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High-End Restaurant Staffed by People With Down Syndrome Is a Win for Inclusion

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The next time you’re in Belgium, be sure to stop in at 65 Degrés, a high-end French dining establishment staffed almost entirely by people with Down syndrome.

Based in Brussels, 65 Degrés serves up high-end French food like filet de merlan, spaghettis de pommes de terre and magret de canard (seared duck breast with honey). You can also indulge in tasty desserts and choose from a drink menu that includes coffee and alcohol. The restaurant got its name from the temperature of a perfectly cooked egg — the middle temperature between cooked egg whites at 62 degrees Celsius and yokes at 68 degrees.

Une fois n’est pas coutume… cette semaine l’œuf parfait n’est pas seul à être parfait… la “deuxième entrée”, les…

Posted by 65degrés on Saturday, November 16, 2019

65 Degrés also employs almost exclusively people with intellectual disabilities. Most of the current staff — nearly 15 people — have Down syndrome. The establishment’s four co-founders started 65 Degrés in 2018 to provide work opportunities for people with disabilities, including work in the kitchen and as servers in the dining room. According to the founders, hiring people with disabilities isn’t just good for inclusion — it’s good for business.

“You can go to any very nice gastronomic restaurant, you’ll have probably good service, you’ll have obviously very good food,” co-founder Valentin Cogels told OAN. “We work with people who are so happy to be working, they have this pleasure of coming to work everyday, and they are so honest and so transparent that when they ask somebody — ‘how was your day today?’ — they really mean it when they ask.”

According to a 2015 survey of more than 500 people with Down syndrome across the United States, 57% said they were employed, though only 3% said they worked full-time. The most commonly reported job types included food service, office/clerical, cleaning/housekeeping and grocery store work. Other survey respondents said they were self-employed (3%) or volunteering (26%) and 30% were unemployed. In 2015, the national unemployment rate was 5% among all workers, including those without disabilities.

Of the barriers people reported to gaining full-time employment, inaccessible transportation and lack of job training programs were among the most-reported answers. Inclusive businesses that hire, pay and provide job training for people with Down syndrome, like 65 Degrés and the U.S.-based chain Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, play an important role in lowering the unemployment rate among people with disabilities.

Now, 65 Degrés reached a new milestone. The restaurant was rated the best eatery in Brussels on TripAdvisor, topping a list of 2,000 competitors thanks to its great food and unparalleled customer service, according to Reuters.

“The customers are here to see us and to savor the restaurant’s atmosphere and gastronomy,” waitress Marie-Sophie Lamarche, who has Down syndrome, told Reuters. “It is a lot of pressure. We are proud of ourselves.”

La première photo officielle de notre terrasse… et bien sûr de Marie-Sophie qui vous accueille avec une équipe de 9…

Posted by 65degrés on Sunday, May 26, 2019

For more about employment for people with Down syndrome, check out these other Mighty articles:

Header image via 65 Degrés Facebook page

Originally published: December 11, 2019
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