Picture this: A couple walks into a Vegan restaurant to satisfy the dietary preference of one party. The other half pulls out a carefully wrapped filet mignon and hands it to the startled waiter and says he’d like it medium rare. Probably not happening right? Turn the tables and it is happening. In fact a Vegan customer made such a scene at a New Jersey restaurant, demanding a discount for customer supplied pasta that it gained attention in a national paper such as the Christian Science Monitor.
After posting the article and link on my Face Book page it became apparent that this was a viral issue. The ensuing comments and conversation revealed a far-reaching sense of entitlement and privilege when dietary preferences are involved. A synopsis here shows a sense of frustration within the industry.
From a B&B operator:
“I have been an innkeeper at a bed and breakfast for over eleven years. The idea that any person with a personal dietary choice of vegan or vegetarian and the expectation that their needs be met is becoming more and more difficult. This was not an issue when I first began in this industry nor was it an issue when I spent many years working in restaurants. The sense of entitlement is what really sends me into a lather. When you book a reservation at a bed and breakfast you are becoming a willing a participant in a “community”. You may need to adapt to something that you are not used to in your own individual environment. If you are vegan then be prepared to be offered very limited options. Bed and Breakfast typically make breakfast items and treats with eggs and dairy. In the summer months it is not unusual to have a long list of dietary requests and the ability to keep track of these and execute them properly for 20 people each morning is at times unmanageable!”
From a local restaurateur:
“I was just having a recent conversation about this type of request in our industry. It is becoming more and more requested and expected. Interesting to see a restaurant allow someone to bring in their own product to be prepared by the kitchen. What if people bring their own toxin exposed tuna and get ill from the preparation? The restaurant would be held accountable for the incident. Scary stuff.
Dietary restrictions may become a huge opportunity/challenge in the hospitality industry. If not already regulated in the ADA regulations it could very well be in the future. Just like handicap parking and ADA door hardware, food service providers could be expected to develop kitchen protocol to support everyone’s dietary concerns. It may not be a choice. Cross contamination of flour could be detrimental to a gluten-free customer.
The fact that this individual expected a discount is ridiculous. He could just say Thank You! Oh, and tip the server well!”
From a Chef educator:
“That kind of scope for the ADA to extend into food service would be untenable. Would five guys be forced to become allergen free? would they have to abandon peanut oil and their business concept to comply? Why does every business need to be homogenized to please everyone. Creating a niche that is unique and profitable is the goal of building a business”
The really sad part was hearing from those that didn’t want to post for fear of exposure of their view on-line.
What started out as bringing your own tea bag and requesting hot water, has stewed into customer supplied ingredients and dictating how professionals should execute their business.
How far should it go? Thankfully in Cape May there are plenty of eateries that cater to vegetarian diets as well as Gluten-free.