We care. Honestly, we do. We care that you can’t eat shellfish, or gluten. We care that you are allergic to onions in all their variants, and we care that you can’t eat pepper.
But we also run a business. We could make our business all about taking care of special needs, but the fact is, you aren’t the only one with a special need. For every coeliac, there’s a diabetic, or someone with crohn’s. We simply can’t keep you all happy. We need to move food… we can’t have ingredients sitting in the cooler past their use-by date, and we can’t dedicate 10% of our menu space to an item that only gives us 2% of our sales.
Where do we draw the line? Do I need special tables for the very tall? Special seats for the very heavy? Tiny tables for Little People? Perhaps large print menus for those with failing eyesight and braille menus for the blind?
There is a limit to what we are capable of as a business. We need to remain profitable. Unfortunately, it seems that every individual that has a “special need” thinks that if only my restaurant would cater to them, it would be the secret to untold riches. That every coeliac would beat a path to my door, if only I would have more gluten free items. That I would be mecca for diabetics if only I would change my offerings.
It simply doesn’t happen. I have seen the stat that 1 in 133 people has some form of coeliac’s disease. So let’s explore this stat, as it sounds quite high. ( I am going to use coeliacs disease as my example since it’s simply the most common comment I hear)
In a city of 800,000 people, that means 6015 people are coeliacs. Spread over (in my case) 9418 squared km. I’m going to speculate that the average diner doesn’t want to drive more than 20km to eat (I know I don't), so that means I can draw my customers from 400 square km. Using the average of .64 coeliac’s per square km, I’ve got about 256 possible Coeliacs within “regular” range. How often are they going to come into my restaurant? Once a week? Let’s say I get ALL of them in once a week. That would be 1/6 of my customer base. So a decent share of menu space should reflect this. If I have 24 items on my menu, 4 should be gluten-free. My actual menu is 43% gluten free (12/28 items). So, judging by what the average Coeliac says in online forums, I SHOULD be packed with coeliacs. I see about 2 a week. 2/1500. I other words… 0.001% of my customer base. Here’s the kicker. I STILL get coeliacs that complain that I don’t offer enough choice. Why? Because I don’t have the exact item on the menu that they wish I had.
It’s not worth it. I need to cater to the other 99.999% of my customers. Now, that said, that other 99.999% don’t seem to mind the GF items, and many quite like them. Great. But, if I replace my GF penne with wheat penne, they aren’t going to bat an eye, and I can make more money by doing so.
We do care. But please, don’t berate my staff, or try and “educate” them about your specific requirements. It’s boorish and pointless. If you come to our restaurants and can’t find anything to eat, please remember, we are a business, not a public service. We have no legal requirement to ensure that we can cater to everyone’s individual needs, and we make our choices based on sound financial evidence. Make your voice heard to the manager.. tell them, politely, that you live or work nearby and can’t find any decent GF (or diabetic, or vegan etc) items and that you’d become a regular if only there was a bit more. It’s the manager’s job to crunch the numbers and see if it will work. If not? Well… we’re sorry.
In the meantime, I’ll keep working on my business plan for my “GF,vegan, diabetic, big and tall, short and small, wheelchair accessible, scent/peanut /shellfish/flower-free, low-calorie” restaurant . I’ll be raking in the dough when I open it, right?
(sorry for the late edit... the deaf don't need braille menus... the blind do. :D oops)
Edited by PrairieChef - 1/28/12 at 10:41am