Conceptualising a restaurant means you have to consider a plethora of factors. Curating a menu is probably one of the single most important stages. With so many food allergies and dietary restrictions, you must cater to different guests and avoid potentially life-threatening situations.
Before building a menu, it’s critical to be mindful of these dietary restrictions. You’re not just serving delicious food to your guests. You’re also ensuring they have a welcoming and safe experience when dining in your restaurant.
Below are a few dietary restrictions to keep in mind. We delve deeper into each one and learn more about which ingredients you can and can’t include in your dishes.
1. Vegetarian Diet
Someone following a vegetarian diet avoids the consumption of fish, poultry, turkey, beef, and other meat products. However, they may occasionally consume meat-based products like eggs or dairy.
Most people adopt a vegetarian diet for ecological reasons. They want to reduce their environmental impact by steering clear of methane-producing food processes.
Others may have a more ethical compass. They refuse to eat meat to protest against the inhumane treatment of animals and livestock.
Meanwhile, there are vegetarians who avoid eating meat purely for health or dietary restrictions. Whatever the case is, you’ll want to keep a list of vegetarian options to cater to such customers.
If you want to build a separate vegetarian menu for your guests, here are some food ideas you can put your own spin into.
- Vegetarian burrito – This is a meat-free remake of the classic burrito. Its staple ingredients include rice, black beans, sour cream, and tortilla wrapper. You may also include seasonal vegetables to add crunch to the dish.
- Ratatouille – Ratatouille is a French dish made entirely from vegetarian ingredients. It’s a vegetable stew made with zucchini, bell pepper tomatoes, and eggplants.
- Pumpkin soup – Pumpkin soup is made of pumpkin puree and can be served hot or cold as an appetiser.
- Salad – You can craft salads using tasty greens and vegetarian-friendly vinaigrette.
- Macaroni and cheese – For vegetarians who eat dairy products (lacto vegetarian), macaroni and cheese is a great option to satisfy their stomachs. Elevate the dish by using a variety of cheeses and cooking the pasta to perfection.
- Stir-fry tofu – Stir-fry beef is a popular dish in Singapore. Put your vegetarian take to it by swapping the beef for protein-rich tofu, sauteed in garlic, onions, and soy sauce.
- Cauliflower curry – Curry is a popular Indian dish, traditionally made from chicken breast, stewed in coconut milk and mixed with different ground spices. You may swap the chicken with cauliflower instead for a lighter and vegetarian-friendly option.
2. Vegan Diet
Contrary to popular belief, a vegan diet differs entirely from a vegetarian diet. Vegans are more restrictive with the food they eat. They don’t eat meat and completely abstain from consuming meat, dairy, or any meat-based products.
Since veganism is far stricter, you might want to be extremely particular with the ingredients in your dishes. Some vegans take this diet/lifestyle up a notch by adopting a raw food diet altogether. They eat only vegetables, fruits, grains, and other non-animal products.
If you want to pander to Singaporeans who follow a plant-based diet and lifestyle, below are some menu ideas you can try:
- Chickpea wrap – This dish is both tasty and healthy. It features chickpeas, mashed potatoes, fresh spinach, tahini, and pickled onions, brought together in a toasted tortilla wrapper.
- Vegan taco – A vegan take on a Mexican classic, vegan tacos are sure to win the hearts of your guests. Instead of grilled chicken or pulled pork, grilled Portobello mushrooms with savoury pickled onions and garnished with cilantro leaves make for a delicious snack or appetiser.
- Coconut ice cream – Who says vegan food isn’t delicious? Top off your menu with something sweet and healthy, like dairy-free coconut ice cream. Add natural cocoa or vanilla bean flavouring for a tastier dessert.
3. Gluten-Free Diet
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. It’s one of the most common dietary restrictions, marked by intolerance to gluten. Gluten intolerant individuals can be classified into two: celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance.
People with celiac disease have an adverse immune system reaction when eating gluten. They develop inflammation in their intestines and other parts of the body. The inflammation could lead to a host of abdominal discomforts, like diarrhea and bloating, to name a few.
Meanwhile, non-celiac gluten intolerance individuals may exhibit similar gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms but without the autoimmune reaction.
In either case, those with gluten sensitivity should altogether avoid gluten. As a restaurant owner, you can serve gluten-free dishes such as:
- Hainanese chicken rice – Those with gluten intolerance can still enjoy Hainanese chicken rice. While the sauce commonly used to season the dish contains gluten, you can opt out of the sauce and use gluten-free soy sauce alternatives.
- Singapore laksa – A hearty bowl of laksa noodles can still be enjoyed gluten-free by using rice noodles instead of wheat. The full-bodied coconut curry broth is the star of the dish, topped with chicken or seafood.
- Char kway teow – Char kway teow is a popular flat noodle dish across Singapore hawker stalls. Usually, it has wheat-based cornstarch in the mix, which isn’t ideal for those with gluten intolerance. But, you can do away with the cornstarch and use thick soy sauce instead.
4. Lactose Intolerance
Lactose refers to the sugar naturally found in milk. Generally, our body produces the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose to make it digestible. But this enzyme isn’t present in lactose intolerant individuals and will result in abdominal symptoms.
The safest route when accommodating lactose intolerant individuals is to recommend dairy-free menu items. You may also include an allergen label for dishes that contain dairy.
5. Religious Dietary Restrictions
Singapore is a culturally diverse nation of different religious groups and beliefs. Aside from health-related dietary restrictions, you must also be mindful of religious dietary requirements.
We cover some of the most common religious dietary restrictions in Singapore and some beliefs and practices to consider:
Muslims need to be Halal, which is a set of established rules from the Quran and Syariah Law. These rules also include which foods Muslims are prohibited from eating.
Some examples of non-halal (or haram) meat/food products include: pork, amphibians, insects, and shellfish. Animal products or by-products that come from non-halal animals are also prohibited.
On the other hand, Muslims are permitted to eat halal foods like cereal, rice, pasta, tofu, legumes, and seafood.
Hindus do not consume fish, meat, eggs, and poultry but eat dairy. However, some Hindus may still eat lamb or chicken but avoid beef altogether, as they consider the cow a holy animal.
Kosher foods refer to any food and beverage allowed under Jewish dietary laws. They are further classified into three categories: meat, dairy, and “pareve” or “parve”.
- Meat – Kosher meat refers to meat from animals with split hooves (sheep, goats, cows) who chew their cud or partially digested food. Pigs or swine have split hooves but don’t chew their cud, so pork isn’t considered kosher.
- Dairy – Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, and curd must all come from a kosher animal. Likewise, the ingredients used in their preparation must also be kosher.
- Pareve – Pareve refers to kosher foods that aren’t meat or dairy. It covers every other food, from eggs and fish to coffee and packaged or processed foods.
The laws surrounding pareve are complicated, but here are some you may want to look out for:
- Fish is kosher if it has fins and scales, like cod, herring, halibut, pickerel, pike, salmon, trout, mackerel, etc.
- Only some cheeses are kosher. Non-kosher cheese contains the enzyme rennet, which comes from a cow’s stomach. When using cheese in your dishes (be it cheddar, brie, or pecorino), make sure it’s from a kosher brand.
Conclusion About Dietary Restrictions
The love for food is universal, and almost all cultures can be brought together through the language of the stomach.
However, you need to be mindful of a few food requirements and restrictions. Whether you want to establish your restaurant or coffee shop, it’s best to have an understanding of the most common dietary restrictions.
Ultimately, you’ll want to create a safe and inclusive space where people can wine and dine safely without worrying about their health or religious beliefs.
Consider dietary, health, and other food restrictions in your cloud kitchen or restaurant SWOT analysis. Build a menu that will appeal not just to your target market but also to individuals with specific food requirements.
For more information on restaurant management, contact us here at NinjaOS. We offer bespoke online ordering systems in Singapore to help you generate higher ROIs and grow your customer base.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dietary Restrictions
How Can You Serve Guests With Dietary Restrictions?
Running a restaurant is about satisfying your customers with great food and a welcoming ambience.
When you need to serve guests with dietary requirements, ask them about their dietary needs and follow through accordingly. Create meal cards to label allergens and craft meal experiences with these dietary restrictions in mind.
How To Ask A Customer For Dietary Restriction?
You could ask questions like, “Are there any dietary requirements we should be aware of? Please let us know so we can prepare dishes accordingly”.
Why Are Dietary Requirements Important?
Dietary requirements are crucial for restaurants and customers alike to prevent health issues like severe food allergies. Other reasons may be more religious and ethical. It’s best to ask customers beforehand or pattern your menu to accommodate such restrictions.
What Happens If You Ignore Special Dietary Requirements Of Customers?
Ignoring dietary requirements can lead to an avalanche of problems, such as:
- Allergic reactions
- Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)
- Food sensitivities
- Intolerance reactions
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