Thursday, February 28, 2008

If only more restaurants and staff would be this open...Hannah & Mason's, continued...

If you've been following the blog chatter on my last few postings, then you know I've left Hannah & Masons employees with my word that I will be trying their new and improved post-Kitchen Nightmares restaurant shortly. I also requested that one of their employees, who responded to my post, fill out an allergy questionnaire of sorts, and return it to me so that I could post both sides of the issue online. I am pleased to report that I did receive the questionnaire back, not only in a timely manner, but very carefully filled out and quite detailed in the information it provides. I'd like to thank fellow blogger, Allergic Girl, for allowing me to co-opt several questions she uses when interviewing staff about the accommodations made for allergic patrons at their locales. I mixed hers with my own, and the result is what follows:

Here are the questions and their responses:

I just wanted you, as well as anyone else out there who has this misconception about our restaurant, to know that we are committed to showing our customers a good meal and whatever special instructions are needed are really not a big deal. Perhaps bringing this issue to light will help us to train our servers to better deal with the situation, because it is really not very difficult to work with an allergic customer.

1. Please tell me about your staff training on food allergens. Who conducts your training? How often?

We have no specific training on food allergens. All staff, when trained are told repeatedly that all food is made to order and if a customer has an allergy, they are to write it on their ticket for the kitchen staff. When a customer asks to have something left off a dish, staff is advised to follow the request by asking whether or not the omission is because of an allergy (most people will clarify before the question is asked), that way everyone knows for sure. If a server is not sure whether or not a dish contains an allergen, they are instructed to ash the executive chef. While there is no formal training, the staff is taught a proper procedure for ensuring all parties involved know about the allergy.

2. How do you prevent cross-contamination in your kitchen when dealing with special orders for food-allergic customers?

The majority of the components to the various dishes on our menu are made a la minute. therefore most any request can be granted for most any allergy. It is easy for the kitchen to leave the tomato out of the fennel, olive, and tomato tapanade, since it is sauteed on the spot. If it is not possible, the chef will let the server know. If two of the same dishes are required for one table, and one requires special instructions for an allergy, the two dishes will be made separately. \

3.If a patron needs more allergen and ingredient information than your menu provides, who can they contact at the restaurant?

The number to the restaurant is 609.655.3220 and the caller would want to speak to Chris, Brian, or Nick. The two executive chef's and the front of house manager are all well versed in ingredients and components on the menu. We receive many calls for this exact purpose and we welcome them.

4. Are there nut-free options on your menu?

There are a great deal of nut free options on the menu, and anywhere there is a nut on the menu (barring premade sauces like Romesco, and premade salsa's) it can be taken out. Meats crusted in nuts can be done without the crust, and nuts in salads can be omitted entirely or placed on the side. Nuts are usually crusted in the beginning, or placed on at the end, so there is no real danger of a special order being cross contaminated.

5. Are there gluten free options?

We actually just had a gluten-free diner in the other night who enjoyed her meal very much, and before the server took each course of the order, she came back and asked the cooks if each thing the person ordered was gluten free, which it was. The majority of the menu (except things thickened with flour, and desserts) are gluten free. Meats and fish are safe, as are potatoes, french fries, vegetables, etc. I would say the majority of our menu is indeed gluten free, and anywhere there might be gluten, the food can be removed and substituted with no trouble. Desserts are a tad more difficult, but we always have our delicious creme brulee (as well as fruit cobblers) on hand, 100% gluten free.

6.Are there dairy-free options?

There are also dairy free options as well. Mashed potatoes can not be done without dairy (butter, milk) but other starches can be employed, as well as double vegetables, cooked without butter of course. Meats and fish are always dairy free, and if sauces contain dairy, they can easily be omitted or substituted. The majority of desserts contain dairy, but the server and garde manger could easily (and would be happy to) work with a diner to figure out an alternative.

Ultimately, we are looking to make our customers happy. If that requires a little extra work on our part (which 90% of the time, it doesn't even) we are happy to do it. We just ask diners with allergies to let their servers know about the allergy up front, and we will be willing to work with the customer in whatever way they need. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask.

Please don't believe what you hear, special requests take 5 seconds to abide, and we really do not mind. Come see us soon.

Nicole Stanke
Line Cook/Front of House Manager, Hannah and Mason's

In addition to thanking Nicole for such a prompt reply, I would like to offer my solemn promise of not only a visitation with NAH in the next several weeks to try this for myself, but a glowing thank-you on behalf of allergic patrons everywhere. I hope this restaurant's willingness to share on this blog serves to increase their business. To Hannah & Masons, of Cranbury, New Jersey! My favorite line? " is not very difficult to work with an allergic customer" On behalf of all of us, thank you!
~The Allergic Diner

P.S. It is important to note that several minutes after receiving the email response, I received a follow-up
"I wrote the wrong thing down there under gluten free :) When I said fruit cobbler, I meant to say fruit and whipped cream. Sorry for that :)"


Allergic Girl said...

fantastic righterlady!

i'm already loving this resto....

maybe i should take a trip to jersey and meet you for dinner? ;-)

allergic diner said...

Anytime you'd like! :)

Allergic Girl said...

let's talk... ;-)