By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)
Setting aside allergic considerations, the number and diversity of self-imposed dietary restrictions these days are enough to make any F&B director shake his or her head. I’m not opposed to any of these; rather, it is imperative that all hoteliers embrace these eating habit changes.
There are vegetarians that don’t consume any flesh, vegans who go a step further by not touching dairy or eggs, pescatarians who eat seafood but not any terrestrial animals, pollo-pescatarians for fish or chicken but never red meat, paleo dieters who abstain from grain and a host of religious regiments like kosher or halal. If you aren’t up-to-date with the trends, it can all seem a bit crazy!
And yet you must be conscious of these ‘food fences’ as you will undoubtedly receive some seemingly esoteric requests as time goes on. Be it for religious, moral, health or diet reasons, though, your role as a manager is not to question the rationale, but rather to deal with the consequences of these special requests. As a hotel leader – and a community leader for that matter – you must do your best to accommodate these dietary concerns.
It’s not like you are independent restaurant operator focusing on a single type of cuisine. For this, it’s the Wild West and you can sell whatever keeps selling. At present, there are many eateries and franchises already specifically serve each of these niche food demands while others are leaning into the complete opposite direction by upping the decadence factor or by retrenching back to comfort foods.
Hotel restaurants don’t necessarily have this flexibility, especially when there’s only one main outlet for the entire property. Just as you would never deny a guestroom to a customer for a discriminatory reason, so too must you do your best to provide appropriate food options for all.
So, what do you do? First, you need to understand what you are serving. Ingredients statements in the kitchen should identify dishes that contain gluten and lactose. I’m not advocating a change to your recipes, but rather the ability for your chef team to be able to respond accurately to diners’ requests for more information. Servers will be asked; the chef’s response should then be honest and immediate.
Second, you should clearly identify on your menu the options that will appeal to vegans, vegetarians or any other ingredient-conscious guests. Often you can mark these on the menu with asterisks and an accompanying footnote or small icons with a legend.
Third, try to understand then anticipate your guests’ needs. For example, be prepared to offer any patron the option of a simplified take on a dish such as fish grilled in oil instead of butter or meat without any added seasonings which may contain wheat. While this may be deemed as ‘bad form’ for a haute cuisine establishment, rephrase of it as a deconstructed meal, thus allowing the diner to add elements to the finished product in accordance with their own, however-esoteric dietary restrictions.
You might wonder through all this why customers with all these specific requirements are coming to your omnivorous eatery. Often, they come as part of a group, with the rest of the party quite content with your core offerings. So be it – substitutions and subtractions are all part of being a hospitable host.
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