Another NRA Show is in the books. If you attended, we hope you had a great show! The Central team had a chance to settle down from the excitement and share with you some of the top trends we saw coming out of the show.
One of the biggest trends at NRA was gluten-free options. Of course, it has been gaining momentum for a couple of years now, but seeing what some companies are doing is really cool. Take for example, Kiki’s Gluten Free Foods. They introduced a gluten-free deep dish pizza, which a few years ago would’ve been unheard of. And Deya Gluten Free is making a gluten free flour where the main ingredient is dried egg whites. These new options should make life for people with Celiac disease or gluten allergies a lot better.
As we start to see a more health-conscious consumer, it’s only natural to see healthier options being introduced. We saw a ton of healthy options, from burgers made with veggies and chia seeds to milk made with quinoa. Another popular trend was brands advertising products made with no genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or corn syrup.
Better-For-You School Options
There are several companies trying to develop healthier options for school systems. According to Food Business News, exhibitors such as Skeeter Nut Free were introducing snacks that meet the USDA’s Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards that go into effect July 1st. In Skeeter Nut Free’s case, they introduced single-serve bags of graham crackers that are 100% nut free. Other exhibitors, such as Hormel, are offering options such as the Fuse Burger, which combines ground turkey with spinach, brown rice, roasted onions and dried cherries, to deliver a burger with a favorable nutrition profile.
Which trends did you see at NRA 2014 that stood out to you? Let us know in the comments section below.
As quarter two came to a close, it looks as though Burger King’s menu additions are paying off. In a recent Nation’s Restaurant News (NRN) article, it’s been reported the fast food chain has seen a 60 percent increase in their second quarter profits. This is good news for them as it was just a few months back when they lost their No. 2 ranking to Wendy’s. NRN also added Burger King is also remodeling over 7,000 units in the U.S. and Canada. Forty percent of of those locations have been remodeled and so far have seen a 12 to 15 percent increase in sales.
Gluten-Free Food Gaining in Popularity, Is It Needed?
Gluten-free is everywhere now, from grocery store shelves to restaurant menus. But it may be misunderstood by thousands of people who think it’s healthier way to eat or will help one to lose weight. Gluten-free items are intended for those with celiac Disease, also known as a gluten intolerance. (Read more about celiac Disease on Celiac.com).
In Huff Post Food’s recent findings, 1.8 million Americans have the disease with 1.4 million not yet diagnosed. But what may be the most interesting of what Huff Post Food found was that 1.6 million people don’t have celiac disease yet follow this diet. This is where there may be some misconceptions of being a weight-loss solution or a healthier way of eating, when it’s really a form of treatment for those with a gluten intolerance or even non-celiac disease related gluten sensitivity. So while gluten-free may seem as though it’s the latest food trend, it’s actually something people should discuss with a doctor first. (But definitely a plus to keep or add to a restaurant menu to help those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity).
Combo Deals Aren’t As Popular As They Were Five Years Ago
Combo deals–they’re popular among consumers, even much to the point where people memorize the combo’s number and don’t even need to say anything else other than what they’d like to drink with it. But according to a NACS Online article, combo deal sales are down about one billion servings from 2007.
“A recently released NDP foodservice market research report finds that smaller lunch and supper meals, more and better value offerings, price concerns and composition of meal are among the contributors to combo meal declines,” NACS said.
It’s that time of year again–back to school! While the kids were out on vacation, school foodservices certainly had some learning to do and changes to make to meet the updated USDA guidelines that went into affect on July 1. Visit the Central blog for a complete guide to the changes–and let us know below about how your school has made changes!
Roughly 15 million Americans have food allergies, with the top eight being: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.
Most all of these items are used in restaurants on a daily basis and food allergies have become more prevalent; many restaurants have adapted to ensure the safety of customers. But there are still restaurants that have no experience with food allergies. According to Sloane Miller, MSW, LMSW, author and advocate (AllergicGirl.com), it’s all about communication.
All About Communication
Image from Sloane Miller, Copyright David Handshuh
When a person has a food allergy, it isn’t up to the individual to assume the kitchen staff knows how to handle it. On the reverse, the kitchen staff must work together to ensure everyone understands what the customer’s needs are. Miller makes a great yet obvious point: A restaurant’s goal is never to hurt anyone; it just takes some negotiation and conversation to get on the same page.
“As a diner with food allergies, I want what every diner wants—to fall in love with a restaurant. I want to taste a chef’s special dishes,” she said.
“My relationship with a chef or restaurant or chain can last for years. I’ve created many relationships and have many restaurants I visit a few times a week. I’m a regular with just a few special food allergy needs.”
Is Your Restaurant Capable?
Not every restaurant can accommodate a person with a food allergy—and that’s okay. Miller mentioned there are some restaurants that put customers first, and then there are others where a chef and their creation is the focus.
While dining at a restaurant requires work from both the diner and the restaurant, the diner has to be prepared beforehand.
“It starts with the patient understanding their food allergy, what they can and can’t have, carrying their emergency medications and having their own emergency plan of action,” Miller said. “Then they can engage a restaurant, group or chain in the process of dialogue. ‘These are my needs; does the chef feel comfortable with my needs?’ Ask via phone or email before stepping into a restaurant. It gives everyone, the diner and the restaurant, the chance to make an informed decision.”
Miller added that upon dining out, she makes the dining experience pleasant for the restaurant, smiles a lot and develops many new relationships.
“I love dining out, I love chefs, I love food and I love tipping well. These are things I recommend to my clients. If a restaurant is able to meet your needs, please tip well (like 20 percent on the bill) and return so staff get to know you, your needs.”
To Dos for Restaurants
These are words Miller used frequently when she described her relationships with restaurants. After all, despite having special food needs, she brings in money—whether it’s bringing in a group for a business meeting or a birthday party. Developing a relationship with a diner can really become profitable, whether they have a food allergy or not.
“We are their best undiscovered asset,” she described about being a diner.
However, if a person with food allergies comes to your restaurant and you don’t feel your kitchen can fully meet their needs—it’s okay to say no. It’s important for the person’s well-being.
Working with the customer is important and must be taken seriously. If they ask for a manager or have their order sent back, it’s not because they don’t like it and is nothing to be offended by. A tiny part of a peanut or something that has been cross-contaminated can be a life or death situation.
Common Misconceptions and Breakdown of Communication
Miller finds the most common misconception about food allergies is “a little bit won’t hurt.” With a food allergy, “a little bit” can be fatal. (Read about symptoms and reactions in our blog: The New Bully in our Schools—Food Allergies).
As a person with food allergies, Miller said if there has ever been an issue dining out, it’s when there has been a breakdown of communication. This breakdown happens between the back of the house and the front of the house, back to the table.
“About every tenth time I dine out, someone in the back of the house doesn’t get the message and misses,” she explained. “Even when I triple check, communication can still break down and end up in a food allergy error, which is why I advocate that everyone always have their emergency mediation on them at all times and have an emergency action plan as well.”
Restaurant In Action
One of Indiana’s most beloved restaurants is Scotty’s Brewhouse, with five (soon to be six) locations around the state. They are a prime example of an establishment well-educated in handling food for those with food allergies.
“First off, we start with training employees how to handle allergies when an order comes back,” said Luke Duncan, director of kitchen operations for Scotty’s Brewhouse Inc. “The cooks related to the items take off their gloves and wash their hands. We have separate utensils, cooking pans and cutting boards we use for all allergy items. Also, especially for gluten-free items, we take ingredients out of the back from fresh batches and not what we have on our cook line to avoid cross-contamination.”
Also, each location has a guide of products readily available for managers to reference to if they are uncertain about hidden allergies, such as an item that doesn’t include peanuts, but was processed at a plant that processes nuts.
“We make every effort for an allergen plate to be handled by the cook (who cooked it from beginning to end without interruption whenever possible) and the manager on duty only, this way we do not introduce contamination from a third party not thinking about what they’re doing,” Duncan added. “The manager finishes the plate with two American flag toothpicks (one on each end of the plate) to ensure any food runners to not grab the plate by mistake. We have managers run the food whenever possible or a specific delegate if they are tied up elsewhere.”
Duncan said a diner who comes in with a food allergy is a challenging scenario when they are busy. However, Scotty’s instructs servers to inform guests it may take a few extra minutes to ensure their order is properly handled. And for a safe and enjoyable meal, that customer sure won’t mind.
Recap for Diners
Fully understand your allergy/allergies
Carry emergency medications
Have a personal emergency plan of action
Engage with a restaurant by calling or emailing ahead of time and discussing needs
Be pleasant, tip well and return upon having a good experience so the staff get to know you
Recap for Restaurants
Set procedures in place for food allergies and train all employees
Talk with the customer to ensure your kitchen can meet their needs
Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t think your restaurant is capable
Ensure full communication with all staff members, both front and back of the house
Don’t be offended when asked to speak to a manager or have a dish sent back
Looking for some of the week’s top information? Here are five stories from the foodservice industry for the week of December 12 through December 16.
Let’s Move! Breaks Jumping Jacks World Record
From Let’s Move Blog, Read Full Story
Back in October, we reported about Let’s Move attempting to break the world record of the most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period. The record they had to beat was 20,000. This week, First Lady Michelle Obama took to the Let’s Move blog to announce the good news–not only did they break the record, but by a large number! The grand total was 300,265. To read the full story, including a video from Mrs. Obama, visit the Let’s Move! Blog.
More Gluten-Free and Heart-Healthy Meals From NY Daily News, Read Full Story
Image by Ariadna on MorgueFile.com
This year there’s been more awareness to food allergies and also to healthier menu items. The NY Daily News reported there has been a 61 percent increase in gluten free menu items. What’s more interesting is not all of the customers requested gluten-free menu items because of a medical condition. Then also, according to the article, 73 percent of customers wanted to know menu nutritional content. Read the full story on the NY Daily News site and take their poll regarding gluten-free menu items.
People Choose Restaurant Gift Cards From Nation’s Restaurant News, Read Full Story
In a recent National Restaurant Association study,they reported approximately one of every five people will give the gift of a restaurant gift card this year. Towards the end of 2011, we’ve read there will be an increase in restaurant sales–and this article’s estimate that people will on average spend $155.43 on gift cards will certainly help! Read the full story on the Nation’s Restaurant News site including more interesting survey results.
Last year Central put together a list of foodservice trends for 2011. Well more and more websites are posting their different trends for 2012, including this one from Huff Post Food, which takes a close look at specific food trends. Some on the list include fast casual Asian, french dips, pretzels and more food trucks. For a slide show on all trends, including pictures and explanations, visit Huff Post Food.
On the FoodBuzz website, they put together a list of the top nine recipes for the day, which were submitted to the site from website contributors. Menu items include candy cane marshmallow pops, sweet potato pie oatmeal and mint cookies ‘n cream. Take a look at all nine items including pictures and recipes on the FoodBuzz website.
A few years back, public school speech pathologist Sarah Wu forgot to pack her lunch and decided to grab a meal in her school’s cafeteria along with the students. After seeing the “nutritious” meal that was being served to children every day, Wu was inspired to challenge herself to get involved and get the word out to others, especially parents that may not realize the lack of healthy foods their sons or daughters were being fed each day. In order to do this Wu ate school lunch every day in 2010 while anonymously blogging, tweeting and sharing photos of the meals under the pseudonym Mrs. Q.
Mrs. Q’s Fed up with Lunch blog caused quite a stir and while Wu did continually fear that at any time she could be ousted and possibly lose her job, she continued to share her thoughts on the state of school food. This persistence has paid off with national recognition of her efforts on outlets like Good Morning America and National Public Radio. This public acknowledgment went a step further on Wednesday, October 05, 2011 when Wu relinquished her anonymity as Mrs. Q in order to release a book about her experience called “Fed up with Lunch: How One Anonymous Teacher Revealed the Truth about School Lunches – And How We Can Change Them”.
And while Wu is now busier than ever, she will continue to blog, as she has since the challenge ended, about school lunch reform and to share the eating habits of her own family and her decision to eliminate gluten from her own diet. Because of this dedication to a healthier, more balanced diet, as well as her first hand knowledge of food allergies, we asked Wu to share with us her experience with dietary issues and how similar eating habits could play a part in school meals.
Central Restaurant Products: What was your diet like before the lunch project and looking back how did it affect your health?
Sarah Wu: I always thought of my diet as healthy. I made sure we ate balanced meals and planned dinner with a meat, a grain, and a veggie. But I wasn’t focused on ingredients or organics like I do now. We never ate fast food on a regular basis, but we did eat out quite a bit. My health was ok, but I have been suffering with IBS for almost ten years.
CRP: Without the school lunch project, do you think you would have looked into going gluten free? Why or why not?
SW: As I discuss very briefly in the book, I went gluten free for a couple of weeks about four years ago. In the book, I said that my brief voyage into gluten free living was because of my IBS. It was also because I was having difficulty getting pregnant and I was reading fertility books obsessively. One book mentioned going gluten free and drinking whole milk. I was desperate to get pregnant so I tried their recommendations. I felt really good (and I ended up getting pregnant that month) and did a little research online and found “Celiac disease.” Because my IBS was better, I thought I must have Celiac disease so I went to a GI doctor (gastroenterologist) for a test. The blood test was negative and the doctor told me, “You do not have a problem with wheat so go ahead and resume a normal diet.” Although I was relieved that I didn’t have an autoimmune disorder like Celiac, I was stumped because I felt oddly better without wheat. Since I trusted the doctor, I started eating wheat again.
I never would have questioned the doctor’s recommendations again because the test results were clear. Additionally my father is a doctor and we believe in medical science and technology.
It just so happened that when I was appearing anonymously on a food blogging conference in San Francisco in October 2010, I started talking to Alison St. Sure, who is a food blogger who has Celiac disease. We just started chatting and she mentioned her diagnosis. I told her something like, “That’s funny, a few years ago I thought I had Celiac disease, but my test was negative.” She said something then that changed my life, “You know just because you don’t have Celiac disease doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem with wheat. What the doctor should have said was that you could be gluten sensitive.” I was stunned. I decided that night that when the project was over I would try gluten free living again. CRP: What sources did you use to go gluten free?
CRP: What advice would you give to someone thinking about going gluten free?
SW: It’s important that someone who thinks that they have Celiac disease gets tested prior to going gluten free. If you are gluten free prior to the test, your body will stop producing the antibodies to wheat and those are what reveal a problem. Get tested and then try the diet. Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease whose rates are doubling every 15 years. It is very troubling. Research the symptoms. Even if you don’t have Celiac disease, you may find a benefit to gluten free living like I had. I feel amazing and I’ll never go back.
Image from FedUpWithLunch.com
CRP: What benefits are there to going gluten free? What are the drawbacks?
SW: For someone like me, the benefits are incredible. My IBS is totally gone. I also have more energy. Many people who say they go gluten free mention having more energy. For me I think that having chronic digestive troubles drained my energy. Now my body can focus on other things, which makes me feel physically stronger.
The drawback is eating out. It can be hard to find a restaurant that understands what gluten can do to people like me. But I have found lots of restaurants, including major chains, have gluten free menus. All you have to do is ask.
CRP: How have you had to change your shopping routine since going gluten free?
SW: Now I read all labels. I’m aware of ingredients more than ever. Also we are eating more whole foods (fruits, veggies, meats) and those are naturally gluten free.
CRP: Are there any food item substitutes that just don’t measure up to the original? Any items you or your family miss having?
SW: I think it’s hard to find a perfect match for pasta that doesn’t contain gluten. I have been able to find equivalents to most things. It just takes time. When I feel bad it’s usually when we go out to dinner and we get a bread basket on the table. My son is able to wait for his food, but I just feel bad he has to miss out at certain restaurants.
CRP: What products have been easiest to switch from?
SW: Finding gluten free cereal and oatmeal is not hard. I think breakfast is pretty easy to make gluten free because eggs, bacon and OJ are gluten free (check individual brands).
CRP: What foods do you find yourself eating more often due to your change in diet?
SW: I think that my overall awareness of food has made me eat more fruits and veggies than before. I still eat too many cookies — some things never change!
CRP: How difficult do you think it would be for a school (yours or your son’s daycare for example) to go gluten free? What specific roadblocks do you see them running into? If money and administrative restraints were no issue, would you recommend schools going this route?
SW: I think it would be hard to meet the USDA requirements (each school lunch averages about two servings of grain) and not incorporate wheat. But if you look at school lunch, they are serving a ton of wheat –what happened to other grains? Rice? Corn? Quinoa? Spelt? Barley? Rye? I believe everything in moderation and people are consuming more wheat than ever before. Oddly, rates of Celiac disease have been doubling every 15 years. That might be a sign that people should each a more diverse diet.
If money and administrative costs were not a concern, I would advise schools to back off the overabundance of wheat. A varied diet is more wholesome.
CRP: How do you believe students would benefit from going gluten free?
SW: Well, 97% of people with Celiac disease have not been diagnosed. One in 133 people are living with Celiac disease and most of them don’t know it. This can lead to living with another chronic disease as people with undiagnosed Celiac disease are at risk of developing other ailments including cancer. I consider this to be an epidemic. So I think that if more students ate a varied diet, they might be able to notice a correlation between how they feel after they eat a gluten free meal versus a wheat-heavy meal.
In discussing Celiac disease, I make no mention of people like me who have some kind of undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. Who knows how many people there are who could benefit from eating less gluten.
Have you had a sandwich this week for lunch? If so, it was probably some type of meat and/or veggies inside a nice thick bun or maybe some delicious doughy bread. Imagine that same sandwich, only take away the bun or bread and you’d be more accurately describing a meal fit for someone who is gluten-free. Whether you’re gluten-free by choice or necessity, it can put a crimp in your daily diet, but it’s important to know that it doesn’t mean having to do without. Celiac.com says that “at least 1 in 133 Americans” are affected by Celiac Disease. Wheat allergies are in the top 8 most common food allergies alongside items like peanuts and shellfish. There are many more suffering with gluten sensitivities. With this in mind, much of the food industry has begun to turn over a new leaf and started to offer a much broader range of foods and knowledge to ensure safety and variety for those on a gluten-free diet.
What’s the difference between celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and wheat allergies?
“People with celiac disease who eat foods containing gluten experience an immune reaction in their small intestines, causing damage to the inner surface of the small intestine and an inability to absorb certain nutrients,” is the way Celiac Disease is described by the Mayo Clinic. While this disease is manageable, if not carefully monitored and properly diagnosed, it could eventually lead to permanent damage to the intestines. Since this disease is genetic, the American Celiac Disease Alliance encourages, “If someone in your family is diagnosed, it is recommended that first degree relatives (parents, children, siblings) are screened as well. “
Gluten sensitivity, whilestill painful, poses no long-term physical damage. Basically, it is an intolerance of the body to digest gluten and while it can cause discomfort in the form of abdominal pain and similar issues, it will not cause any permanent damage and will go away once the gluten is out of the system.
Wheat allergies are more directly associated with a protein found in wheat products, which means it could be possible for sufferers to eat other types of grains. Like many other allergies the symptoms can range anywhere from mild (an upset stomach) to severe (throat swelling, lowered blood pressure, etc.)
What products should be avoided?
For all three issues you should avoid products containing wheat, rye and barley which includes many types of bread, crackers, pastas, pizza and cookies. It’s also extremely important to always read food labels to make sure other products don’t contain these ingredients. According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), “Wheat has been found in some brands of ice cream, marinara sauce, play dough, potato chips, rice cakes, and turkey patties, and at least one brand of hot dogs.”
What are some alternatives?
Recently, more and more items have become gluten-free. There are now breads, cereals, pizzas and other products certified by the FDA as gluten free. Two such brands that you may find in your local grocery store are Udi’s which specializes in baked goods and Amy’s which offers everything from frozen pastas to soups (with an extra bonus that all products are either organic or made with organic ingredients). FAAN also gives the suggestion of using items like rice, corn or potato starch flour when baking as a substitute for wheat flour.
Eating Gluten-free on the Go
Although it does take some extra planning, eating gluten-free at your favorite restaurant is a possibility. As mentioned in our post on dairy-free dining, there are many databases like Allergy Eats and Allerdine which allow you to search for restaurants in your area that take special food safety measures for patrons with food allergies. There’s also a database specifically for gluten-free eating, Gluten-free-onthego.com, that allows you to search for everything from coffee shops to sit-down restaurants all over the world (recently France, Italy, Spain and Mallorca were added to the search areas). And in case you’re at the grocery and want to know what’s safe to grab, there are also several apps to get your phone thinking gluten-free such as Gluten Free (for Blackberry) and Gluten Free Ingredients (for Android).
Just as in our previous dairy-free post, it’s extremely important to be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination when eating gluten-free. The easiest way to do this is simply by keeping an open dialogue between yourself and the wait staff and/or management. Doing this will give you the ability to ask questions and make an informed decision on whether or not an establishment truly does meet the standards for being gluten-free. In addition to your own guidelines, an advocacy group for the gluten-free community called Celiebo, has presented a certification program to make sure restaurants are as safe as possible for diners. In an article from Food Service Central, it says that “The Celiebo certification includes training programs, presentations and educational materials to be posted in kitchens detailing the specifics of gluten-free food preparation and ingredients to avoid. Certified establishments will also receive a window decal that states they are a Celiebo Certified Gluten-Free Restaurant™.” And while this certification is currently only being used in New York City, it plans to eventually expand.
In the meantime, if you’re on the go and curious as to where it’s safe to eat, you can rest assured that there are many options. Chains like Cheeseburger in Paradise, Bonefish Grill, and Outback Steakhouse (also Dairy-free friendly) all have a variety of options to keep you safe while letting you enjoy a wide selection. However, restaurants are not your only gluten-free on-the-go dining option. If you like sports, you’ll be happy to know that many baseball and football concession stands are also joining in on this dining revolution. Triumph Dining has some great coverage on dining safe while watching your favorite team including what’s offered at some individual stadiums like Tropicana Field and Busch Stadium.