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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 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.

    I am not happy about paying more, but I agree with Celia. I'm just happy that restaurants like P.F. Chang's are willing to make every effort to accommodate those with celiac disease. I hope this law suit will not discourage the industry from providing gluten free alternatives, whether in restaurants or super markets.

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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 have celiac disease and know the true cost of cooking gluten free - and it costs me more at home than back when I cooked whatever I wanted. I also grew up in restaurants and know the small line between what you take in, and what you get to keep. I agree with you wholeheartedly, restaurants have to pay more to cook gluten free, and they deserve to pay more. It is my choice whether I go to a restaurant, I can just choose not to go.

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    I think this is not fair I am celiac, and know that gluten free food items cost more. I love to eat at PF Chang's.

    I am thrilled they offer gluten free items, and even offer gluten free soy sauce- their servers are well-trained, and I have no complaints. Yes, it may cost more, but any one who buys gluten free groceries knows they cost more than the conventional glutenous ones. This is a ridiculous case.

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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.

    Amen to the comment above for the gluten-free products and grocery stores charging insane prices for gluten-free items!

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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.

    An extra charge for product that is naturally gluten-free is like theft.

    An extra charge for gluten-free is reasonable given the relatively low volume of these items and the requirement of special handling.

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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 totally agree with you. PF Chang's goes out of their way to make sure the food being served as gluten free is safe. Even if there aren't different ingredients, they have to put extra time and effort into preparing and serving the dishes. I don't want to start having fewer safe place to dine because restaurants are afraid of being sued.

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    I don't think this lawsuit is fair. Gluten free products cost more than non gluten free products. I know eating gluten free is more costly but it's not fair to make the restaurants pay the extra.

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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 agree

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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.

    Well said, Josef. I have celiac disease and eat out seldom out of fear that I will be made ill. For those restaurants who provide the care that guarantees my safety when they prepare my food, I am grateful. The ingredients to make some gluten free foods do cost more, and when the food is naturally gluten free, it takes more time and effort to prepare it so it is not cross-contaminated by coming into contact with any gluten.

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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 agree, I'm celiac and middle income and very thankful that restaurants take the trouble and time to make my food safe. yes it may cost a bit more, but if we start suing then they'll just stop and say 'ok, no more gluten-free foods, you people are too much trouble'. Let's not start something bad here that comes back to bite us.

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    Lord save us from the Anna's of this world, always expecting everyone to cater to them and do it for less. gluten-free costs more, is more time consuming, takes special equipment/kitchen areas in restaurants, and thankfully there are restaurants who go to the trouble! But if they start getting sued then they just might say, why bother. As a celiac I totally appreciate restaurants that take the time and effort to prepare food just for me, and it's certainly worth on extra dollar or two. If you don't like it, eat at home and quit suing for Pete's sake so the rest of us can enjoy eating out!!!

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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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