How far can a restaurant go to be allergy-friendly? Ask Clyde’s
I was so impressed with the details in this article from Restaurants & Institutions magazine that I felt the need to share some highlights despite the article being almost 16 months old.
The article is “Food Allergies: Clean Plates.” (The unedited version from the R&I site can be found at http://www.rimag.com/article/print/371675-Food_Allergies_Clean_Plates.php) It details strategies used by Clyde’s Restaurant Group, based in Washington DC, for understanding and addressing food allergies.
However, even if you’ve never heard of Clyde’s (currently an AllergyEats 4-star-rated chain), you should continue reading this post. The operational detail shared in this article goes beyond “they proactively ask if you have a food allergy when you sit down.” What it really describes is a culture of a successful allergy-friendly restaurant. Read on and see if you don’t wonder if your favorite restaurant goes to the lengths that Clyde’s promises.
“Serving customers these days is becoming a bigger and bigger responsibility.” “Turning away business [isn’t] an option.” Already I get the sense that Clyde’s has a greater-than-usual understanding of allergy-friendly dining – both from how important it is to keep diners safe to how important catering to those with food allergies is to their bottom line (profits). So how do they do it?
- They have an allergy-alert feature in their point-of-sales system where “servers can key in any of the eight major food allergens. A guest’s allergens then are noted on each ticket that gets printed.”
- “Servers are instructed to steer guests away from high-production items such as beef stew unless the cook who prepared the item is on-site and can vouch for its being free of a given allergen.”
- Some units have dedicated seafood fryers to prevent cross-contamination.
- “Kitchen employees are reminded to change clothes as necessary and always use freshly cleaned pots and utensils when preparing items for guests who have a food allergy.”
- A member of management attended the FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) Teen Summit to understand why teens are often hesitant to tell restaurants about their food allergies.
- Clyde’s Corporate Operations Manager has made the statement, “Sometimes we consider our menu just a list of suggested ingredients.” This is a great concept and reminds me a bit of my own recent description of the Disney attitude (“Tell us what you want and we’ll tell you how we can do it” versus “Let me show you which items on our menu are safe for you”).
Clyde’s claims their efforts have paid off in loyalty and profits. And the article sums it all up nicely: “The demand is there; the guests are there… But if you’re not totally committed to it, that’s where mistakes can happen. There’s no halfway with allergies.”
There’s no halfway with allergies indeed.
Personally, I’ve never been to a Clyde’s restaurant… have you? If so, please share your thoughts in the Comments/Leave a Reply section below. Are they as accommodating and allergy-friendly as this article suggests? Or is their talk cheap? And for the rest of us, do our favorite restaurants take steps that go far above and beyond? Please share your thoughts and stories. Remember, the AllergyEats site and the AllergyEats Blog are public and viewed by members of the restaurant community. This is a chance to share your thoughts and possibly influence restaurant behavior.
And as always before I finish, please remember to go to the main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com) to rate those restaurants you’ve recently dined at. Each rating increases the value of AllergyEats as a tool for the entire food allergy and intolerance community… and the momentum is growing!