Interview with Hall's Chop House, A Restaurant that Truly Cares
Amy Mogel, the mother of a 16-year-old son with a severe peanut allergy, recently shared her positive eating experience at Hall's Chop House in Charleston, S.C.
Owner Tommy Hall responds to her article and shares why his restaurant is so committed to catering to people with food allergies.
How often do patrons of your restaurant come in with food allergies? How do you handle their requests?
Guests come in with food allergies nightly, every single night, and we take them very seriously. We love for them to inform us right away, for any type of allergy, so we can really hold their hand and walk them through the menu. Overall, as the owner, I’m responsible. But the waiters are the front line of defense, so it’s their responsibility to inform everyone else. They inform the front-of-the-house manager and the executive chef. They also inform the food runners, to make sure they’re very careful about what they deliver to the tables.
In her article, Amy talks about how you personally went out to the grocery store to buy peanut-free ice cream for her son. Why is your restaurant so committed to catering to people with food allergies?
I don’t have any food allergies myself, but we do whatever it takes to make a guest happy when they walk into Hall’s Chop House. It’s an extension of our hospitality. It’s about caring for your guests, about caring for your job.
Amy’s son had an allergy and my ice cream cartons weren’t labeled, so I called my ice cream conveyor and it went to voicemail. Time was of the essence – I mean, I couldn’t just wait for a call-back, so I went across the street to the grocery store and made sure to check the label and ingredients on the ice cream container and found the one that fit that table.
We have had some bad experiences. I remember one time when we held our guests' hands and walked them through everything, and they ordered the apple pie for dessert, and the waiter forgot it is made of an almond crust. We did have to rush them to the emergency room, but luckily they had an EpiPen, so they were okay.
That’s a worst-case scenario. We were doing our steps ahead of time, but that situation made us realize how important our jobs are. We're not just serving and delivering food; we’re informing, we’re empowering, and people’s lives are in our hands.
Another huge thing is gluten. Everybody wants to eat gluten-free, either because of an allergy or a lifestyle choice, and actually 98 percent of the items on our menu are gluten-free. Ultimately, it’s a job, so we have to change and evolve and understand our guests’ needs.
When eating at restaurants, what steps should people with food allergies or parents with children who have food allergies take to protect themselves?
It’s really good to notify us when making a reservation. When they do this, everyone in the restaurant, including the the chefs, the staff, the busboys, all are in the know. For their own safety, I also highly suggest that they inform the waiter, especially when they sit down. Knowing how severe your allergies are, the waiter will inform the house manager. The house manager’s number one job is to care for the guests. You definitely have to be careful; allergies are serious.
Why is it important for restaurants to cater to people with food allergies?
People's lives are in your hands. It’s your job. It’s what you do.
What steps should restaurants take to make sure that patrons with food allergies are protected and can have the best eating experience possible?
Restaurants need to care. They really have to care and take their time, care about the clientele, care about the food they serve, care about the people that take their hard-earned dollars to dine in their establishment. We’re the owners, of course we care, but owners also need to instill that care in the waiters, the managers, and the bartenders. A server and waiter have to care, know the menu, and know the ingredients in every dish so that guests can have a great experience.
A special thanks to Tommy Hall!
To visit Hall's Chop House website, click here.