*CLOSED FOR BUSINESS 2012*
After a rather innocuous and mostly positive post about Better Burger, Celiac Guy voiced some serious concerns about cross-contamination.
I sent Better Burger an email through their website and was contacted by Stephanie regarding Celiac Guy's concerns and specific comment.
Stephanie is the Director of Operations at Better Burger AND she’s a nutritionist so she really knows her stuff from a restaurant perspective and a health perspective. Regarding in-service training about food allergies and cross-contamination, all new hires are trained in a program that Stephanie helped to create and every staff member, old or new, receives this training at least once a year. The training stresses that when serving someone with allergies lives are in the servers' hands. Clearly, Stephanie and her team realize the seriousness of food allergies. Great work.
Stephanie’s initial reply to my email expressing Celiac Guy’s concerns was as follows:
1. Regarding the fries and veggie burgers: the veggie burgers are sometimes heated in the same oven, but not on the same tray.
2. We have ingredient lists for most of our food items in the restaurant, just ask a manager to see one (also, always double check to make sure we have not made substitutions and/or changed brands) i.e. check to see that it is the most up to date manual.
3. If you or your readers with allergies have food related questions, you should ask to speak with a manager to place your order. While our counter staff are provided with general information about our food, they do not receive extensive training on allergies.
Stephanie offered to meet over lunch to get the full scoop on all things Better Burger and food allergies.
We met at the Chelsea outpost of Josie’s fast food burger extension. I arrived early and wanted to see if this ingredient list actually existed and was easily accessible. I asked the young man behind the counter if he could tell me the ingredients of the hotdogs. This beautiful binder was produced with every ingredient listed for everything they serve and calorie/fat/sodium etc count. Yay.
I learned a few extra interesting tidbits. Many of the organic products they serve are name brand items you’d recognize and applaud: Yves Hot Dogs, Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen, Eden Foods, Applegate Farms and Soya Kaas. More yay. [PS Their condiments, including the wasabi sauce, have no High Fructose Corn Syrup-the only sugar I saw was organic cane juice. Double yay.]
In direct response to Celiac Guy’s specific concerns, Stephanie delineated how the burgers and fries are cooked-I even had a look at the kitchen to see the process:
-All red meat [beef, buffalo, ostrich] are cooked on one grill.
-All fowl patties, chicken and turkey, are cooked on different grill.
-Veggie burgers are made in-house are cooked in a separate pan. They may be reheated in the same oven as the fries but always on a separate tray, on a separate oven rack. Never together.
I was satisfied that Better Burger has made a commitment to organic and natural foods and that their food allergen training is satisfactory. But on the consumer end, because I believe that having a yummy allergen-free meal is also our responsibility, how can we, the wary allergic consumer, ensure that we have an allergen-friendly, gluten-free meal at Better Burger?
-Speak with a manager upon entering. Get to know them by name. If you like your meal, go back and ask for the manager, establish a relationship.
-Read the ingredient manual. Look for and identify any potential pitfalls.
-Ask if any product substitutions have been made.
-Alert the manager of any over and above needs in a clear manner. For example, if you’d like your cook to wear fresh gloves or cook your burger in a separate, clean pan, now is the time to tell them.
-Enjoy your meal!
I had a burger and fries for lunch, no issues and all was yummy. I hope to be back soon. Thank you Stephanie and Better Burger!