Introducing the restaurant we’ve been waiting for… Graces 5!
[this AllergyEats Blog post written by Adrienne Walkowiak]
Tim Sharpe, owner of Graces 5 restaurant in Redmond, WA is revolutionizing healthy eating – and also revolutionizing how to serve guests with food allergies.
Graces 5 provides a variety of delicious, healthy, organic foods that are completely free of gluten, dairy, soy and peanuts.
“We decided to serve the food allergy community so that people feel safe eating here and feel like they’re coming home. We offer organic, affordable food, and want people to bring their families and have a great experience,” Tim explained.
Tim understands that cross-contamination is a huge concern for people with food allergies, and therefore, he has eliminated common allergens, including gluten, dairy, soy and peanuts, from Graces 5’s kitchen. The restaurant also clearly marks menu items that contain other allergens (such as corn, shellfish, tree nuts and eggs) and will happily prepare meals without those ingredients for their guests.
In fact, this restaurant is so accommodating that they even keep records of their customers’ food allergies in their database, so guests won’t have to repeat their dietary restrictions each time they visit [though we would always suggest doing so anyway].
Many of the restaurant’s customers are food allergic, and some guests have multiple allergies. Tim explained that their staff is well trained in food allergies, and the servers know how to engage the customers and ask the right questions about what foods they can and cannot tolerate. And their kitchen staff is wonderful at accommodating special requests and meeting specific food requirements.
“Our food allergic guests can basically order anything off the menu. We had a celiac customer who was thrilled to be able to order what everyone else was ordering. She had never eaten crab cakes in a restaurant before,” Tim explained.
“If you are going to take your food allergies into a big chain restaurant like Applebee’s, you’re probably going to have an awkward conversation. People there just don’t understand and their staff isn’t properly trained,” Tim continued.
The Graces 5 staff is great at accommodating those with food allergies as well as other health concerns. They have a regular customer who is undergoing extensive medical treatments, and is on an extremely restricted diet. The Graces 5 team prides themselves on accommodating customers’ requests – such as avoiding a particular food, cooking with a specific type of oil or making a dish less spicy.
They have a very careful checks-and-balances system, with notes about food allergies and sensitivities on each guest’s ticket. The servers communicate very carefully with customers about their dietary restrictions, and the servers work closely with the kitchen staff, who are diligent about meeting each guest’s specific needs.
Tim and his staff are very careful about their ingredients, using organic, natural foods and shunning processed foods and ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. He works with vendors and suppliers that have similarly healthy mindsets, buying organic produce from primarily local farms and partnering with a local gluten/dairy/soy-free bakery that supplies the restaurant’s breads and desserts. The result is food that’s simple and healthy, while also delicious and affordable.
Tim’s passion began with personal health challenges. The married father of three had cancer twice. The first time, he did traditional chemotherapy. When the disease returned, he decided to go a more homeopathic, natural route, embarking on a multi-dimensional process that included food therapy. He cut out gluten, soy and dairy from his diet in 2009 and noticed it made a substantial and positive impact on his health. Now his entire family – including his daughter who has leukemia – eats this way and feels much better doing so.
Once he began eating a more restricted diet, Tim realized the lack of restaurants that cater to people with health issues, including food allergies, so he decided to start one. Graces 5 is also popular with groups who avoid certain foods for religious reasons, and the Paleo community, who eat a restricted meat and plant-based diet.
The restaurant, which opened in late August 2011, is getting a great reaction. The already have a following of loyal, regular customers and the positive word-of-mouth buzz is bringing in many new customers.
Previously a Microsoft employee, Tim now plans to focus on the business of healthy, safe eating. He hopes to expand Graces 5 nationally, with the goal of opening at least five restaurants in every state.
Comments from AllergyEats Founder Paul:
As great as Graces 5 sounds here, their website adds a whole new layer of allergy-friendliness. I found references to their allergy policy well over 10 times, not including the multitude of times it is mentioned on their extensive Food Allergy Policy page (prominently highlighted from the home page). This page includes detailed information regarding Graces 5’s food allergy policies, including a link where you can fill out your Customer Food Allergy Profile in advance. I also learned that Graces 5 is free of artificial sweeteners, food dye, and MSG. I appreciate that Graces 5 also shares other food allergy and healthy living resources on their site.
As a very new restaurant, Graces 5 currently has only one rating in the AllergyEats system. No surprise – it’s a perfect 5.0.
I hope that Tim achieves his goal of expanding Graces 5 nationally. Not only is he providing an amazing service for the “special dining needs” consumer, but the restaurant should also benefit financially from the large, loyal customer base Graces 5 will attract… and all of their friends and family.
Have any of you been to Graces 5? If so, please share your thoughts with us! If not, tell us what you think about this profile. Sound too good to be true? Do you know of any other restaurants that sound so inspiring? Please click on Comments or Reply below and have your say!
Also, please remember to rate any restaurants you’ve recently dined at on our main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com). It only takes a minute to answer the three questions necessary to rate a restaurant, and each new rating helps increase the value of AllergyEats for our entire food allergy and intolerance community.