This probably isn't news to anyone, but Texas Roadhouse no longer has a gluten free menu. It came as a surprise to me because when we were there in August the waiter printed out a menu for me. On our more recent visit I was informed that they are no longer providing a gluten free menu, but the manager would be happy to help with my selection. She then proceeded to name things she remembered being on the gluten free menu. Luckily I had kept my copy from our earlier visit and checked it before we left the house (I like to be prepared because ordering takes me extra time as it is), so I knew most of the precautions. The manager was very nice, but I don't think she was very educated on gluten free issues. I think my mom was more indignant than I was at the time, but the more I thought about it I knew that I had to write a letter to corporate; then the longer my complaint letter became the more angry I was.
Here is what the Texas Roadhouse website says about their decision:
"We are sorry but we no longer offer our gluten-free menu. It was a very difficult decision, but we concluded that due to the multi-use of utensils, supplier changes, substitutions or the possibility of human error, we could not offer our guests a total assurance that the items were indeed 100% gluten-free. As such, we decided that the best approach was for the management team at each restaurant to work with guests individually to ensure that they can make the most informed menu decisions. Please ask to speak to the managing partner, who will be happy to accommodate any requests or provide information about our food and preparation. Thank you for your interest in Texas Roadhouse."
Here is my question, this is the best approach for whom? There is just as much of a chance that I will get glutened even if the manager is very knowledgeable. The issues they mention, multi-use of tools, supplier changes, substitutions or human error, don't change just because I consult someone about the regular menu. Unless I go back to supervise every move of the kitchen staff no one can guarantee me a gluten free dining experience at any restaurant I visit. But not having to be in the kitchen is one of the reasons I like to go out to eat, so I accept the risk. So, for whom is this the best approach? Corporate, of course. They are shifting the responsibility from themselves to the local restaurant chains and their specific management team. Is corporate even giving them any training on what gluten free means? Not that I can tell.
Here is the letter that I sent via the "Tell us about your recent visit" on their website:
I am very disappointed with my recent visit to our local Texas Roadhouse. We have been loyal visitors of your restaurant for many years. I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in July and was very happy to discover that your local location had a gluten free menu when we visited this summer. However, at our last visit I was informed that they will no longer print out the gluten free menu because they cannot guarantee the gluten free status of any item on the menu because everything is made on site and cross contamination could be an issue.
You should know that as a Celiac I understand that I am always taking a risk going out eat, even at a friend's house. I know that unless I make the food myself, I cannot be guaranteed that anything I eat will be gluten free. However, I choose to take the risk because I like to eat out and socialize with friends and family.
If everything truly is made fresh at your restaurants that should give you a huge advantage in the gluten free world. Your chefs should know every ingredient that goes into all the food they prepare and then should be able to communicate that to the patrons. I did not feel this was the case at all. I felt like Texas Roadhouse in general did not welcome me to eat there. The manager came over to inform me that they will no longer print the gluten free menu and then tried to remember what was on the menu as a way of helping me make an "informed decision". She was trying to be nice, but I don't think she had much of an idea about gluten free issues. If this is the way Texas Roadhouse has chosen to handle the patrons that need to be gluten free then you need to give your managers and staff better training to accommodate this. More and more people are being diagnosed with Celiac Disease every day. It affects 3 million people in the USand 97% of those are undiagnosed. With the amount of increased awareness and new information about Celiac Disease, it is being estimated that the number of known sufferers will increase world-wide by a factor of 10 in the next few years. For more information, you can visit these websites: https://www.celiacdisease.net/ and https://www.gluten.net/.
I realize that you feel like you have to protect Texas Roadhouse from liabilities, but there are plenty of restaurants that have gluten free menus, including Outback Steakhouse that is just around the corner from our local TR. The Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) even offers a program to help educate restaurants on gluten free issues. I am asking you to please reconsider your gluten free menu and show that ALL of your guests are important to you. Having the management team work individually with guests (even a well-trained manager) is not going to change the fact that you cannot guarantee a gluten free dining experience. The individual chains may still have problems with cross contamination due to shared utensils, supplier changes, human error, etc. These are not going to change just because you no longer have a gluten free menu. All that is changing is that you no longer have to corporately take responsibility for what is happening at the local level and this is irresponsible to a growing number of your patrons.
I'm really interested to see what kind of response I get. I'll keep you posted!