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Monika Zuluaga

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Monika@rihospitality.org

Dale's Corner

This blog is written by Dale J. Venturini, President/CEO of RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) and RI Hospitality Education Foundation (RIHEF). Its purpose is to engage RIHA members with current issues and trends.

Dale J. Venturini

President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association

We all know people who struggle with food allergies. From peanut butter, to shellfish, to strawberries, to dairy, the idea of dining out when one has a food allergy can be an alarming proposition. Restaurants have to be incredibly careful when preparing and serving food to guests with allergies and have strict protocols to follow and diners need to be able to trust restaurants to take these restrictions seriously

One allergy on the rise is gluten. From those with Celiac disease and other forms of gluten sensitivity and intolerance, to those simply looking to embrace what is a perceived healthier lifestyle, gluten-free is taking center stage at many restaurants. What is gluten? It is the general name of proteins found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It acts like glue that helps foods retain their shape. This allergy has dictated its own menu in many establishments, even pizzerias where gluten is a key ingredient.

The gluten-free movement has moved far beyond restaurants and entire aisles in grocery stores have been devoted to this category. According to a recent report in U.S. News & World Report, the gluten-free retail industry is projected to earn as much as $2.34 billion in 2019.

Gluten-free options are far from free however, with prices markedly higher in both retail/grocery store and restaurant locations. Why? It costs much more to prepare foods without gluten. And, in a restaurant environment, the handling of the gluten-free item is equally as important and often requires additional labor.

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), gluten can be found almost everywhere in a restaurant kitchen. From traces of flour that might be airborne, to particles of breading in deep fryers, to touches of wheat-based sauces, the biggest challenge to serving truly gluten- free food in a restaurant is the possibility of cross contamination.

Currently, no FDA rules exist for restaurants serving gluten-free items other than the protocols in place for any allergy-based condition. The NRA is a valuable resource for restaurants that want to ensure that they are doing everything possible to prevent cross-contamination.

Understanding the allergy in the front of the house is the first rung on the service ladder. When a guest informs a server that a gluten allergy is present, the server should immediately alert a manager or consult the kitchen on foods that the guest can safely consume. Having a written resource handy on which foods contain gluten is invaluable. However, with menus often changing seasonally, taking the extra step to consult the kitchen is crucial.

Before proclaiming things ‘gluten-free’ on a menu, there are some things to consider in the kitchen. First, flour is one of the biggest cross contaminants; its fine consistency allows it to be airborne and potentially travel to other areas in the kitchen. So, if a pastry chef is baking desserts, there is a strong possibility that the flour being used can wind up in an area of the kitchen reserved for food-allergy preparation and handling. Unless a restaurant is using an alternative like rice flour, the likelihood of cross contamination is high.

Maintaining a separate food-preparation and handling station for all food-based allergies is critical. And, additional protocols including frequent hand washing and donning new gloves for each order is also encouraged. Storing gluten-free items in sealed containers away from other ingredients and also using dedicated cooking tools, utensils and cookware will also help protect guests against possible gluten exposure.

Regardless of whether a customer has Celiac disease, gluten intolerance or is simply looking to eat gluten-free for its perceived health benefits, each request has to be taken as seriously as any other food-allergy situation. As we see food-allergies on the rise, ensuring that restaurants are taking every actionable step possible to ensure a safe and an enjoyable guest experience is priority number one.

For the latest information on gluten-free food handling and on all food allergies, please visit www.restaurant.org.


List of Articles
No. Subject Author Date
37 Summer in New England: Be a Tourist in Your Own Backyard file Managing GroupMonika Jul 05, 2018
When many of us think about summer vacations, we think about jumping on a plane and traveling to a far-off destination. However, for those of us who are fortunate enough to live in New England, there’s no need to venture too far to enjoy som...  
36 Our Next Generation of Culinary Stars: Cooking and Planning Their Hearts Out file Managing GroupMonika Jun 11, 2018
Recently, Providence, RI hosted the National ProStart® Invitational (NPSI), the country’s premier secondary-school competition focused on restaurant management and culinary arts. We had some wonderful judges visit from all over the nation as...  
35 Swimming Down “STREAM” Managing GroupMonika May 15, 2018
Education is truly the foundation of success no matter what career path you choose. Some learning is done in traditional classrooms, and more practical experience is gained in the thick of it in a restaurant or hotel kitchen, lodging establi...  
34 The #MeToo Movement is More than a Hashtag file Managing GroupMonika Mar 02, 2018
While the #MeToo movement has become synonymous with the entertainment industry, its reach is far deeper than the bright lights and golden statues of Hollywood. From politics, to business, to manufacturing, to hospitality, the potential for ...  
33 “We are made of star-stuff. Our bodies are made of star-stuff. There are pieces of star within us all.” file Managing GroupMonika Jan 02, 2018
“We are made of star-stuff. Our bodies are made of star-stuff. There are pieces of star within us all.” – Carl Sagan There is no greater honor for me each year then to be part of our industry’s largest celebration! Each November, I look forw...  
32 Paid Sick Leave Passes RI Legislature file Managing GroupMonika Oct 10, 2017
In September, both the Rhode Island House and Senate passed legislation that will require companies to give employees paid sick leave. Although the RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) is generally opposed to mandates that impact the employer-e...  
31 When did ‘Entry Level’ become Negative? file Managing GroupMonika Sep 19, 2017
If there is one theme that has dominated the political landscape in Rhode Island for the last decade, it is without a doubt jobs and the economy. Though we have seen a rise in the local economy since the recession, talk of job creation still...  
30 Taking the High Road – the Road Less Traveled file Managing GroupMonika Jul 24, 2017
Normal 0 false false false EN-US KO AR-SA Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association It is increasingly difficult to take the high road in today’s poli...  
29 Paid Sick Leave – it’s Nothing to Sneeze at Managing GroupRIHA May 08, 2017
In Rhode Island and across the nation, we’ve seen a host of legislation introduced by out-of-state special interest groups that have squarely targeted the hospitality industry. From eliminating the federal tipped wage, to raising minimum wag...  
28 Buying Local for the Holidays Managing GroupMonika Nov 15, 2016
The holiday season is fast approaching…from a retail perspective, it seems to come earlier and earlier each year. While I was shopping for Halloween candy this year, I was sidestepping Christmas trees, holiday decorations and specialty choco...  
27 The Cost of ‘Chip’ Cards and Protecting Against Fraud Managing GroupMonika Oct 04, 2016
By Dale Venturini, President and CEO, R.I Hospitality Association  Many of us currently have an EMV credit or debit card – also known as a ‘chip’ card. These safer versions of the traditional magnetic-strip cards were designed to prot...  
» Gluten is Not Free in Restaurants file Managing GroupMonika Sep 01, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association We all know people who struggle with food allergies. From peanut butter, to shellfish, to strawberries, to dairy, the idea of dining out when one has a food allergy can be an ...  
25 Managing a Better Future file Managing GroupMonika Jun 30, 2016
The hospitality industry is a continuously growing segment of the U.S. economic picture. This year alone, the restaurant industry is expected to realize $783 billion in sales and employ 14.4 million in good-paying jobs, according to the N...  
24 Partnerships – They’re Not Always the Obvious Choice file Managing GroupMonika Jun 06, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association I’ve written extensively about the need to collaborate with organizations that share the same business interests. Whether a business partner’s mission is within your organizat...  
23 How Important is a Proactive Crisis Plan? Your Business Could Depend on it. Managing GroupMonika May 05, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association   With the spate of negative media headlines surrounding restaurants that have experienced foodborne or human-contact illness, it is critically important that every eatin...  
22 Where Have the Teens Gone? file Managing GroupMonika Apr 04, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association It used to be that almost every teenager had a job in the hospitality industry. With flexible hours and class-friendly scheduling, our industry was the perfect landing spot for h...  
21 The Real Cost of Foodborne Illness file Managing GroupMonika Feb 02, 2016
Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association Our food supply system, while infinitely safer and better regulated than most other parts of the world, still has its challenges. We’ve all seen the headlines and recalls from E....  
20 “Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.” file Managing GroupMonika Dec 30, 2015
“Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars.” – Les Brown Dale J. Venturini President/CEO, RI Hospitality Association  As we close out another year and ring in 2016, I have been fortunate to once again cele...  
19 As You Climb the Ladder of Success, Turn Around and Pull Someone Up file Managing GroupMonika Oct 13, 2015
We are an industry that rises to the occasion, no matter what the circumstance, and that is something I am very proud of. The RI Hospitality Association (RIHA) is comprised of more than 650 members who have dedicated their lives to the ho...  
18 The War on Hospitality Ends in a Draw Managing GroupMonika Aug 06, 2015
The legislative season is finally over, and while we can’t claim that we’ve won the war, we can say that we’ve won some key battles for the time being.  Our industry faces an ongoing attack from out-of-state, organized labor forces. The...