Mar 21, 2012 | Written by Anupa Mueller
Of late we've noticed more and more customers with specific allergies - to gluten, to dairy, to nuts, to fish and even flavorings. The one we've encountered most frequently is gluten. At first, we tried to adapt our menu to include some gluten-free items. Changing one of the sandwiches to a gluten-free bread proved too complicated. We just don't have the space to carry another kind of bread and it changed the price point significantly. Then we sampled gluten-free scones and desserts. One gluten-free bakery pointed out that in order to provide gluten-free products, we would need to segregate those items in the kitchen so that it would not be contaminated with products that contained gluten. This again proved too cumbersome. We decided since we were a bread-based business, we would just stick to packaged gluten-free products as we discovered them but not change out our menu items. Since we do not allow outside food to be consumed in the restaurant, we were barring customers from bringing their own gluten-free food to Silver Tips. Two recent incidents have forced us to revise this policy. The first was a customer who needed gluten-free products and wanted to bring her mother to Afternoon tea. She asked if we would make her sandwiches on her gluten-free bread. This was going to be in the middle of a busy Saturday afternoon and we knew this would be difficult. She was very disappointed. The second was similar with another customer who wanted to use our sandwich spreads to make her own sandwich with gluten-free bread at the table. Again we explained our policy of not allowing outside food to be consumed at Silver Tips. The customer wrote to me today about her very disappointing experience with us and asked us to re-examine our policy. She added that she had contacted Gluten-Free Magazine about her experience and that she had posted several negative reviews on the internet. As someone who deals with the public everyday, I am quite accustomed to hearing from customers and their good and not-so-good experiences with us. As the owner of a small business, I am easy to reach as was evident in both cases. We've changed policies, we've given refunds, we've changed hours, we've accommodated special requests and as the situaton dictated, adapted to new circumstances. In most cases, thankfully, customers give us the opportunity to fix the situation first which we appreciate. In today's world of instant reviews and publicity, where reputations can be changed in a second, we understand this better than most. I am sorry we were not given the chance to fix it first without the accompanying negative publicity. I am not sorry, however, that she contacted me since it caused us to re-examine our policy. It is not in our best interests to continue to have policies that are out of touch with today's reality. So effective immediately, if a customer chooses to use their bread to make their sandwich at the table, so be it. We will still not take outside food to the back and make the sandwich or meal for them but we will have no objection whatsoever if they choose to order our sandwich spread or salads to make their own sandwiches at the table.