Last month, news broke of a class action lawsuit that could shake up the celiac world, or at least bring more attention to the growing health condition.
A California woman filed a suit against the popular restaurant, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, claiming that the restaurant is violating the civil and disability rights of its gluten-free patrons.
So what exactly is the violation?
She feels it’s discriminatory that there’s an upcharge on P.F. Chang’s gluten-free dishes. And she is seeking to eliminate those surcharges across the board as well as seek restitution of previously paid surcharges.
But is being GF really a disability?
In my experience, most people with celiac or gluten sensitivity are just happy when they can eat out at a restaurant with their friends and family and actually order off the menu – albeit a separate one, but still. Plus, I’ve always been a bit partial to P.F. Chang’s because they have been on the forefront of the gluten-free push to serve our little dietary subsection of the world.
But, is it discriminatory to charge us more for that experience?
When you think about all of the staff training, education, and additional safeguards that must be put into place to avoid cross-contamination, you can quickly see that those services do cost more money. From a business standpoint, it makes sense that customers will have to bear some of this cost.
And that’s along the same lines of what the Celiac Disease Foundation concluded as well. The CEO, Marilyn G. Geller, said the following: “Celiac Disease Foundation recognizes that restaurants bear a financial burden for the employee training and other accommodations that are required to serve meals that are safe for those with celiac disease.”
More GF restaurants please
Also, if anything, we would like to see more restaurants stepping up to the challenge of serving GF patrons.
But one concern is that this lawsuit may scare those restaurants away, or at least make them think twice before venturing into GF-land. If they’ll be forced to bear 100% of the cost of establishing safe food environments, then some may just opt out completely.
Setting up a clean kitchen at home is a monumental task in and of itself, right? But doing so on a commercial level, especially with locations scattered throughout the US and/or world, must be absolutely overwhelming. The training, the equipment, the systems that need to be in place – it all costs a considerable amount.
So while I completely sympathize with the women who filed the suit, because it does stink to pay $1 more for an entrée that won’t send you to the ER later, it’s also a cost (I think) that many of us don’t mind paying.
After all, we get to go out and have a “normal” meal with friends, something that wasn’t possible for most of us just a few years ago unless we brought along our own meal.
How do you feel about the lawsuit? Please tell us in the comments below!
Steph Weber is a Midwest-based freelance writer and marketing maven, who also happens to love food – minus the gluten, dairy, and eggs. To hire her or see more of her work, please visit stephweber.com.