DO the words fillet steak on a restaurant menu read as fried stork? If so, relief is at hand, courtesy of a new gadget invented and manufactured in Essex.

SpeXsee is designed for those who left their reading glasses at home.

Its inventor, Mike Bruce, 63, says: “When they examine SpeXsee for the first time, people’s response is always the same: ‘Why didn’t anyone think of that before?’.”

SpeXsee consists of a plastic menu-holder with a difference – it incorporates a powerful double-lens magnifier. This can be perched on the nose, like a conventional pair of reading classes, or it can simply be held up to the menu.

“I’m likely to be one of the biggest users of the SpeXsee,” says Mike, from Ashingdon.

“I’m always finding that I’ve left my glasses at home. I have to get someone to read out the menu to me, or I’d go hungry.”

Eighteen months ago, in a Southend restaurant, Mike had his eureka moment.

He says: “It suddenly came to me. I thought, there must be people just like me, sitting, frustrated, in every restaurant and cafe all over the world. The answer? Specs provided as a service by the restaurant, moulded into the menu holder.”

Mike set about designing and constructing a prototype. An acrylic fabricator by trade, the process offered few problems for him. He also commissioned a purpose-made injection moulding machine to manufacture the devices on a production line basis.

He says: “I did consult my optician about the magnification aspects. His response was: ‘You’re going to take away all my business.’”

Now patented, SpeXsee is being test-marketed by NJB Consulting, an agency run by Mike’s son, Nathan Bruce. Diners at the Paparazzi restaurant, in Hamlet Court Road, Westcliff, will be the first to make use of it.

The SpeXsee also incorporates a slot to hold an advertising card.

Southend cabbies, Andrews Taxis, which runs 100 vehicles in the town, is taking part in the launch. Its cards are framed in all the holders.

John Charters, a senior partner at Andrews, says: “As soon as we were introduced to the SpeXsee, we saw the possibilities.

“As with most taxi firms, much of our business comes from restaurant pick-ups. In the old days, people used to ask the restaurant to call a cab. Now they tend to use their mobile, and call from their table. Our card is framed there, right in front of them.”

After being tested at Paparazzi and other Essex restaurants, worldwide development of the product will be pursued in partnership with a venture capital company.

Mike says: “There has been a lot of interest. Venture capital firms regularly check out the new patents at the Patent Office, and, as soon as they saw this, they were knocking at the door.

“Like us, the capital firms are convinced this product has potential. Their research backs this up.

“Among the things they found is 15 per cent of women in the US deliberately don’t take their glasses with them when they go to a restaurant on a date.”

Until now, development of the SpeXsee has been done entirely at Mike’s own expense.

He says: “I’ve spent around £20,000. The most expensive part was nailing the patent.”

Now a semi-retired consultant, Mike previously ran his own company, Jaymark Displays. The company, which was based in Harlow, employed 60 people.

Mike was regularly commissioned to produce acrylic display stands for supermarkets and high street chains, including Boots and Sainsbury. He sold Jaymark Displays in 1998.

Mike says he is developing the SpeXsee as a pet project.

He adds: “I just love solving problems. That’s my forte. That’s what gets me going. Particularly when it’s a personal problem, like forgetting my reading glasses.”

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