with both Internet Explorer and Safari. Letting Olive Garden know your location will save you extra work. Unfortunately, the nutrition information was presented in an awkward way.
Outback SteakhouseOnline Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments
Outback Steakhouse is known for its steaks, but they also offer seafood and other main dishes.
When the website loaded, I was presented with several options regarding location access. If you allow location access, the closest restaurant's address, phone number, and hours of operation appear at the top of the page. Selections and prices may vary from one restaurant to another.
The website was uncluttered and was clearly labeled. A "Menu" link was near the top of the page. The next page presented category links including "Aussie-Tizers," "Signature Steaks," "Bold Combinations," and "Irresistible Desserts." Below the category lists were links to some of Outback's most popular items. Selecting a category link loaded a new page with items in that specific category.
The specific item links had one link labeled with an image and the other labeled with just the name of the item. In Safari, VoiceOver distinguished between the links, but with Internet Explorer, Window-Eyes read both links the same.
I selected the link for Outback Special Sirloin. Although it initially appeared that result was quickly located with the headings hot key, the first part of the result was about social media. Menu information followed and included a description of the steak and how it was prepared. No price was given.
For each menu item's description, there was a Nutrition Facts link. When the link was activated, the resulting page was labeled "Outback Steakhouse Nutrition Information By Item." However, in Safari there wasn't any accessible nutrition information. In Internet Explorer, there were combo boxes broken down by menu categories, rather than one combo box for the item. Each selected result was displayed in a table with the category heading and then the nutritional value.
In order to get a price for an item, the "Order Now" link, below the description, needed to be selected. When the Order Now link was activated, the first page indicated that before downloading a menu it was necessary to choose a particular Outback. This is the advantage of letting Outback know your location. There is a search form where a zip code or city can be entered. After restaurant information was presented, there were links to download various menus such as dinner, lunch, and drinks. Menus could be read with Internet Explorer but not with Safari.
Outback's website performed better with Internet Explorer. Safari was a frustrating experience beyond reading an item's description.
Red LobsterOnline Menu Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments
Red Lobster serves mostly seafood, but they also offer some beef and chicken options.
Near the top of the homepage was a search box to find a restaurant. Results were difficult to read since the beginning of the result was a graphic. The restaurant's name, address, and a link to view the specific restaurant's menu appeared below the graphic.
When the new page loaded, I used the headings hot key to get to the very top of the menu. The first part of the menu listed Red Lobster's featured dishes. In this case, it was their "Island Escape" specials. Further down are other menu categories including Specials, Dinner, Fresh Fish, and a kid's menu.
I activated the "dinner" link. The next page had various categories including Soups, Salads & More, Crab & Seafood Bakes, and Lobster & Steak Combos, followed by an Accompaniments section that provided information about what can be added to a meal and which side dishes come with entrees. The "Crab & Seafood Bakes" link displayed a variety of dishes that could be located with the headings hot key. Each item was well described and included the price. However, nutrition information was not provided in this part of the site.
Appearing on all Red Lobster pages was a link labeled "Health Benefits of Seafood." When that link was activated, the next page had a link labeled "Nutrition Facts." This link loaded a PDF document. VoiceOver could read the numbers, but could not read column headings. Window-Eyes could not read the file. I kept getting the message that the document was being processed.
Except for nutrition information, this website worked very well. Both VoiceOver and Window-Eyes did a good job of reading content in their respective browsers.
Each of these websites had some kind of accessibility issue, some minor and some not. It is unfortunate that these big restaurant chains still do not have websites that are completely accessible.
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