A great example of how the best restaurants can handle even the toughest allergy challenges
Regular readers of the AllergyEats Blog know that I am a huge fan of the Massachusetts and Washington DC regional chain Not Your Average Joe’s.
With 17 units in total, an AllergyEats allergy-friendliness chain rating of 4.8/5.0, a stellar reputation for accommodating all guests (beyond just those with food allergy needs), and with SIX of the top spots in OpenTable’s recent list of the 75 most kid-friendly restaurants in America, Not Your Average Joe’s has deserved all the praise I’ve heaped upon them.
I first met CEO Steve Silverstein about two years ago. I was so impressed with his dedication to customer service, his willingness to be on the cutting edge of restaurant trends, and the chain’s reputation for allergy-friendliness that I asked if we could interview him for this blog. I strongly recommend those looking for the right attitude in restaurant leadership read that entry from April 2011: “What makes Not Your Average Joe’s well above average? – Let’s hear from the CEO.” Recently, when AllergyEats hosted the Inaugural Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs, Steve was one of three members on our Restaurants That Get It Right panel (along with Rich Vellante from Legal Sea Foods and Jim O’Brien from Jake’s Seafood). In addition, a few other members of the chain came to the conference purely as attendees.
Fortunately for us, Steve and the Not Your Average Joe’s team are also fans of AllergyEats. Along with co-hosting gatherings and tastings at their restaurants to welcome the food allergy and gluten free communities, many Not Your Average Joe’s restaurants proactively promote AllergyEats to diners who come in with special dietary needs. By doing so, they help increase awareness of AllergyEats (which benefits all of us!) and they help improve their profile on AllergyEats since they’re confident diners will give them positive reviews.
Steve occasionally forwards me an email he’s received from a manager or diner that he thinks I would be interested in reading. However, I’ve never been so impressed by one as I was with the email he forwarded me last week. I told him I had to share this with all of you, and he obliged. Please enjoy. [Note: Bold and Italics added by me.]
“I wanted to take this opportunity to share a story with you all that occurred on Sunday November 4th between myself [sous chef Paul] and Guy [restaurant manager]. Around 8:15 a young lady came to our restaurant to dine with us. Upon noticing her we realized that she was wearing a custom surgical mask and what appeared to be mittens. After the party sat and was greeted by Christina [server], we were alerted to [the] fact that one of the members of the group had multiple allergies (in fact wearing an allergy bracelet). Guy quickly greeted the table. After about 10 min of speaking with the guest, Guy returned to the kitchen with a list of allergies that neither one of [us] had ever been presented with before.
She was highly allergic to all forms of nuts, gluten, garlic, soy, parsley, cilantro, shellfish, potato, onion, berries, vinegar, wine, [maple] syrup, legumes, tomato, peppers, pineapple, ginger and a lactose intolerance. After hearing that list I wanted to speak with her as I was nervous about any product that she could have, being near or around all of the items she was allergic to. Anything that she could eat safely could not be in close proximity to any of the items. After a lengthy conversation we came up with a menu of salmon atop a salad of mixed greens with goat cheese, seasoned and flavored with salt, pepper and lemon. As you can imagine the steps we had to take to safely prepare this meal were many.
First we ran a clean saute pan through dish[washer], opened up a fresh box of foil and carefully wrapped the salmon in the foil while in the walkin [freezer]. The next step was place the wrapped salmon into the pan and into the oven. We then had to get a fresh tube of goat cheese, new box of greens, and two lemons (which we wrapped in foil as well, during plating process). Next we ran a clean large pasta bowl through dish[washer]. At this point Guy and I plated this dish together. Guy held the plate while I carefully built the item in the dish, changing my gloves between touching each item including opening the bag of mix and changing gloves to grab the mix. At this point, the production was so large that the service staff was now in the prep kitchen just to watch this dish being built.
We finally were finished and we presented the young lady with a great plate of food and she could not have been more grateful for what our restaurant had done for her as she could not remember the last time she had even gone out ot eat. I checked back on her after a few bites. She was safe and she thought her food was excellent. I wanted to share this story because it says a lot about what our company does in regards to allergy awareness, training and operational procedures. All of this being greatly heightened by our participation in the AllergyEats Conference. This is just another small example of what we do for our guests at Not Your Average Joe’s.”
That’s commitment. That’s knowledge. That’s training. That’s Not Your Average Joe’s. And that’s the model for so many others!
Does this story impress you as much as it does me? What are the first thoughts that come to your head after reading this? Do you know of similarly amazing efforts by a restaurant staff? Please click Comment or Reply below to share your thoughts and opinions. We’d love to hear them!
Also, please help our food allergy and intolerance community by rewarding those restaurants that have acoommodated YOU well (and give a thumbs-down to those who have not) by rating any recent restaurant experiences on our core AllergyEats site at www.allergyeats.com or on our free smartphone app. Rating a restaurant takes just a minute, but makes AllergyEats a more valuable tool for all of us.