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National Restaurant Association - Gluten-free dining: Front-of-the-house protocols

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Gluten-free dining: Front-of-the-house protocols

Front-of-the-house employees are key to safely addressing customers’ dietary concerns, including gluten. After all, your front-of-the house team is the first point of contact with guests. Train your staff to:

  • Identify customer concerns. “Right at the front door, our hostess or host will ask if there are any special requests, including any allergies or gluten-sensitivity,” says Kevin Harron, owner of Burtons Grill, a 10-location, Andover, Mass.-based company. The server double-checks  dietary concerns and directs customers to the restaurant’s “gluten-sensitive” menu when appropriate.
  • Have allergen and gluten information at the ready. A special menu at Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass., clearly identifies gluten-free choices. The restaurant, headed by celebrity chef Ming Tsai, keeps a Food Allergy Reference Book, or “allergy bible,” that lists the ingredients in every dish, noting allergen and gluten content. The handy resource helps the restaurant tweak dishes on the restaurant’s main menu to address dietary concerns. “You have to have this bible as a reference,” says Tsai, national spokesperson for the Food Allergy Research & Education organization. “On a Saturday night at 8, no one is going to remember every single ingredient.” The restaurant keeps non-marinated proteins on hand to give culinary staff the flexibility to adapt dishes as needed.
  • Check with management or the chef. No matter how well you train your servers, there might be occasional questions about gluten-free preparation they can’t answer. “If you don’t know something, tell the customer you’ll get the answer,” Harron advises. “Don’t just wing it.”
  • Alert the kitchen. When a customer orders a gluten-free meal, the servers at Gregorio’s Trattoria in suburban Washington, D.C., immediately put an alert on the ticket. That notifies the back-of-the-house team to take necessary precautions.

Check out related back-of-the-house protocols.

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