During a recent trip to Gourmet Burger Kitchen in London, I was pleased to find allergy accommodations front and center throughout the restaurant.
In the United States, we generally do a decent job on the food allergy front. That usually means communicating somebody has an allergy at the table, followed by a chef or allergist coming to the table to identify how to accommodate the customer and if it's feasible for the kitchen to produce a meal. The experience leaves those who suffer from allergies feeling like a burden. Local restaurants that do a great job accommodating allergies are largely found by word of mouth within the community. Here at Gourmet Burger Kitchen on the other side of the pond, they do it in a completely different way.
Would the European style of food regulation lead to greater limitations and choice of available foods at restaurants? It almost certainly would, and that is not what I'm proposing. The simple question is, why is it so difficult for the private market to identify needs and rapidly change to suit the demand of customers. It took McDonald's what seems like an eternity to make breakfast available all day.
As we take a random walk into obscurity, we can all agree the food business is a very difficult one. A restaurant location changes names here in the United States faster than you change your underwear. Those that have even the slightest success quickly get pushed down the franchise road. Once a corporate structure is placed around food and is forced to comply with the myriad differing state regulations, it produces a straight jacket that almost assures there will be no more progress ever in its lifetime.
Stick with me, it's just a theory.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen, London
As six of us from four different countries ordered and sat down to eat, there was a calm at the table that I had not experienced for years. The usual ritual of special needs was completely removed from the conversation, simply by the restaurant being prepared for any food scenario and communicating that in advance. I would go as far as to say it was one of the most pleasant eating experiences I've had in years, and it all occurred at a random but well prepared burger joint.
We complain about foreign companies eating our lunch, so to speak. We should turn the spotlight on ourselves from time to time and objectively assess improvements that could be made in the US. In my opinion, Gourmet Burger Kitchen has done that assessment well and we all have a lot to learn. I've enjoyed a dinner on the other side of the world with some terrific international friends, free from internal burden or allergy anxiety. Now why can't I do that here?
Thank you Gourmet Burger Kitchen!