Serving Customers with Dietary Restrictions

Rporting here from One Fat Frog, Orlando with some more food safety tips to keep your customers happy and healthy when enjoying your restaurant.

Every  restaurant owner has a lot to consider when opening a restaurant.  With specific dietary restriction and lifestyles becoming more mainstream it is important to be informed on the diverse dietary choices and preferences of restaurant goers.

Kitchen Managers, Chefs, Owners, and Staff  have to know the dietary restrictions that come with a Vegan/Vegetarian, Halal, Kosher, Lactose Intolerance among many others.  Knowing is half the battle since preparation is just as essential to provide your customers with a great dining experience.

A very common issue that arises is cross contamination when preparing food. Allow me to be anecdotal to further emphasize my point.

I’ve been a vegetarian for years. It’s a common assumption that if there’s a dish that includes meat.  that simply removing the meat from the dish after it’s been cooked and prepared is fine, but that’s not an entirely accurate assumption.

There are certain types of enzymes in the body that break down meat properties, if you’re a vegetarian and suddenly introduce meat properties to your bodies, these enzymes may be out of practice which may result in symptoms similar to food poisoning (according to some vegetarians, everyone’s bodies are different).  While these potential  symptoms usually last a couple of days, and vary in severity, it’s certainly not a risk you want to take when running a restaurant.

I’m one of those folks that has fallen in one of these circumstances  and it’s not pretty.  At a popular restaurant chain I ordered a  Flat Bread Pizza without bacon .  The pizza arrived on my table, it had bacon on it- no big deal.  Although I hate sending food back I requested the meatless pizza which was ordered. Ultimately, the restaurant’s solution was to pick off the bacon that sat on top, add a little more cheese,  re-heat, and re-serve it to me. At this point I didn’t want to cause a fuss and technically the meat was removed so I took one for the team and ate it. The result was severe food poisoning for two days straight, I could not keep anything in. It was a result of the cross contamination.

Now, although the meat had been removed, the fats and proteins in the bacon had been cooked into the dish and I consumed the same properties as if I had kept the bacon on the pizza. This is common, food proteins and properties travel on surfaces quite easily. A two day vomit-fest may not be life threatening but when it comes to something like allergies it could be potentially catastrophic.  For others it may manifest in upset stomach and diarrhea.

So how do we avoid these instances? Be extra mindful to preparation, if at all possible try to keep restaurant equipment and prep surfaces a separate or at the very least constantly sanitized as to avoid cross contamination.  This also includes dishes, cutting knives and even gloves worn by kitchen staff.

Our team at One Fat Frog, Orlando has been proud to work with a variety of restaurant concepts  including those whose clientele are primarily have  vegan, kosher, and halal palette. But we feel this advice is especially valuable to those restaurants that aim to please customers of all kinds.  As an industry we are responsible for teaching our staff about this; education is key.  Guaranteed the franchise staff would not have picked off the meat had they understood the mechanics of the ultimate food poisoning.

While we’re not a staff of highly trained physicians, it goes to stand that any sort of food allergy might have similar if not more adverse affects.