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On Specials Diets - July 2019

Restaurant operators face all kinds of challenges, and we always have.  A trend now that we’re seeing is special dietary needs for our customers.

I remember (way back) when I was a kid, Burger King came out with the “Special Orders Don’t Upset Us” promotion.  That sort of paved the way for the picky eaters to come out of hiding, and now the door’s blown wide open for consumers who know what they want and aren’t afraid to ask for it.

But these dietary needs are different.  Sure, we’ve got lots of guys coming in who are Paleo/Keto dieters who pile up on the proteins and veggies and eliminate all the good stuff that Mexican Restaurants are known for – like tortillas and chips, for one.  But some of this stuff is life-threatening.

I tell my staff, the first thing you do is ask this question:  “Is it a sensitivity or life-threatening?”  Either way, get a manager, but if their allergy is life-threatening, get me.  And I’m frequently shocked by customers who do have life-threatening allergies and they try to wing it with their server, or just order off what they see listed on the menu.

I love my staff, and we do what we can to educate them on our ingredients and how to handle various dietary needs.  But think about it.  These guys are often crazy busy, and juggling a hundred tasks, but still, even many of the strongest servers don’t know MSG from paprika.  

Managers need to be more educated that ever, and when in doubt, verify, verify, verify.  It’s a slippery slope.    It’s important to advise a guest with a life-threatening allergy that there could possibly be a threat of cross-contamination.  Many times I have donned gloves for example, and put a flour tortilla on a plate and ran it quickly through our warmer rather than heat it up on our grill, where it may come in contact with other foods.  This, for a little girl with major dietary challenges.

It’s a different world, and we have to work smarter, not harder.  Oh, wait.  This is the restaurant business.  We have to do BOTH!