When it came time to celebrate my mother-in-law’s birthday a few weeks ago, we headed to an oldie-but-goodie restaurant, Clyde’s. It had been a while since we dined at Clyde’s with our kids, so I asked all my usual food allergy questions right off the bat. As soon as I mentioned my son had food allergies, the server moved closer to me and began taking serious notes. She explained that his allergies would be entered into their system and that she would help us navigate the menu to find something safe for him to eat.
Here’s some of the things we picked up:
- They have nut-free, sesame-free bread, but you’ll need to specify that you need this as they serve two types of bread (if I understood our waitress correctly);
- The fries were fried in canola oil;
- Dessert options include Hagen Daaz sorbet (a safe sorbet for my son!);
- They were more than happy to substitute an unsafe side for something my son could eat;
- The waitress was knowledgable and willing to ask questions of a manager or chef when she didn’t have the answer off-hand .
It is unusual to find a place where my son can eat dessert. This was a hugely important find! Especially on a birthday. We all sang a loud and enthusiastic “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl, enjoyed our own delicious sundaes and went home extremely happy and eager to return!
I recalled seeing something about Clyde’s and food allergies somewhere. When I looked it up again, here’s what I found on their own website. A smart and appreciated piece of information! (http://www.clydes.com/main/Newsroom.cfm?Section=R_200604_FoodSafteySolutions)
Helping diners with allergies
It’s a growing trend, Griffith notes, for local health departments to require restaurants to have an allergens program as a condition of certification. Although DC-area eating-places don’t yet face such regulation, Clyde’s decided to take the issue head on.
The Company reasoned that true success in accommodating guests’ allergies could only come as a result of collaboration between server, cook, and manager.
First step: Educate the workforce, with training materials from the National Restaurant Association and the food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, a local nonprofit. These included a video, binders, and posters on major allergens. Clyde’s food safety team drilled employees on the potential seriousness of the issue. “ When something comes up, and you’re not 100% confident about it,” they advise servers,” it’s time to involve a manager.”
Still, the servers don’t push the issue- they wait for a cue from a customer and are ready with information. A customer might say she’s allergic to peanuts and be fine with a particular salad. But if she orders an appetizer that includes peanut oil, the server is there to alert her.
“We’re not nutritionist,” says Griffith. “We can’t tell people what they should or shouldn’t eat. But we can tell them what’s in the food we serve. We can communicate ingredients, and tell our guests how we might remake a dish to satisfy them.” That level of customization isn’t as costly as you might think, says Griffith- when allergens are involved, the simpler the better.
Clyde’s is also beginning to see more cards from Food Allergy Buddy program (FAB). Members enter their allergy information on a free Web site (foodallergybuddy.com), print out a card, and present it at restaurants- simplifying the process and reducing errors. Clyde’s promotes the FAB plan on its own website (www.clydes.com) in a section on allergens.
Whenever an allergy issue arises – at the table, on the phone, with a buddy card- Clyde’s point-of-sale system marks the party’s ticket with an allergy alert. As the ticket makes its way through the process, it focuses attention on the food order and the table.