An increasing number of people request gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian foods, but evidence suggests that many of them aren’t actually vegetarian or suffering from gluten sensitivity. Many people simply want to eat fewer animal products or cut out gluten as they believe it will improve their general health. Whatever the reasons behind the choice, it’s important to take a client request for a gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian menu seriously.
What’s Behind the Increase in Requests for Special Menus?
Statistically, only one out of every 100 people has celiac disease, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation. This serious immune condition causes damage to the gut when someone with celiac disease eats gluten. However, they estimate that six times as many people could have a non-celiac sensitivity to gluten, which is more difficult to diagnose. Other people eat gluten-free because they are sensitive to other compounds in wheat or because they believe that eating fewer grains will improve their health.
As for the rise in people asking for vegan and vegetarian menus, some of them may be following medical advice to cut down on meat consumption. Others may have a deeply held ethical or religious reason for avoiding animal products. Whatever the reason for a customer requesting a special menu, it’s important to respect the choice and take steps to avoid contamination in the kitchen.
What Can Front-of-the-House Staff Do to Respect Food Choices?
The National Restaurant Association recommends that front-of-house staff ask about customer allergies or special dietary concerns as soon as possible so that all customers receive menus that are suitable for their needs. All menus should clearly identify gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. Front-of-house staff should also check with the chef regularly if there is any doubt over the ingredients in a particular dish. It’s always better to spend a few minutes seeking clarification than run the risk of making a customer feel unwell. Taking extra care to accommodate food allergies and special diets can help those customers with special dietary needs feel more welcome.
Back-of-the-House Tips for Accommodating Food Allergies and Preferences
It’s easy to cross-contaminate foods in the kitchen by using the same utensils and cookware to prepare all dishes. Unfortunately, even a tiny amount of gluten can make someone with celiac disease very sick. Chefs can reduce the risk of harming their clients by using separate food storage containers to differentiate between gluten-free and gluten-containing foods. The staff needs to clearly mark all allergen-free utensils and storage containers to avoid confusion in the busy back-of-the-house environment. Luckily, Cambro has an assortment of Allergen-free labeled products that can help! Cambro can also easily personalize any of your smallwares to make your kitchen operation a safer one for those with food sensitivities. For more ideas, click here.
Although the trend for gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian foods is growing every year, it’s vital for chefs and others involved in foodservice preparation to understand the dangers of cross-contamination and to actively enforce measures that will protect guests with genuine food allergies. Every food production area must keep potential allergens and animal products separate from other ingredients. By taking food sensitivities and lifestyle choices seriously, chefs can show respect for their clients and help keep them healthy (and coming back for more!) Investing in products that facilitate separate storage of allergens and non-allergens, such as the Cambro range of allergen-free products, is a great way to transform a food preparation area into an allergen-safe zone.