The elephant in the room

I would love to take a few minutes to address the very real elephant in the (dining) room. It is something that is becoming a more regular occurrence across the hospitality industry. It causes a lot of stress for the kitchen team, can have a huge impact on the personal experience of the guest as well as the experience of others. So what is it?

The Faux Allergy

Now this could be a very touchy subject for me to broach. All across the country and no doubt the world the faux allergy is becoming a real problem for hospitality. What is a faux allergy? It’s exactly what it says on the tin.

 

A guest may book and tell a restaurant that they have an allergy only to completely U turn on it part way through the meal. For example, we may have a booking were a guest says they are gluten free. Now this isn’t an issue, we will simply substitute the bread for gluten free bread and leave out any other elements that contain gluten. Pretty simple hey? What if that same guest then sees the delicious, freshly baked bread on the table and says “oh I’ll just have a little bit”? Or they see that they don’t get a lovely crumb on their dessert but tries a bit off their partners? As if by magic they have been cured of their allergy, it’s a miracle. This gluten free example is just that, an example. Trust me, it happens with all allergies.

So what affect does this have? First of all the kitchen team will have to spend time creating something separate for the allergy sufferer. In our line of work it is not acceptable to simply leave something off a plate and serve the guest half a dish. This will then create extra work load for the chef’s. But it’s their job right? Consider a tiny kitchen like ours with just one chef. He creates this unique menu each month to give the guests a great experience. He would then have to essentially do double the work to create something different for an allergy sufferer. Now don’t get me wrong, no one in our industry would have a problem with that if the allergy is genuine. It’s when the allergy is suddenly cured on the spot that creates problems. If the chef has to do double the work do they get paid double? Does the guest pay double? No. Should they pay double? Definitely not if it’s genuine, maybe they should if it’s a faux allergy. Perhaps we’ve got it all wrong and the chef’s all over the country are simply genius doctors and cure allergies on the spot?

Please don’t think this is me trying to get everyone to feel sorry for us. We’re in the business of creating an amazing experience for our guests and we love doing that. The faux allergy doesn’t just have an effect on the staff. Faux allergies have a knock on effect for all the genuine sufferers out there. They create resentment towards the allergies which means that perhaps you’re not going to get 100% from the chef. I can however 100% guarantee that isn’t the case at Crockers. You may also find that all the other guests suffer due to the extra work load put on the chef.

What’s the answer?

There are an increasing number of restaurants across the country changing their policy on dietary requirements. Many of them are small venues a lot like ourselves with a tiny kitchen and even smaller team. The focus is on creating an amazing experience based around the food and cooking of the head chef. More and more of these venues are now saying they will not cater to every dietary requirement and dislike. The menu is the menu and it won’t change. Is this a bit too strong or is it just restaurants starting to stand up for themselves? Is the main reason guests come to a venue like Crockers not to experience something new, that they can’t experience at home? Perhaps an open mind is all you need?

I would love to hear what everyone thinks about this subject.

Have a great week!

Luke.

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