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Outback's gluten-free Menu
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(this information was originally posted in the Bearer of Bad News thread, but I want to make sure everyone sees it)

I just got off the phone with a very nice woman named Leila at OSI Restaurant Partners, which is the umbrella company for Outback. She was flabbergasted that there is a rumor going around that they are getting rid of the gluten-free menu at Outback. She said that the opposite is true, and that they work closely with Cynthia Cooper with GIG to make the experience as good and easy as possible for celiacs and gluten-intolerant folks. So, to make this crystal clear:

OUTBACK IS NOT DISCONTINUING THEIR GLUTEN-FREE MENU

When she asked if I had eaten there as a celiac, I said that I had but I got sick, she said to make sure I come back again because they try as hard as they can and they're learning and what they hear from celiacs themselves helps them serve us better.

Here is where you can find their gluten-free menu: http://www.outback.com/ourmenu/index.asp

It was updated just last month!

They are working with Cynthia again to develop gluten-free menus for their other concept restaurants, though I forget exactly which ones she said, I know Carraba's was one. So, I think that in the future, we can expect gluten-free menus from all of their concept chains - Carraba's, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Bonefish, Fleming's, Roy's, Blue Coral, and Lee Roy Selmon's.

Eating out is always a risk, but places like Outback try to make it less risky, and I personally applaud them for that.

Hope that clears things up :D

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I'd be really interested in a poll of how many people would pay more for their gluten-free meal than a regular meal.

.. and I guess so would outback!

I know a UK chain that makes a gluten-free range but they are all prepared off premises and just reheated to avoid CC issues.

Personally I would be happy to pay more to reduce the risk....

How much more I guess depends how they minimise the risk.... and the type of item.

For instance lets take a gluten-free burger ... I'd be happy to pay a 50% suppliment to have it in a gluten-free bun. Indeed if faced with you can have the regular one but without bun and risk of cooking contamination which we will try and minimise AND we have a gluten-free one with everything prepared off site except the burger which will be cooked ona dedicated gluten-free grill then I'd go for the suppliment everytime...

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Since people rarely eat out alone, and since it's the celiac who generally chooses the restaurant, I think it would be very bad marketing to make them pay more. The restaurant should be willing to absorb the extra cost in appreciation for the celiac helping them with marketing and publicity.

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Bonefish and Carraba's at least already have gluten-free menus. Just go to the websites.

richard

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I am very happy to see how well Outback is cooporating with us celiacs :) I will have to see if DH will take me sometime now! I don't care if it's a little extra $$...key word being a LITTLE extra! I think we ought to be accomodated without having to fork out a fortune! That's what good service is all about!

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Since people rarely eat out alone, and since it's the celiac who generally chooses the restaurant, I think it would be very bad marketing to make them pay more. The restaurant should be willing to absorb the extra cost in appreciation for the celiac helping them with marketing and publicity.

I can see that might work if the majority of celiacs were diagnosed and on the gluten-free diet, but right now the demand is pretty small.

We're not talking small cost here. If a restaurant wanted to take the steps that would provide reliably safe food, it would cost a great deal of money and inconvenience to them, and it's reasonable to compensate them for the cost. I would much prefer eating in a restaurant that I knew had a tiny gluten-free dedicated kitchen with a trained cook in it, and a manager, chef, and waitstaff who understood the concepts well enough to deliver that food to the table safely. Besides the cost of that dedicated kitchen and the sometimes higher food cost, this all takes regular training, which is time lost for both the trainer and the trainee.

Restaurants are generally businesses run on a small profit margin. The cost of doing something like this without conpensation would mean that nobody would do it.

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Here's the response I got from emailing Outback, same answer, different person:

G'day,

Thank you for your e-mail. Sorry you were misinformed. Outback

Steakhouse is updating our gluten free menus for our stores. Copies

will soon be available to them. I've attached a copy of the gluten-free menu to

this email. Our website, www.outback.com, also contains an updated copy

of the gluten-free menu.

Thank you,

Michelle

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I can see that might work if the majority of celiacs were diagnosed and on the gluten-free diet, but right now the demand is pretty small.

We're not talking small cost here. If a restaurant wanted to take the steps that would provide reliably safe food, it would cost a great deal of money and inconvenience to them, and it's reasonable to compensate them for the cost. I would much prefer eating in a restaurant that I knew had a tiny gluten-free dedicated kitchen with a trained cook in it, and a manager, chef, and waitstaff who understood the concepts well enough to deliver that food to the table safely. Besides the cost of that dedicated kitchen and the sometimes higher food cost, this all takes regular training, which is time lost for both the trainer and the trainee.

Restaurants are generally businesses run on a small profit margin. The cost of doing something like this without conpensation would mean that nobody would do it.

True, but currently all the already mentioned restaurants are doing the best they can to accomodate us at no extra cost, and previously I seldom ate at most of them, so they have increased their number of customers. They see a benefit to doing more for us so that we can eat there and for no extra cost. Marketing is all about getting more people to chose your product ... if there were a TGI Fridays next to an Outback, the choice for me and those dining with me would be easy. Outback has an advantage because they are willing to do extra for me. Some restaurants would find this financially adventageous, others would not.

I met some old friends I had not seen in years at Bonefish Grill, I chose the restaurant because everyone wanted me to be able to eat. No one had ever been there before, except for me. The others loved it and couldn't wait to go back. So, even though it may have cost extra to safeguard my food, which I don't think it did, I think their gluten-free menu is just their stuff that is already gluten-free, just like Outback, Cheeseburger, etc., in the long run, they have several new customers who are willing to drive out of their way to eat there. Word of mouth is the best advertisement, and these restaurants who go out of their way for us have us talking about them all the time. I think having a gluten-free menu is a great marketing tool for these places.

I am not talking about them having a separate kitchen and chef for us ... that would most certainly be cost prohibitive.

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Does anyone know if the Outback gluten-free menu is available internationally? I've eaten at Outback in Taiwan and S Korea before I found out about celiac and I'm going to be heading back to those countries in a couple of months.

Thanks!

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We had eaten previously at Carraba's (several times) and Sunday we took 11 people to dinner. 3 of them had never been to Carraba's and lived only about 15 minutes from there. They said they are going back again, because they loved the food. Because I am the one who chooses the restaurant, I chose Carraba's as so many love Italian food. So now they have 3 new customers that they did not have before.

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True, but currently all the already mentioned restaurants are doing the best they can to accomodate us at no extra cost, and previously I seldom ate at most of them, so they have increased their number of customers. They see a benefit to doing more for us so that we can eat there and for no extra cost. Marketing is all about getting more people to chose your product ... if there were a TGI Fridays next to an Outback, the choice for me and those dining with me would be easy. Outback has an advantage because they are willing to do extra for me. Some restaurants would find this financially adventageous, others would not.

I am not talking about them having a separate kitchen and chef for us ... that would most certainly be cost prohibitive.

Yes I realise they are managing something but the question is if there were three chains, one TGI'f, and outback and a third who had a dedicated kitchen but charged a little extra for the gluten-free stuff BUT the gluten-free stuff was guaranteed.

Restaurants are generally businesses run on a small profit margin. The cost of doing something like this without conpensation would mean that nobody would do it.

I agree here completely... individual restaurants rarely make much money.. Especially a franchise the manager/owner might afford a nice newish car but he's not rich...indeed I have been told by friends who are in the business in the US that its practically impossible to make any real money by owning a single resto because the margins are so tight.

(I had a friend of a friend who owned several subway's, sold them all and took cooking and resto management courses here in Paris which is where I know him from and went back and set up a small but growing chain because he maintained it was impossible to make any real money owning a single resto which was what e really wanted)

The point is there are many resto chains that choose to exclude large sections of the community for purely practical reasons such as halal or kosher.

Anyway, I actually own a 50% share in a bar myself.. its a large bar and we had planned to do food and I had obviously a preference for doing something gluten free...

When I looked into it we had a architect who specialises in bars & resto's look at the possibility of a kitchen but even the cheapest we could legally put in would have taken years to repay itself, that in itself not being the obstacle because part of the reason for doing food was marketing.

To have actually done it and made a gluten-free area and sourced more expensive suppliers that could guarantee gluten-free would have been impossible... with the added cost of gluten-free food and a dedicated area the kitchen would never have paid back and I had cash to lay down... if I needed a loan to do the kitchen then I would never have paid back the loan.

The other point most people don't realise is most of the cost of putting ina kitchen isn't burners and ovens it is compliance with hygene rules and safety. You actually have to put in fire safety and stainless steel surfaces etc. and make structural alterations for working spaces etc.

The cost of running a resto is largely staff costs followed by food costs ....

I know a lot of resto owners and chef's personally and the margins are very slim.

They cannot afford to spend extra time on individuals on a regular basis... I know one chef very well if you send anything back when the resto is busy he just bins it, plate and all and cooks it fresh because its cheaper than faffing about... and he can't spend time on that or the other customers food gets out of synch and upsets his planning..

The point being that any resto catering for gluten-free is intrinsically going to have higher costs and lower margins than its neighbour. Someone has to pay.... either they increase the cost of all meals or gluten-free meals...

As eKatherine says

I can see that might work if the majority of celiacs were diagnosed and on the gluten-free diet, but right now the demand is pretty small.

Even if we all take people back on a regualr basis its still a small demand and really if a resto needs a few customers that much its already sliding out of business. There is a very good reason why franchises and chains are so popular.

You also have to consider that many of us do get glutened when we eat out, not every time but frequently enough to make us think twice about a place that does gluten-free along side regular.

I simply don't see a business model where gluten-free food can be prepared reliably and not cost extra and I think most customers would not be happy to be paying more for their food because of a tiny minority, they will simply take their business elsewhere.

Marketing is all about getting more people to chose your product .

Not really its so much more.... its about convincing customers to choose your product over someone elses.

With current diagnosis rates the number of actual celiacs is very small (1:4000 or so) so even if we all bring 10 other customers that's still 1:400....

As people on this thread have indicated they don't want to pay more.... but we are only 1:4000 .. the people we go with don't want to pay more either but might accept it.... BUT the most important thing is that MOST people will not want to go if its costs 10% extra to the TGI's next door.

Marketing is about the masses, not the minorities. Its about providing what MOST people want at the "right price " and quality that people are willing to pay for.

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I have eaten many times at Outback and I have never had a problem getting glutened. The wait staff and chefs are all knowledgeable and trained with this disease, at least the one I go to regularly in Illinois. We don't care if we would have to pay a few extra $$ so I can enjoy eating out once in a while and get to have a treat: their Chocolate Thunder from Down Under - it is also gluten free!

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Very cool. A friend wants to go out to dinner tonight...I think I'll suggest Outback! :)

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We had eaten previously at Carraba's (several times) and Sunday we took 11 people to dinner. 3 of them had never been to Carraba's and lived only about 15 minutes from there. They said they are going back again, because they loved the food. Because I am the one who chooses the restaurant, I chose Carraba's as so many love Italian food. So now they have 3 new customers that they did not have before.

Mouse, this is completely off topic but your picture is so funny. :lol: Everytime I run across it, it startles me for some reason. Can't figure it out and thought I would share.

Nicole

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