FreeFrom Customer; Friend or Foe?

Customer listRecently on social media I have seen posts where chefs post a list of ingredients which customers have presented to them stating what they cannot eat?  Can’t Eat, Won’t Eat?!

There appears to be widespread misunderstanding or impatience regarding whether it is an allergy a fad or a restricted diet?

Sadly some of the comments on these social media posts are not repeatable, but several of the negative suggestions included offering them a glass of water, asking them to leave! “Kick the clown out”!

One person replied “I would not want this person eating in my restaurant as their list of allergies is so expansive I would be seriously worried that a) I wouldn’t be able to cook a dish for them and b) that I could be confident to say that NO cross contamination could happen

There is a lot of fear surrounding allergies and special diets!

On a positive note there was however a great number of responses which shows that the business can rise to a challenge, for example;

  • It’s a good learning when you have to cook something different not from the usual menu
  • Lots of us seem to forget that no punters means no jobs”
  • “Too many chefs are prima donna’s and forget who they cook for! We are here to make sure our customers enjoy the experience if your lack of understanding of the ingredients and lack of knowledge stops you from doing your job then read and learn more.”
  • “If it scares you from rising to the challenge ask for advice.“
  • “Pathetic posts insulting your customers who have the same right as you do, to come out and enjoy a meal out are a disgrace. Instead of whining like babies rise to the challenge, show off your skills and knowledge and make your customers enjoy every moments and make yourself a better chef with a professional can do attitude!“

So why would someone ask for these ingredients to be omitted from their diet?  Should we in the food
service industry judge them?  There are a number of possible reasons why someone could be avoiding certain foods for example they could have one or more of the following where they  would have to adhere to a special diet;


  • Allergic or cross-react with foods – and suffer an extreme reaction
  • Intolerance, although they will not suffer the extreme reaction, they can suffer severe discomfort including nausea & stomach cramps which can last for days and possibly weeks.
  • They could be on an elimination diet to understand what foods are affecting them to produce symptoms of discomfort
  • Following the FODMAP diet
  • Been prescribed warfarin, a drug which helps to thin the blood, patients are advised to avoid foods high in vitamin K
  • Suffer Diabetes
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Over active candida

It is not always possible to plan where you will stop to eat and the food allergy guest will also understand that some venues do not stock an array of ingredients be it fresh or dried.  If this is the case then state up front your restrictions and this will help the guest decide on their options. Some multiple allergy diners will carry a card stating what they can and cannot eat to help the kitchen when putting together a dish.

customer allergy checker smFor your ease I have created a template which you could print and use to manage this scenario.

Click here to download the customer allergy information sheets. Although we have stated coeliac disease / allergy / intolerance / dietary restrictions on the ticket which can be circled by the guest, where cross contamination is concerned please do not differentiate, treat the guest with the same respect.

Finally I looked up the definition of chef in the Oxford dictionary and came up with “A chef is a person who is a highly trained, skilled professional cook who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation of a particular cuisine.”

I then posed the question to the same social media groups “What makes a good Chef” here is my favourite.

In my opinion a chef is someone who shows dedication, passion and flair and is always there for the cause at hand isn’t afraid to get stuck in, willing to learn all the time no matter what level you are even if you’re a head chef to a commis you can always learn more

This sums up how a chef should manage all diners whether they have a special diet or not!  So if you run a kitchen send out a challenge to your brigade to create a meal without using certain ingredients see how they rise to the challenge and how creative and positively they conduct themselves.  I would be very interested in hearing the outcome.

And one chef who originally posted their question stated “It was a piece of p*#* once I read over the list a couple of times, especially when she knows she has difficulty getting served, on the  plus side she loved it and said she would be back

A happy customer who will always let others know that the chef bent over backwards to provide a safe meal for them!

So let’s not judge the customer who has special request, embrace them and rise to the challenge!

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