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Special Needs. Not quite a rant. But quite long.

post #1 of 47
Thread Starter 

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.

 

We care.

 

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
post #2 of 47

I agree with you in that it is not up to you to cater to every need out there and people should never berate service staff because a request could be accomodated.

 

That being said, I do not think it is that unreasonable to have menu items that accomodate the more common allergies/needs. It is not that difficult to come up with a starter/entree for people with celiacs or with something like a shellfish allergy.  An allergy to something like onions or pepper is much more obscure and would be a bit of a stretch. Desserts for people who cannot consume gluten or dairycould be a bit more of a challenge as well.

 

It would also be more challenging if you operate an establishment that uses a lot of processed foods, as it seems that they tend to contain gluten in one of its many incarnations.

 

Just my two cents.

post #3 of 47

Prairie-that's beautiful.

I love that you did all that number crunching-priceless.

Our shop sells lots of organic, no-sugar, low sugar, alt sugar, juices, smoothies, nutri-boosters and such which seems to draw every dietary and nutri-wacky person in NY.

I wish I coulde please all of them but it's hard to keep up with every diet trend of the moment.

 

It might be karma, I used to be that way kinda

www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
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Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #4 of 47

Crohn’s represent.

post #5 of 47

I had a salesman come and try and sell me low fat, healthy pasta at about $1.25 a pound (about 3 times as much  what I pay for normal pasta wholesale.) He explained all the good points to me and how it would keep everyone healthy and in top shape .( I'm thinking,If you are sick stay home and eat.)

 My reply to him was""very nice however I am running a food service facility not a health club  or a hospital " He looked at me  thanked me said 'I understand " and left.  Prairie chef, I agree wih you!

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #6 of 47

I always thought of it as a challenge to make a buffet or event that would cover...GF, Vegans & omnivores.  One of my best friends has severe gluten allergies and so if she is having an event, I make sure the buffet is all GF.   Rice crackers, corn chips, dolmas, panko in crab cakes, dips/dunks, salads, veg platters.....nothing that would cross contaminate a communal dish....easy enough and most people don't realize that it is in fact GF.   

Probably the biggest challenge was a GF vegan wedding @ a synagog.  Was the middle of summer, so lots of fresh produce was available.....I discovered Earth Balance, decent alternative.  EVO covers a whole lot of ground.

 

Many times a gluten free person chooses the restaurant for the whole group....and shares with their gf friends, doctors etc....it's another marketing tool too.

 

But, I'm with you on rudeness....so not cool to tie up waitstaff or a kitchen being extra whiny.  

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #7 of 47

oh yeah, sorbet or poached fruit crosses a whole lotta needs.....dieters, GF, diabetics, etc.....Sounds lame, but I've sold a ton of poached pears with caramel sauce and amaretti for high end events...works well.

cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #8 of 47

S

Quote:
Originally Posted by PrairieChef View Post

 

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.

 

OOohboy do I hear you. Everyone has a suggestion, and if I don't adopt their wunnerful ideas immediately, I'm a lousy business operator.  So I smile and nod, but inside my opinions are screaming to get out.

 

Q: Y'know, you should have organic/fairtrade chocolate"

(me, thinking).... Y'know, I don't think you know what orifice you are talking out of.  If I go f.t/organic, my bulk chocolate cost will go up by almost 90%, and the taste isn't really all that great   But then, what's the sense of using organic couverture if the rest of my ingredients aren't? So, let's say I go all-out organic, now my costs are well over 130% from my original sales price.  My packaging will not accomodate that kind of a price jump, I have to go high end to reflect that kind of price increase, so new packaging too.  And don't you think I can survive with just walk-in customers, the bulk of my sales are with the indie stores, they'll drop me like a festering dog turd if I increase 130% overnight... 

 

But no, what I say is " Yes, that's something to consider"....

 

Q: Why don't you sell brand x packaged chocolates?  I get this one alot from sales reps

...Because, you moron, everyone else is:   All the chain drugstores and supermarkets, heck, even most of the convienience stores--you should know, you sold 'em that stuff.  Those boys buy by the pallett, and pay far cheaper than what I can get it for.  So if I did sell that stuff, I'd have to compete on price and I'd loose, big time....

"Ah, that's an idea, but not at this time"

 

Q: How come you don't sell vegan milk chocolates?

...Doh!! you (deleted) (deleted)!  What's the first (deleted) word in Milk chocolate?  Are you just looking for an excuse to back out of buying something, or are you really that stupid? 

"No vegan milk chocoaltes yet, but try the 70% dark, no dairy in those."

 

Q: So, how's business?

...Gee golly whizz! Pull up a chair and I'll tell you all I know!  But first, tell me a little about yourself:  What's your visa #? How much do you have stashed away in the ol' savings account?  Do you own your own home??????

"Business?  Never a dull moment"

 

Q: What kind of chocolates are those with the little pistachio on them?

...Y'know, I have to quote Bill Watterson on that one:  "Boy, Suzie, your hairstyle does a good job on covering up that frontal lobotamy scar"....

"Those would be pistachio, M'am".

 

 

There!  That felt better....

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #9 of 47

OK. This is NOT a wise-crack reply. I think most of you know that I do a lot of vegetarian/vegan stuff. That's how come I know about this stuff. I'm noy sayin', I'm just sayin'. 

 

Go Dairy Free | Vegan "Milk" Chocolate Bars Met with Enthusiasm ...

 

TN_RiceMilkBarsNEWLG.jpg Milk chocolate without the dairy, this organic bar blends the richness of Terra Nostra chocolate with creamy rice milk. Absolutely delicious in vegan s'mores! Fair Trade Certified, Kosher & Gluten-Free. Available in 3 flavors- Ricemilk, Ricemilk Truffle and Ricemilk Almond. 

 

Ingredients: Organic cane sugar, organic cocoa powder, organic partially hydrolyzed rice powder, organic cocoa mass, organic hazelnuts, natural algae, organic vanilla extract, salt

 

Vegan Milk Chocolate - Moo Free

 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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post #10 of 47

Yeah, I've seen the stuff, and some it it's not that bad.  But it's not milk chocolate if it doesn't have milk in it, hence the name.

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #11 of 47

OK, semantics. It is milk chocolate. The milk product is a grain milk processed from rice. It can easily be used in many recipes as an alternative to traditional cow's milk. It's still milk. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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post #12 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by IceMan View Post

OK, semantics. It is milk chocolate. The milk product is a grain milk processed from rice. It can easily be used in many recipes as an alternative to traditional cow's milk. It's still milk. 

 

if you say so, IceMan, however, the wrapper clearly states "Ricemilk", not milk.
 

 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #13 of 47

Pete I agree  Milk to me is a dairy product.  The only other product over the years that I have known is coconut milk, which is actually a juice. We now have rice, almond, cashew, and you name it milk . I believe they use the term milk so as to convince consumers that this stuff takes the place of mikl. Which they really do not. Pretty soon we will have carrot , peas and brussel sprout milk. Not to mention cola and beer milk.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #14 of 47

Got semantics. Milk it for all it's worth.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #15 of 47

Exactly. The word is "riceMILK". It's not ricewine, or ricevinegar, or Rice-A-Roni. RiceMILK, as I have said before, is a grain milk product, processed from rice. It's still milk. LOL. 

 

 

By the way ... go look up "Rice-A-Roni". It's got a heck of a story. A really cool product. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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post #16 of 47

I will classify rice liquid as rice extract since it is extracted from cooking rice.  Again they want you and all other consumers to believe it takes the place of milk., because that is how it is being marketed.(The alternative ?)

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #17 of 47

Didn't take long for this thread to go entirely off topic.

post #18 of 47

IceMan,

 

I respectfully disagree, milk is an animal product. There are numerous liquids that are used to replace or substitute for milk, but they are not milk, they ALL are imitation milk at best. If you do not want to consume milk, then do not consume milk. But do not attempt to claim that imitation milk is the same as milk.

 

If you research carefully, you will determine that there is no such thing as a "grain milk product", except in the minds of advertising executives. Of course, you have every right to believe advertising executives if you so choose.

 

BTW, semantics: the study of meanings   milk: 1:a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for nourishment of their young, 2: a liquid like milk in appearance
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by IceMan View Post

...RiceMILK, as I have said before, is a grain milk product, processed from rice. It's still milk. ...



 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #19 of 47

Pete ... disagree with whatever you want. I'm just making fun of a situation. This entire thread belongs here: Food/Food Culture Pet Peeves. We work in a "service industry". It's just my own silly opinion, but almost everything said here so far needs to be accepted and dealt with. If with nothing more then those really good answers "Yes, that's something to consider ...." and "Ah, that's an idea, but not at this time.". Maybe just get over it. So many claimed "problems" can actually be handled for the happiness of customers without any pain to the bottom line. And please note that I just said "many", not all. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

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post #20 of 47

IceMan, point taken.

 

There is one, rather important IMHO, concern I have when discussing any particular subject, there must be a clear and concise understanding of the meaning of the words used in an objective sense, otherwise the subjective variation will lead to differing perceptions which negate the ability to communicate clearly.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #21 of 47

Huh? ... What? 


Edited by IceMan - 1/29/12 at 1:26pm

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #22 of 47

That is what I thought crazy.gif
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by IceMan View Post

Huh? ... What? 



 

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #23 of 47

I've had customers who ask for certain items and I do my best to give them the product that they want. In most cases though, the product comes back with a word from the customer telling me how terrible our restaurant is and we should have this and that. So this is the part where I tell the server that this person is full of crap, was trapped in a bubble as a child and more than likely doesn't have an allergy or disease, and they should leave our restaurant and never come back. 

 

However I feel the ones who actually do have some type of allergy/disease will appreciate the effort. Recently I had a gluten free guy come in and the server was asking me about every item on the menu. I thought to myself, ''Oh another one of these clowns.'' In the end, the guy asked for just a minor modification to one of our dishes and he was happy with it. The server came back and told me the guy said the food was great, but was bummed because none of our desserts were gluten free. Because he was an honest humble guy, I went out of my way and made him something and didn't even charge him (It literally costs probably 2$ at most to make). 

 

In a recent study, it said anywhere from 20-30 percent of people claim they have a food allergy when really less than 5% of people do. 

post #24 of 47

The concept of the restaurant I currently work in is very high end and you come in and are given an amuse to start and basically have a choice of 5+ courses depending on what you would like, also paired with wine if you wish. The concept runs great we ask at the beginning if there is anything that people dislike, do not eat, are allergic to. Over the time of my employment the stats have risen with the number of plates we need to modify. correct me if im wrong but i have been told lately by a number of very high ranking chefs that there is something that actually makes it impossible to be allergic to cooked onions/garlic. raw yes but cooked no so when people claim this its a blatant dislike and lie. The most painful though is people who make it through 5 -6 normal courses then ( become vegetarian, allergic to something etc which they have already eaten in a number of the other courses happily) or the people who are allergic to things like milk protein or are extremely lactose intolerant then we catch them spreading butter all over the brioche bread ( after we have made them special bread for the meal) or asking for milk to go in their coffee after we have re built an entire menu of say 5-9 courses each of which on average has 9 components. This has driven me to the point of loosing respect for most "allergies, vegetarians, vegans basically people being picky about food to draw more attention to themselves or just to make a fuss about something. call me rude but If you fall into this category I would rather have you not come in than to have you whine through a meal and disturb the rest of my dining public. 

post #25 of 47

I don't know. Maybe I'm a dinosaur, or maybe just goofy. I'll generally make and serve, with very little exception, anything Joe Customer is willing to pay for. Joe might have to wait a little longer. I won't comp anything that Joe decides he doesn't like or if Joe changes his mind. Joe also better tip my staff well. I guess it's the simple capitalist in me. Money and return business kinda does that to me. I'm funny like that. 

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply

"And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

Reply
post #26 of 47

That is very gracious and noble of you IceMan as well as having good business sense.

 

I have a small problem doing the same though, I neither have the storage space nor the pocketbook to afford an inventory that includes:

  • alternatives to dairy products
  • a multitude of non-animal proteins
  • a variety of vegetable products that are not used for regular menu items

 

nor the luxury of sufficient space to insure freedom from the specter of cross-contamination.

 

If I have the food stock available, no problem. Otherwise, there is a problem.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #27 of 47
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pirate-chef View Post

 correct me if im wrong but i have been told lately by a number of very high ranking chefs that there is something that actually makes it impossible to be allergic to cooked onions/garlic. raw yes but cooked no so when people claim this its a blatant dislike and lie.


Reminds me of the time I worked in this cute little Italian place.  One of the "regs" was a high end sales rep who would wine and dine his clients.  Some days he'd be "allergic" to garlic in any way, shape, or form. Other days he'd be "allergic" to alcohol, but garlic was no problem.  The waitress and I finally figured it out, when he was allergic to garlic, he was entertaining Japanese clients, and when allergic to booze, it was Muslim clients.  He did tip well, so it was tolerated.

 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #28 of 47

Garlic and onion sensitivities are real. While they are not "allergies" in the true sense of the word, there are chemical compounds in the allium family of vegetables that cause some people extreme gastrointestinal distress. I have several friends, including my Mom, who suffer from this whether the onions are cooked or not. 

 

 

www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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www.foodandphoto.com

Liquored up and laquered down,
She's got the biggest hair in town!

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post #29 of 47

Food thank you for clearing that up for me. I had heard it a few times lately and it was the first i had ever heard of it. The sad thing is most of it i have encountered was the basis of someone having a business meeting etc.... 

post #30 of 47
What the place i work does is ask for diet info on resos so there is time to plan. this has resulted in the business described by the ops customer. some vegan website has listed our very meat centered restaurant as being friendly WITH advance notice so we get a significant numbef of vegetarians and vegans. and the advance notice allows for planning, making accomodating their needs easier.
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