Dietary requirements have never been so diverse. Customers are beginning to prefer restaurants that offer a flexible menu catering to their specific dietary requirements. Therefore, restaurateurs need to be aware of the ways to design their menus for different kinds of people. They need to be sensitive to what customers are looking for in the menu and provide them with relative ease without making the guest feel embarrassed or awkward.
Big restaurant chains like Pizza Hut and Prezzo have become extremely conscious of offering additional or alternative meal options to meet different dietary needs. Modern menus must have lots of options for people with diverse meal requirements. By doing so, a restaurant is able to maximize customer potential and also create a positive, customer-appealing persona for the business. In other words, having a menu with diverse dietary options is not only good for the customer but also enhances the restaurant’s reputation and revenue. Menus with diverse dietary requirements also help handle legal implications, especially food allergies.
Dietary requirements are the needs of someone who has a specific or restricted diet. Some common dietary requirements are those based on religious or allergy-based specifications.
Various Types Of Dietary Restrictions
Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder wherein a customer suffers a deficiency of the enzyme lactase that helps in the digestion of lactose. Lactose is the main type of carb in milk. If a lactose product is served to such a lactose-intolerant guest, he will suffer abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence after consuming milk or milk-based products.
Gluten is primarily found in wheat, barley, and rye and is used for creating elasticity and viscosity in baked goods. There are two types of gluten sensitivity – celiac and nonceliac. The former is a gluten-induced autoimmune disorder leading to inflammation and damage of the small intestine. The latter is a non-allergic, non-autoimmune condition.
Guests who have embraced vegetarianism rely mainly on plant-based foods. They avoid consuming meat, poultry, and fish. There are Lacto-vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians, pescatarians, and flexitarians. Vegetarian guests prefer plant-derived foods that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Vegan diet is a more strict form of vegetarianism. Guests who are vegan avoid all animal and animal-derived foods. This means that their diet will not involve gelatin, honey, bee pollen, casein, whey, or fish-derived sauces. People adopt a vegan diet primarily due to religious, ethical, and environmental beliefs. In order to cater to guests following a vegan diet, the restaurant must include both cooked and uncooked recipes that include various whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and plant-based protein sources.
Kosher is a dietary principle according to traditional Jewish law that dictates what foods are allowed. The three main Kosher food categories are – meat, dairy, and pareve. This Jewish law specifies that meat and dairy products must never be consumed together. Pareve foods are neutral (fish, eggs, or plant-based foods) and can be consumed along with meat or dairy products. In order to deem a food as kosher, the restaurant must take care of the slaughtering, meat processing, and serving methodologies.
This kind of diet that is high fat and the very low card has gained immense popularity in the last few years. Many people follow the Keto diet for weight loss while a few have embraced this diet for its blood-sugar benefits and favorable metabolic effects. Restaurants accommodating a keto diet must include protein, fats, non-starchy vegetables, and low-sugar fruits.
Diabetic people will not be able to metabolize carbs due to two reasons – they produce little to no insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or they cannot absorb insulin (Type 2 diabetes). Diabetic people have been advised a healthy eating pattern that is inclusive of moderate amounts of edibles from all food groups. Restaurants with a diabetic-friendly menu must include high-fiber foods like whole grains, legumes, lean proteins, dairy, and starchy and non-starchy vegetables. Lower-sugar fruits like berries, melons, and apples must be offered as well. Sugary drinks, dressings, sauces, refined grains, sweets, and desserts must be limited.
A dairy-free diet is different from a lactose-free diet as it excludes all dairy products including cheese, yogurt, cream, butter, and any fermented product. In lactose intolerance, other milk nutrients are well tolerated. But, in dairy-free diets, people have a cow’s milk allergy. Therefore, restaurants should eliminate all dairy products from the menu and replace them with plant-based dairy substitutes derived from nuts, seeds, and non-dairy milk.
Low Carb Diets
Just like a keto diet, low-carb diets also aim to keep insulin levels low throughout the day by restricting carbohydrates. People following this diet prefer keeping their carb intake below 120 grams per day. They also have limits in consuming alcohol, refined sugar, and highly processed foods. Restaurants that wish to cater to guests following a low-carb diet must avoid serving them sugary drinks, white bread, pasta, rice, etc., and also limit the number of starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes on the menu. You can instead serve them with animal-based proteins, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthier fat choices like avocado and olives.
Consuming certain food items leads to adverse reactions in some people. Worldwide 10% of adults and 8% of children suffer from food allergies. Some allergies also lead to life-threatening reactions. The most common food allergies arise after consuming wheat, nuts, fish and shellfish, eggs, and soy. When guests let the restaurant know about their allergies, the only way for the restaurant is to completely eliminate that food item while preparing the dish.
Steps That A Restaurant Must Take When Serving Specialty Dishes
Restaurants cannot straightaway jump into the world of specialty diets without doing their preparatory work. This includes:
Do The Research
The restaurant must find out what restrictions and special requests are most often received from customers. Since every restaurant is different, one must survey guests and kitchen staff to know about the special requirements.
Revamp The Menu
Restaurants can start following the made-from-scratch menu. So, the staff can be instructed to prepare low-carb, gluten-free, and vegetarian alternatives. In order to cater to low-carb dieters, the method is simple. Just swap the ingredients without paying any special attention to allergens. Nevertheless, restaurants must still pay attention to hidden meat-based ingredients as many broths and sauces may contain gelatin or animal products.
Source Fresh Ingredients
With fresh ingredients, restaurants can handle any kind of specific dietary requirements. Restaurant staff must read the ingredients and be well-trained to answer guests queries and provide them with recipes containing the necessary ingredients.
Dedicate Space And Tools
Restaurants must have a separate counter and dedicated tools in the kitchen to prepare gluten-free menu items. This will reduce the risk of cross contamination that affects people with celiac disease or people with nut allergies. Restaurants must remember to completely sanitize cooking materials, utensils and plates to cater to the needs of people with severe nut allergies.
Partner With Locals
If there is a gluten-free bakery in town, use it as a source to provide you with gluten-free bread, rolls, buns, and desserts. This not only accommodates your dietary requirements but is also a noble gesture of supporting a fellow entrepreneur and the local economy.
Use Icons To Label Specialty Diet Items
Restaurants can use easy-to-read icons on food packaging to declare whether their food is non-GMO, gluten-free, paleo, dairy-free, or vegan. Restaurants can make their own identifiable markers for their menu.
Have An Ingredient List For The Menu Items
Restaurants should have an ingredient list or cookbook for all the items on their menu. It is essential to keep this list updated with new specialty diet dishes and also provide chefs and servers with copies so that they can easily provide it to customers when asked for.
Allow Chefs To Interact With The Guest
Chefs or managers must be permitted to speak directly with the guests regarding their dietary restrictions. Paying special attention to the dietary needs of guests will help you gain respect and repeat visits to your restaurant. This is because not all restaurants offer such special attention to dietary requirements and people looking for such dine-out places will start preferring you first.
Thus, dietary requirements must not be seen as a burden or a negative business trait by restaurants. By offering recipes that cater to special diets including allergies and intolerances, a restaurant is able to beat the competition and attract several people who are constantly on the lookout for such restaurants.