After my last post about Uno Chicago Grill having gluten-free pizza, I received lots of online and offline comments that said Uno has some compliancy issues with their gluten-free program as of now (Dec 2008). Uno's publicist set up a chat between me and their VP of Marketing, Rick. Here’s what I came away with after an hour long conversation.
According to Rick, Uno Chicago Grill has worked on a gluten-free menu for the past three to four years. Uno's current Chief Executive Officer, Frank W. Guidara, has a “high sensitivity to issues related to nutrition and health and the Uno menu.”
QUESTION: What are the current training protocols for employees on allergies and customer care?
--According to Rick, Uno's staff receives training on a quarterly basis.
--"Staff" includes servers, managers, cooks and the culinary lead, which is the kitchen manager. The culinary lead is specially trained to run the kitchen.
--Uno's has a GLUTEN FREE button on their Uno ordering computers. (They do not have an "ALLERGY" button in their computer however.) The GF “ticket” once created is followed to ensure that that plate gets the proper attention.
QUESTION: What if you have more questions about the ingredients in your particular dish?
--Uno's has “Nutritional Kiosks” in the lobby of every Unos so patrons can get the entire breakdown of ingredients of every item on their menu. Here’s uNO'S online GF menu and allergen-protocols.
QUESTION: How is Uno's currently differentiating its packaging/processing/plating of gluten-free pizzas?
--Uno's gluten-free pizza is created by a subcontractor and is pre-cooked.
--Uno's GF pizza is thin crust.
--Uno's serves a flat bread pizza that is also thin; however, according to Rick: "The Gluten Free pizzas are round, the flat bread are oblong – the difference in shape is striking."
--To the pre-cooked GF pizzas Uno's adds GF sauce and cheese [which doesn't have any wheat based anti-caking agent] and spice mix [which is GF] all on-site.
--Uno's doesn’t have a way to delineate a take-away GF pizza order. They are looking into creating that now.
QUESTION: Is Uno currently cooking GF meals in same oven as non-GF meals ?
--Yes, but different pizza pie pans are used.
Above all, Uno's VP of Marketing said Uno's is interested in “...doing better. [We’re] committed to the well being of our guests...and we welcome dialogue with patrons or potential patrons.”
However, they only know what we like and don't like (or worse made us sick) if we reach out and tell them. This is a company that says they want to know. So I say, tell them!
If you have an Uno's near you and you’ve tried the GF products [I haven’t as it’s not in NYC yet] and you want to talk to them about it you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org. That email address goes to two women who sit outside of the president’s office. You can also call them at this toll free number: 866 600 8667, ask for the “hospitality center.”