If you’re in the restaurant industry, then it’s no news to you that there has been a significant increase in the number of diners with special dietary requirements over the past few years. Your restaurant, no doubt, encounters numerous customers on a daily basis who are intolerant to this, have an allergy to that or are on the latest low-carb fad diet. In this article I’m going to show you a few easy ways you can cater for these niche requirements, and also explain to you why you should be catering for them (like, yesterday).
Ultimately, you run a business: your priority is making sure that you turn a profit. It may seem that catering for dietary requirements is just not worth the hassle for your business- much ado about nothing, as it were, but that’s just not the case.
It only requires small changes to incorporate these provisions into your food. And in a world where dietary requirements are on the uptick, you need to get on board or you’ll get left behind, and eventually risk taking the hit to your bottom line. Additionally, there is profit to be turned right now from catering for dietary requirements. Diners with dietary requirements form an ever growing part of the populace, and if they aren’t able to eat at your restaurant, they will simply go spend their money elsewhere.
The long-term financial benefits certainly outweigh the initial costs. Think of it this way- ten diners go out for dinner. One has a nut allergy. They will be the one deciding where the other nine eat. By catering for specialty requirements you’ll see an increase in customers with these requirements, with word-of mouth generating a high proportion of repeat business.
A story broke recently, the theme of which be familiar to you- a diner nearly died at Jamie’s Italian Restaurant in London after she was served regular pasta (having asked several times for the gluten free option). The restaurant pled guilty to ‘selling food not of the nature and quality demanded by the purchaser’, and were forced to pay compensation. I’d wager that they’ll also see a serious drop in customers with dietary requirements- it’s not worth the risk.
The risk for your business is similarly clear- one moment of botched communication between the front and back of house could have devastating consequences on your reputation, not to mention life threatening ones for the customers in question.
As the number of potential customers with dietary requirements rises, a time will come where restaurants which do no cater for such requirements will be an anomaly and who will subsequently see a decline in business.
The Extra Mile
So why do anything at all? You’re fine operating within your own market, and if this dietary thing does go up in popularity, you’ll cross that bridge when you get there. At this juncture, it’s important to think about having a sense of responsibility and obligation to your customers- making every customer happy. So many diners with stringent requirements are reduced to eating the same thing in every restaurant. Be the restaurant that puts a smile on their face (not to mention, has them coming back for more and spreading the good word).
I’m sorry if I’ve overwhelmed you, but I’m here to reassure you- it’s not that much extra effort to cater for dietary requirements. All that’s required is that your staff are aware of the allergies they are catering for and you have the right procedures in place in your kitchen. What is often the case is that businesses already have all the right procedures in place and only small changes are needed.
Additionally, you don’t need to completely re-do your menu. If you offer just a few items that exclude the top allergens then you can market your business as being allergy/intolerance friendly. Following this, your staff just need to know how to handle and prepare ingredients in order to avoid cross contamination (which is really just an extension of your food hygiene regime).
If you’re still not convinced then perhaps it is also worth mentioning that catering for customers with dietary requirements and food intolerances could become the law. Several countries are currently entertaining such legislation and regulation. If you amend your restaurant procedures now you won’t be at risk for taking a hit when these laws come into effect. Give your business a head start over its competitors by having these regulations in place now.
So take the leap and reap the reward. You’ll make a profit, you’ll have an edge over your competitors, and most importantly, you’ll put a smile on your customers faces.