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  • Scott Adams
    Scott Adams

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

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    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.

    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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    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.

    Agreed. This lady could ruin it for all of us.

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    Great idea! The last thing we need is to make it unpopular to take the extra precautions at restaurants to make food safe for celiacs and other food allergies! I just posted a "thank you" to their customer service website at pfchangs.com/commentsweb if anyone else is interested!

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    I agree! we pay 3 times for our bread. We are lucky we are only asked for $1.00 for special service!! Why would restaurants want to help us if it is going to cost them money?Also, I think a letter or email to PF Chang's is a great idea to let them know we are in support of them.

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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.

    Jeanne, you clearly have no grasp of what it takes to ensure products are celiac-safe gluten free. Companies charge what they do so they can stay in business. Yes, products cost more - they cost more to make.

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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.

    Any business that provides gluten free options should be compensated and appreciated for their efforts! And, to bring lawsuits against these pioneers only discourages innovation. Suing P.F. Chang's is counterproductive to encouraging more entrepreneurs to offer gluten-free options. Please stop these frivolous lawsuits.

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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.

    Anyone who trusts an entire chain is supremely naive. To err is human. Murphy's Law: If anything can go wrong, it will. A local celiac in one of my support groups I know had dinner at an upscale restaurant with a separate gluten-free kitchen, but her order was taken to the wrong kitchen. She got ataxia. That's brain damage that she may not recover from. I never saw her after that, only having heard about it from our group leader. I assume she was too disabled from the incident(s) of eating out to get around and communicate.

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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.

    I am with Jeanne on her comment! Why should we have to pay two to three times as much for a loaf of bread that has half as much bread as a regular loaf?

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    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.

    I so agree. I hope she loses. I'm happy to find restaurants with gluten-free options and am happy to pay extra. Obviously there is a higher cost to provide something gluten free!! Just go buy your own gluten-free flour and other products and see how expensive they are. The restaurant has to pay extra as well.

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    P.F. Chang's could adopt a different business model--why do they have to recover every blessed dollar? Besides, they are not very creative! Here in the East there is a restaurant called Legal Seafood that offers many gluten free options-- they indicate which items on the regular menu can be prepared without gluten-- and there are lots of options. There is no charge for the adjustments. I have celiac disease and I really appreciate this. Go there often. Do not see why other restaurants cannot follow this model. Everyone would be happy and no suits would be necessary.

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    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.

    Absolutely right. Many restaurant owners will tell you they can't or won't provide a gluten-free menu because of all the costs and precautions involved. P.F. Chang's is one of the very few places where I can have a wide variety of choices and not have to worry about hurting afterwards. I'm happy to pay the extra cost - and I don't live or have lawyers in Beverly Hills. Then I guess every store/restaurant that sells gluten-free products should be sued since all of these items are more expensive than non-gluten-free products.

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    It has right on the menu that gluten-free is $1 more (or whatever). The person has every right to leave if they don't think it is fair. I can rarely go to restaurants because I am sensitive so I am happy when a restaurant is able to accommodate me.

     

    That being said, diabetes, Celiac disease, and numerous other diseases do fall under the 504 plan in schools which allows kids accommodations in schools (for example). For for diabetes, kids can go to the nurse, be able to make up missed work, etc. For Celiac they can go to the bathroom more often, be able to make up miss work, etc. Depending on individual needs. There are really good reasons we have the Americans with Disabilities Act!

     

    But, I would hate to no longer go out to any restaurants because of a court case.

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    Celiac.com's Founder and CEO, Scott was diagnosed with celiac disease  in 1994, and, due to the nearly total lack of information available at that time, was forced to become an expert on the disease in order to recover. Scott launched the site that later became Celiac.com in 1995 "To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives."  In 1998 he founded The Gluten-Free Mall which he sold in 2014. He is co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.

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