Turning Restriction into Connection

April 20, 2021

Spring means it’s time to come out of hibernation. The winter lull is over; patio weather, brunch dates, and family celebrations such as Mother’s Day are right around the corner. This is a time when business starts booming. But how do you get consumers to choose you over all their other options? Well, you make sure everyone in their party feels like they can partake in the festivities. In this day and age everyone has different needs. The modern kitchen is ever-evolving and chefs must stay accommodating to stay relevant.

Dietary restrictions are no longer uncommon, in fact, they are more prevalent than ever. The days of just nut allergies with a handful of vegetarians are behind us. Today there is lactose intolerance, gluten intolerance, and veganism. There are raw foodist, locavores, and numerous religions with specific meat consumption beliefs. But restriction is a much more negative word than it has to be. Think of it as a challenge to keep your creativity flowing and to avoiding becoming stagnant. Express your artistry, just as a modern artist plays with different mediums. However, to be successful at this, a few things need to happen behind the scenes. Two words are key – education and preparation. You not only need to educate yourself on all the rules of the different diets that may wander into your dining room, but also educate your staff – your servers, your chefs, and even your hosts (as they are likely to get questions at the door or over the phone when taking reservations.)

Once you are educated, supply your kitchen with all the necessary supplies. Incorporate plates in which normally “substitute” ingredients are the star of the show. This way, you make sure the ingredients actually work together, instead of possibly disrupting the integrity of the dish. When you do offer more than one way to build a plate, replace the word “substitute” with “option” to avoid the implication of it being “less than” the original. Have suitable choices for everyone readily accessible, as well as listed on the menu. This is especially important anywhere your menu is listed online – a place where a server isn’t around to clarify or suggest a solution. Further, pick your products responsibly. Today’s consumer not only expects your food to be delicious and good for them, they expect it to be ethical. People love it when you care about them, but they love it (and believe it) even more when you care about others too. Choosing suppliers that value nature, sustainability, safety, and fair practices shows respect and gains your customer’s trust. Lastly, always have an emergency action plan in place in case someone needs medical attention. In other words, turn restriction into an opportunity to connect and bond with your customers and earn their confidence. To illustrate, just imagine this scenario:

A family reserves a table for 10 for your Mother’s Day Brunch. Once seated, you welcome them to your establishment and immediately ask about any allergies or dietary needs in order to preemptively avoid any issues with their experience. Already you are a step above, because you have shown an interest in their well-being. They are glad you asked.

To start, the mom is vegan and the dad cannot have gluten. Their son is allergic to tree nuts, and a set of grandparents do not eat dairy or soy. This table could quickly turn into a logical nightmare. But it doesn’t have to. With the help of a detailed menu, a properly trained server, and efficient communication with the kitchen, all issues could be addressed in just a few minutes. As this is the kind of restaurant you aim to be, the server quickly points out an egg substitute that can be used in the tofu and veggie scramble, the gluten-free bread and pizza crust options to the dad, and the oat milk to the son and grandparents. Everyone needs are met, and everyone can relax and enjoy family time. You are now their favorite restaurant, and they want to make a reservation for a birthday next week. (Of course, you oblige). Furthermore, use this opportunity to input all of the information you now know about their dietary needs into your reservation CRM software. No matter who the server is when they come in next week, your team will be even more prepared, further gaining customer trust, and eventually loyalty.

Challenge accepted. Problem solved. Most importantly, rather than think of these requests as annoying, embrace them by taking in the bigger picture. The way of the consumer is not only shaping the world around us – it’s making it a better place. Don’t hesitate to ask your Premier ProduceOne sales rep for recommendations on products to accommodate any dietary needs. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Cleveland Tofu (Vegan)
  • The Beyond Burger (Vegetarian)
  • Califia Farms Barista Blend Oat Milk (Soy & Nut Free) & Almond Milk (Soy & Dairy Free) 
  • Eban’s Bakehouse bread & cookies (Gluten-Free)
  • Deja Foods Pizza Crust (Gluten-Free)
  • Just Egg Liquid (Vegan)



 Written by Marianna Marchenko

Updated on April 20, 2021