Customer Expectations at a Restaurant

I’ve been gluten-free for about a year now. In that time, I have learned to pre-screen restaurants to ensure that they either have a gluten free menu, they have gluten free options, or that they would be willing to accommodate. Living in Seattle also means that I am very spoiled—even if the restaurant doesn’t mention anything about gluten free options, the staff usually has enough training that we can make it work.

A restaurant’s menu is perhaps their most valuable tool. Not only does it tell the customer’s what is available to eat, it can also give them a quick heads up about allergy accommodations. Which in all honesty is the first thing I look for. When a restaurant has a key to show which dishes are gluten free or vegetarian and a brief description about what they can accommodate for allergies, I am very happy.

In Vegas the other week, I wasn’t sure what to expect. On one hand, I figured I would have no problem because the hotels are always so accommodating. On the other hand, it’s not Seattle and I wasn’t sure if Vegas was an area that was embracing the awareness of food allergies.

The first place we went and ate had that key that mentioned gluten free, vegetarian and there were a few others. Awesome! This will be a breeze…..well then I noticed that none of the items were marked as gluten free. Really? Eggs….Salad….since when do they have gluten in them? So I asked.

The waitress wasn’t sure so she went back and asked one of the cooks. His response, “Everything has gluten.” Really!? I explained that is not possible, unless it is added. At this point it became clear that the both the waitress and the cook had no clue what gluten was. She was nice and offered to get the manager. The manager had some knowledge of what gluten was and we were able to figure out a few things that I could order. He did apologize and went back to talk to the cook. I give my (breakfast) order to the waitress and she asks if I want toast with that. I simply said no thank you.

Fortunately for me, I only have a gluten intolerance, it’s not Celiac Disease. But if as a restaurant owner, you choose to make the commitment to address allergy information on your menu, the least you can do is train your staff so they can engage with the customer intelligently.

There is a big difference between truly caring about a customer and just jumping on the latest marketing trend to appeal to that particular market. This restaurant clearly was just doing the latter.
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