A disabled man was left unable to drink his coke and not offered a refund after staff at Southwark Arches Nando’s turned down his repeated request for a plastic straw.
Ian Burnip has SMA type 2, a progressive muscle wasting condition, which causes general muscle weakness and atrophy of the muscles. The wheelchair user says he needs a straw to drink.
The 31-year-old from Watford was out for dinner with a couple of friends at the Blackfriars Road restaurant when he asked at the till for a straw to go with his coke.
But he was shocked when a member of staff behind the till apologetically told him, incorrectly, that it was company policy not to provide plastic straws any none were available – without even offering a refund.
Ian told the News: “Like everyone, I am concerned by the pollution caused by plastics in the environment, and have cut down on plastic use where possible – be it using reusable takeaway cups, or paper bags.
“However disabled people face numerous barriers to partaking in day-to-day life, be it societal attitudes, or the physical environment – stairs, no transport access, no suitable toilet facilities etc.
“It would make things more difficult for many disabled people – including myself – if simple utensils such as straws were removed from restaurants.
“Last year the value of the ‘purple pound’, the money contributed to the economy by disabled people, was estimated to be £249bn, so surely in times where restaurants are closing, and big chains struggling, they’d want to be as inclusive as possible and make their environment as welcoming to disabled people as possible?
“Sure, disabled people could carry a straw with them, but we already carry a host of equipment around, we aren’t packhorses.
“And there’s also the issue of a ‘spur of the moment’ trip.
“Disabled people are already expected to plan all train travel 24-48h in advance, assuming of course the station is accessible in the first place.
“For me, the environment is a key issue, but not at the cost of excluding people from partaking in day-to-day life – especially when there are ways around it.”
Nando’s has removed all plastic straws from drinks fountains in all its restaurants as part of a global campaign to cut down on plastic pollution in our oceans.
However, company policy states that the single use straws are available on request for people who need them – contradicting what Ian was told in Southwark Arches.
And although he has received an apology from Nando’s HQ, the chicken chain has not explained why its staff were unaware of the company’s police.
A Nando’s spokesperson said: “We are sorry to hear that Ian wasn’t given a drinking straw with his meal.
“In an effort to reduce our plastic waste we have removed drinking straws from all drinks units across the country.
“We do recognise that some customers still need them and any customers who are looking for a straw should ask a member of staff who will provide one from behind the till.”