A theatre venue has been praised for its forward thinking in accommodating a customer with dysphagia.

Whilst caterers in the care sector are all too aware of the lifethreatening medical condition, which causes sufferers to struggle with swallowing, it’s rare for hospitality settings to cater specifically for it.

Country Range Group customer Burnley Leisure received an enquiry from a party who wanted to host an afternoon tea at one of its venues, the Mechanics Theatre, but was told that one of the guests followed a dysphagia diet. Instead of turning the booking away, hospitality and catering manager Mark Dempsey approached his Country Range Group wholesaler for advice and they put him in touch with a fellow customer, who runs a local care home. With the help of Suzanne Corless, head chef at Heightside House Nursing Home in Rawtenstall, Mark and his team were able to create a delicious dysphagia afternoon tea, consisting of soup, sandwiches and scones. The food was served at the Mechanics alongside their usual selection of treats, allowing the gentleman to enjoy an afternoon tea in normality with friends.

Mark Dempsey explains: “Dysphagia is a complex dietary condition which can make sufferers feel isolated from fellow diners. We’re really happy that we were able to find a bespoke solution so that the gentleman and his group were able to enjoy their afternoon tea together. “The party were amazed at what we had created, and said they would without doubt bring other people with a dysphagia diet to Burnley Mechanics.” Burnley Leisure is now planning to roll out its dysphagia offering across all of its venues.

Mark added: “It’s clear that there is a demand for this type of catering and expertise within the hospitality sector. For example, people who have relatives living in care homes with the condition would like to have the opportunity to take their loved ones out for a family meal. We plan to communicate our offer to all of the care homes in the area.”

Richard Lane, head of communications at disability charity Scope, praised the move, saying: “It’s great to see Burnley Leisure step up to the challenge and react so positively to make adjustments to support more people with dysphagia. “At Scope, we know that disabled people and their families in the UK have an enormous spending power – dubbed the ‘Purple Pound’ – of £249billion. Making these reasonable adjustments is not only a good move for the customer, it makes perfect financial sense for the venue. “We hope Burnley Leisure will lead the way for other foodservice businesses, challenge attitudes within the business and ensure inclusivity for all customers.”

About dysphagia

Dysphagia is the term to describe difficulty in swallowing food and/or drinks. A swallowing problem may arise as a side effect of many conditions, such as:

• Stroke
• Cerebral Palsy
• Head injury
• Motor neurone disease
• Multiple sclerosis
• Parkinson’s disease
• Surgery to the head and neck

In some cases the swallowing problem may improve as recovery takes place, such as following stroke. However, in other cases, such as with Parkinson’s disease, the condition may deteriorate