Late last year, Terre à Terre was forced to close temporarily after a fire swept through its ground-floor kitchen,caused by a pile of tumble-dried tea towels which had self-combusted.
The restaurant’s owners Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor spent £200k on new equipment for the vegetarian restaurant's kitchen, which re-opened in February.Staff were retained and the restaurant is now going from strength-to-strength.
In this podcast, BigHospitality paid a visit to the 100-cover restaurant; to meet marketing & communications manager Olivia Reid and find out exactly what it does to cater for customers with dietary requirements.
Aside from its vegetarian and vegan offerings, Terre à Terre is a prime example of a business that has taken on the responsibility of catering for other requirements, allergies and intolerances - ranging from coeliac disease through to macrobiotics (Not heard of it? Take a read of the previous part of this feature).
The restaurant has created ‘The Bible’ – a breakdown of all the ingredients used in every one of its dishes, with tags indicating exactly what allergies those ingredients are or aren’t suitable, and whether or not a dish could be flexible for allergy suffers based on the removal of those ingredients.
“It’s become something which is integral to the restaurant,” Reid tells BigHospitality. “When we remove the dish, we have to replace it with something that offers the same choices – if we take a vegan dish off the menu, we will replace it with another vegan option.
“It’s our unique selling point, customers know we’ve made that effort.”
Staff training & costs
There are of course risks with being so accommodating for so many different requirements, so, as Olivia explains, staff training is crucial if you want to avoid any big mistakes.
“It’s very tight training for the back-of-house,” she says. “It has to be really because they have to learn about really keeping things separate.
“We have to keep a lot of fryers separate. If we’re going to fry anything with any dairy content in it, we keep it separate to a vegan fryer, and the same goes for gluten-free.”
So, what about the costs? Despite many hospitality businesses being concerned about the initial pay-out in areas like staff training, Olivia says the work of Terre a Terre has proven that the financial side of things aren’t as daunting as you might think.
She adds: “I think once you’ve got the system set up and it’s running, then it shouldn’t really have any increased costs. We’d never think of charging anybody any extra for a specific dietary request.”
Terre à Terre's top tips
The podcast concludes with Olivia giving us her top tips for other hospitality business looking to do more to cater for customers with dietary requirements.
“Do your research," she advises. "No restaurant should be encouraged to steer away from their type of food or their unique selling point, you need to make sure you’re doing it within your remit and not making an alteration.
“There’s nothing worse than saying to a customer ‘this is the option for you, but it’s nothing like anything else on the menu’.
“Remember that your customer is not looking for a compromise, they are looking for is an exciting dish that’s comparable to anything else. So talk to your audience.”
Read and view all of our content on dietary requirements here.