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    P.F. Chang's is Sued for Extra Charges on Gluten-Free Menu Items


    Scott Adams
    Image Caption: Photo: CC--Mark Crawley

    Celiac.com 02/02/2015 - On December 9th, 2014, Anna Marie Phillips filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court against P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Inc., headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, for discrimination and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The suit claims that P.F. Chang's forces people with celiac disease to pay higher prices for gluten-free versions of their menu items. According to the complaint, P.F. Chang's charges one extra dollar per gluten-free item, however, they do not add these surcharges on to their regular menu items.


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    Photo: CC--Mark CrawleyThe lawsuit is seeking class action status, and claims that over the past four years more than 3,000 people in 39 states have been affected at P.F. Chang's 204 restaurants. The plaintiff claims that the gluten-free diet is medically necessary for those with celiac disease, and those who eat at P.F. Chang's are forced to pay higher prices for gluten-free dishes, even if the dishes they order are naturally gluten-free. The plaintiff asserts that this arbitrary and unequal treatment constitues discrimination against consumers who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance, and that the added surcharge is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

    In the lawsuit Ms. Phillips and her attorneys, Anthony J. Orshansky and Justin Kachadoorian of Counselone, P.C. in Beverly Hills, California, seek an immediate injunction against any further surcharges on gluten-free items, civil penalties, compensatory damages and punitive damages. P.F. Chang's is represented by Jon P. Karbassakis and Michael K. Grimaldi of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, in Los Angeles, California.

    On January 23, 2015, P.F. Chang's removed the case to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (case number 5:15-cv-00344).

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    Now we have to move forward with companies that manufacture gluten-free products and grocery store that charge 3 times or more for gluten-free products compared to others.

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    Guest Josef Rosenfeld

    Posted

    I think that this suit should be dismissed with prejudice.

     

    A restaurant is in business to make money, NOT provide a public service.

     

    It costs more to make an allergen free menu item, as well as guarantee that said item is not contaminated by those allergens in the kitchen.

     

    I am sure that if you looked you would find many articles touting PF Chang as a leader and innovator in the offering of gluten free menu items, and having them many years before any other restaurant chain.

     

    To sue them and claim they are violating the ADA because they have the nerve to want to make a profit on those offerings will serve only to tell restaurant operators that it is NOT WORTH IT to try and sell gluten free products because you may be sued over someone's opinion that you charge too much and are thus discriminating against disabled Americans.

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    I am grateful to have restaurants who offer gluten free foods and take care to avoid cross-contamination. I acknowledge that it takes extra effort on their part to do so. By not compensating them for taking these cares and precautions, we risk losing these options. While I would rather not pay higher prices, I will do so gladly to be able to have a few restaurants who care about those of us who must eat gluten free. It is MY problem, and I would certainly understand a restaurant whose management does not want to jump through the hoops necessary to ensure my food safety. Penalizing them will ensure that they will discontinue their consideration. Quit the pity party. What a selfish, self-centered person this must be.

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    If you don't like the prices they charge you are free to go elsewhere. No one is FORCING you to pay extra, you choose to do so.

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    Honestly, I think this is ridiculous! Gluten-free food in general is much more expensive than regular because of the extra measures, preparations, and precautions necessary to ensure their safety to gluten-free consumers. Do I wish that prices on these things were lower? Yes, certainly, because it is taxing on the budget, but I am saying I understand why they are not. I just ate lunch at PF's today and had a very positive experience.

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    So...here is my question. If they win this case, could this force all manufacturers of gluten-free food to lower their prices? i.e. gluten-free pasta $3 vs regular $1

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    Shame on you for thinking you should get something that requires special preparation and extra effort for free. The chain uses special plates and extra caution, as well as high quality ingredients, and takes great care of sufferers. How petty.

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    I sympathize with people who have the disease, I think the lawsuit is stupid and selfish. It costs more to provide the special dishes, but the restaurant only charges $1 more. Is she trying to get the restaurant to stop serving people with celiac disease?

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    We are possibly about to venture into the gluten free territory with my daughter (possible celiac) and from what I understand, P.F. Chang's serves gluten free food differently (on special plates) and also takes extra precautions to ensure safe procedures are followed. I am more than happy to pay an extra dollar (or more) for this service and the fact that this restaurant tries to accommodate people. I want to sue this woman for possibly causing restaurants to stop trying to help serve people with food allergies and intolerances. I hope her case gets thrown out of court. I would hate to see restaurants stop trying to service populations that need a little extra care because of this case!!!

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    Get a life. Eat at home Anna. They are doing you a favor for having gluten free options.

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    For the love of God, you have GOT to be KIDDING!!! Anyone that has prepared a gluten free meal knows there is more expense in the materials and, more than that, the care taken to ensure that we, the celiacs (sounds like a Star Trek race, doesn't it?) don't get wiped out. If the chain is taking the proper precautions, I think a buck an item is a bargain.

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    So...here is my question. If they win this case, could this force all manufacturers of gluten-free food to lower their prices? i.e. gluten-free pasta $3 vs regular $1

    I think it is more likely to cause more restaurants to stop catering to people on a gluten-free diet than to make them lower prices.

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    This is another stupid lawsuit out of California. Everyone is out to get something for nothing. I echo some other comments. Eating gluten free is MORE expensive in general, that is the way it is. The ingredients are more expensive, the prep (especially in a restaurant) has to be handled more carefully, and if you don't want to pay the price to eat at P.F. Chang's then don't go there. I agree, paying $1 more for something to be gluten free is a deal. Some of the pizza places I go charge $5 to $8 more for a gluten free pizza and it is actually smaller than a "regular" pizza. (....and I'm happy to pay it.) All crap lawsuits like this is going to do is raise the prices even more for everybody. If you don't like paying the price, eat at home.

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    I am personally glad my issue wasn't with celiac disease.. but for the roughly two million people out there who actually suffer from it, this suit will hurt more than help.

     

    What is ridiculous is that I cannot believe that they are demanding that something that uses different ingredients and different levels or protection from cross contaminating with gluten-containing products cost the same as something from a regular menu.

     

    While this one person may win their little self-centered temper tantrum, it will just discourage all stores from offering a gluten-free menu for those that need it.

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    This lawsuit needs to be thrown out of court. Everyone knows gluten-free items are usually about 3-4 times more expensive than regular items (flours and baking mixes, etc.) This lawsuit is a slap in the face to the restaurant that is trying to accommodate your needs, Anna Marie Phillips. You are making a big mistake. You need to go after the non-organic companies making the flours and ingredients so expensive, NOT the restaurants who are welcoming you. I WILL be writing about this in my blog.

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    From someone who worked at P.F. Chang's when they were the first chain to offer a gluten-free menu this lady is trying for a "money grab," pure and simple. Chang's has gone above and beyond the call over the last 15 years to provide allergen-free dining. It's idiots like this lady that will make restaurants think twice before doing so in the future.

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    This suit will lose and lose quickly. It is sad that there are people out there who are this stupid that think they could win something like this. And it's sad that there are lawyers unwilling to counsel their clients appropriately and dissuade them from filing such ridiculous suits.

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    They are not that careful and safe. I receive food on the wrong plate all the time. I was served food breaded with regular flour and told it was "naturally gluten free". When I sent it back the server and the manager tried to bully me into accepting that load of bull. Paying extra for this poor service is outrageous.

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    My wife is gluten sensitive, not celiac, but we expect to pay a little more when eating out. Gluten free ingredients typically cost a little more, plus the process to cook gluten free is more costly due to the prep time to have clean surfaces, segregation of non-gluten free ingredients from gluten free ingredients, etc. We typically pay 2-3 dollars more per gluten free meal at other restaurants, so really a dollar more is a bargain. If this individual wins, I hope she goes after all the food industry. I am tired of paying 2-4 dollars more for gluten free products at the grocery store, as compared to their non-gluten free counter parts.

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    I hope some judge throws this out with costs assessed to the plaintiff. A more appropriate target for her wrath would be those P.F. Chang's outlets that don't believe in taking the necessary care with gluten free meals. I've only eaten in one location, and had no problems with it. Cheers to them; the small additional charge for the extra expense of keeping me from getting sick is certainly worth it. Suing them for charging more for their gluten free dishes is just wrong! If the ADA allows such a suit, it's wrong, too.

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    Guest Deborah

    Posted

    Shame on Ms. Phillips. Not only for the lawsuit but tucking (ducking) in under the ADA umbrella. Shame, Shame, Shame.

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    Guest HaloGirl

    Posted

    I think everyone is missing what she's suing for. She's saying PF Chang is charging extra for foods that are already naturally gluten free! That's ridiculous! We shouldn't be charged extra for things that are naturally gluten-free!

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    They are not that careful and safe. I receive food on the wrong plate all the time. I was served food breaded with regular flour and told it was "naturally gluten free". When I sent it back the server and the manager tried to bully me into accepting that load of bull. Paying extra for this poor service is outrageous.

    Then don't go there Cheryl.

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    Guest MichaelT

    Posted

    Well done! If the complainants goal was to ensure that there are less gluten free products and services available, this will surely do it.

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    Guest Heather

    Posted

    Thanks for bringing this news story to our attention. I was fuming when I heard about this frivolous lawsuit. I agree with so many of the comments here, indicating appreciation for a restaurant that does such a good job of accommodating gluten-free as P.F. Chang's does and that we don't mind paying a little extra. Maybe if we each jot a note or send an e-mail to P.F. Chang's showing them our appreciation and support, that would show them how so many of us feel.

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    In 1994 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which led me to create Celiac.com in 1995. I created this site for a single purpose: To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives. Celiac.com was the first site on the Internet dedicated solely to celiac disease. In 1998 I founded The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore!, and I am the co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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