Peanut shells on the floor no more

I was reading about Outback Steakhouse and their gluten-free menu the other day when my mind wandered back to my days as a stock analyst.

In particular, I was thinking about the early 1990’s when I was a restaurant analyst. There was a “steakhouse boom” where chains such as Outback, Longhorn Steakhouse, and Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, funded by a seemingly endless supply of money from Wall Street, were fighting fiercely to open more new restaurants than each other.

The standout was Lone Star. It was founded by a man named Jamie Coulter, who came with a reputation as a winner yet a bit of cowboy (figuratively, though maybe literally as well).

When I first met Jamie, he was explaining the concept of Lone Star to me as I had yet to visit one. As opposed to Outback’s more “traditional” casual dining restaurants (read: Applebee’s, Chili’s, etc.), a Lone Star Steakhouse was supposed to have a real Western saloon feel, right down to the loud music, the yellin’ and hollerin’, and the peanut shells strewn about the floor. Yep – free peanuts on every table with the expectation that diners would just chuck the shells on the floor. This added to the ambiance Lone Star was trying to create.

Wow, what a difference 18 years make. Many of you are probably aware of the statistic (put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) that self-reported food allergies increased 18% from 1997 to 2007. As a result, given the profit motive of restaurateurs, I would be surprised if Lone Star still had peanut shells on the floor.

So I did a little calling around – a random sampling of some Lone Star units strewn across the U.S. Sure enough, the message was virtually the same at every unit. Peanut shells are no longer tossed on the floor. (Most units say that practice was stopped 2 or 3 years ago.) Free peanut buckets are only put on the table if requested (though sometimes the server will proactively ask if you want one) and, if so, a second bucket is also brought out for the empty shells. One unit, however, said that many patrons still toss the shells on the floor despite the extra bucket and despite the fact that it is no longer encouraged.

When I mentioned to these Lone Star hosts and managers that I had a son allergic to peanuts and I was considering bringing him to their restaurant, each had a different suggestion: they could wipe down the table very well, they could seat us away from patrons with peanuts, and other similar less-than-comforting options.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame them – there’s not much they can do so long as they continue to offer peanuts to their guests. And I think that’s still too important to the image they’re trying to create. However, I have to wonder if they’ve thought about the potential profits they’re leaving on the table (see “How much are we worth? – The ‘Veto Vote’“).

I guess every restaurant concept has to grow up. Lone Star went from the rebellious, wild bad boy to a more mature, predictable restaurant chain. They, as with Outback and Longhorn, now also offer a gluten-free menu (which you can find on their websites or next to their listings on an AllergyEats search result).

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you know of an existing Lone Star Steakhouse or other restaurant that still has peanut shells as part of the atmosphere? What would make you feel comfortable taking your peanut-allergic self or child to a place such as the current Lone Star? Do you think they’ll eventually decide that the sacrificed profits are too large to ignore and take peanuts out of the units altogether? Click on the Comments link below to share your opinion on these questions or anything else in this post.

And as always, please remember to use the main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com) to rate restaurants where you’ve recently eaten. The process only take a minute and each rating makes AllergyEats a more valuable tool in helping everyone in our food allergy and intolerance community.

Comments

    Author:
    Mark Premo
    Written:


    Since my son discovered steak some years ago I have mde the trek to many steak restaurants including Lone Star. His list of allergies in order are #1 casein, #2 soy, and #3 peanuts. On our visits to Lone Star I always immediately made it clear to their staff that he cannot have any of these. They always seemd to be very good about wiping the tables and seats down, as well as the menu choices. I have also had to send a steak back to the kitchen there as they had put lemon butter on it. The manager apologized for that as I had made it clear to my waiter prior to placing my sons order. In that instance the manager also did not charge us for my sons meal. Outback is still my favorite for this as when you first ask for a gluten free menu the wait staff immediately asks about specific allergies and makes recommendations based on that. One of the best places we have gone is Walt Disney World & Disney Cruise Line. While staying at the Polynesian Resort at Disney World they catered to my sons allergies at every meal. Disney Cruise line went way over and above catering to his allergies. Hope this info helps.

    Author:
    Paul
    Written:


    5 guys burgers and fries serves loose peanuts in shells.

    Author:
    Mother of kids living peanuts
    Written:


    I understand your concern but if your kid is allergic then don’t take him there. Why should places like this change just for a few people. My kids love being able to throw the shells on the ground, why should they lose the fun just because your kid has an allergy. I have shellfish and seafood allergies so bad that I can’t eat in many places that serve them. Should I tel them to change their menu just for me? NO I just eat somewhere else. Why do parents think that places need to change just to accommodate their kids??? SMH.

    Author:
    James
    Written:


    So, so tired of people with allergies trying to change the entire world to fit them rather than them changing their world to live with an allergy. I sympathize with what it must be like to have a kid with problems. But come on. Maybe they should have to slow down roller coasters if you think they’re too fast. I’d love to be a Navy Seal but there’s no way I’d make it. Maybe I should have them lower the standards so I can hack it! Where does it stop? If you don’t like a place serving peanuts on the tables, don’t go to said place. Don’t ruin it for everyone else just because you have problems.

    Find a way to live in the world with the hand you were given, just like every. single. other. person. does. Don’t be so self-important as to expect the world to change just for you.

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