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chef in restaurant preparing a menu item

From dangerous food allergies to fasting for religious holidays, there are hungry guests with all sorts of dietary restrictions.

Is your restaurant prepared for the upcoming year? Prepare your restaurant to address some of the most common dietary restrictions and restaurant industry trends today.

Food trends among people with dietary restrictions: hungry, but regulated.

Gone are the medieval days where kings and queens would sit in their castles eating a beef shank and a goblet of mead. Dining has become a complex, and thankfully more sanitary, experience. The complexity comes from an increasingly diverse consumer base.

Regardless of their differences, your guests all have one thing in common: they came to eat and should feel like royalty (hold the mead).

restaurant menu on a table with a place setting

The strongest restaurant menus can serve anyone with allergies, those observing religious holidays, or people who have made the lifestyle choice to live a meatless life. Accommodating customers with strict diets isn’t always the easiest path to take, but if you’re searching for restaurant menu ideas, start here.

1. Allergies

Nearly 15 million Americans have one or more food allergies so, needless to say, someone with a food allergy is going to come to your restaurant. Allergies are one of the most challenging dietary restrictions for chefs to address. However, when dealing with food allergies, the best offense is a good defense and all restaurant staff should have a protocol for addressing allergy-based requests.

Restaurants can choose from two options for these requests: accommodate or don’t accommodate. Restaurant kitchens are hectic and busy places so many owners and chefs do not feel that they can safely accept requests or feel that modifications diminish the sanctity of the dish. However, more and more restaurants are accepting the challenge of meeting the demands of food allergies.

2. Religious Holidays

Many other dietary restrictions are self-imposed by individuals who have chosen to abstain from certain foods. One major reason people choose to limit their diet is that they are following religious doctrines that encourage fasting during religious holidays.

Ever wonder why your falafel guy doesn’t put bacon on your wrap? It’s not Halal, or lawful, in Islam. How could your friend decline a bowl of pasta during Passover? Those noodles are not Kosher. And why does the woman in the cubicle next to you always have a tuna melt on Fridays during Lent? Meat is a no-no for Catholics during this time.

Your restaurant can get a boost if you know when major religious holidays fall. For example, the Frutti di Mare is sure to sell on Fridays during Lent so make sure you stock up on mussels and calamari.

3. Meatless Trends

Restaurateurs are constantly changing to keep up with the hottest restaurant industry trends. Raw cookie dough and eating from a food truck have never been so popular! But, one food trend that could be here to stay is the meatless diet. Vegetarian, Pescatarian, and vegan customers are adopting the meatless lifestyle which means restaurateurs are doing the same.

Bottom line: A well-rounded restaurant menu will have a few meatless options no matter what. However, many restaurants are expanding their meatless options and getting creative with it. The real challenge is creating tasty dishes that satisfy the needs of customers who will not eat any animal product (e.g. vegans).

Written by   |  
Quinn Massaroni is a Rhode Island-based freelance writer, graduate student, and daily eater. Her ideal meal would start off with calamari from Druthers in her hometown of Albany, New York, followed by borscht from Cafe Pushkin in Moscow, dessert from Baked Bear in San Diego, and would finish with a margarita on the Salvation Taco rooftop in New York City.
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