Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern are a restaurant chain that go above and beyond for their celiac & gluten-free guests. In this post, I'm diving deep into why more restaurants should follow in their footsteps!
This post is not sponsored. I have previously enjoyed dining at both Burtons and Red Heat Tavern and wanted to highlight the fantastic protocols and menus they have in place for gluten-free guests. I am ServSafe trained in allergen protocols for the state of Massachusetts and previously helped Kane's Donuts come up with their own safe gluten-free menu. You can learn more about my restaurant consulting here.
Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern: Top Notch Gluten-Free Service & Standards
- Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern: Top Notch Gluten-Free Service & Standards
Dining Out With Celiac Disease
Too often there's a disconnect that happens between the dinner table and the restaurant kitchen when dining out with celiac disease.
Unless a restaurant is transparent about their allergen protocols and what happens behind those closed doors of the kitchen, we order our food with a mixture of hope and anxiety.
We hope that we've asked enough questions.
We hope that we did enough research beforehand.
We hope that the server remembers to tell the chef about our needs.
But at restaurants like Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern, you don't have to worry about that.
They are dedicated to serving you in an honest, transparent, and safe way so that anyone that eats gluten-free can dine out peacefully.
About Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern
Burtons Grill & Bar originated on the South Shore of Massachusetts, but now has seventeen locations stretching from all the way in New Hampshire down to Boca Raton, Florida. Burtons cooks everything from scratch, allowing guests with food allergies and celiac disease the ability to have a variety of safe options when ordering. They are also a peanut-free restaurant! Burtons Grill has been voted #1 most allergy-friendly restaurant from 2017-2020 by Allergy Eats.
About Red Heat
Red Heat Tavern is the sister restaurant to Burtons Grill. There are five locations throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. Red Heat serves American tavern fare mixed with the flavors of outdoor grilling. All Red Heat Tavern dishes can be prepared gluten-free and they follow the same protocols as Burtons for serving guests with food allergies and celiac disease.
To share more about Burtons & Red Heat's dedication to customers with celiac disease or who follow a gluten-free diet, I had the opportunity to interview Denise Herrera. Ms. Herrera is Vice President of Culinary for Burtons & Red Heat. In this interview, she shares about the processes they use for creating safe gluten-free meals and what goes on in their kitchen when a gluten-free order is placed.
Meet Denise Herrera
Denise Herrera is the Vice President of Culinary for Burtons Grill and Red Heat Tavern. In 2004 Herrera partnered to help create the Contemporary American Grill concept and started as the Executive Chef of the first location in Hingham, MA. She started her career with Houston’s restaurants after graduating from Johnson & Wales University with an AOS in Culinary Arts and a BS in Foodservice Management.
Restaurant & Allergen Trainings at Burtons & Red Heat
Can you describe how your allergen training came into being?
We recognized that when you cook from scratch you can make slight adjustments to menu items, and they are allergen-free. Once we established we can create food safely we knew we needed to train our employees to execute the experience safely.
Where did you source the protocols to create your system?
We looked at our operation and went through all the touchpoints where the guest's experience comes in contact with and wrote our policies to ensure a safe experience. We are always looking at our protocols to see if there need to be any adjustments/improvements.
How are new employees trained?
Upon hiring we disclose that we are an allergy-friendly restaurant and that there are certain steps you need to take. All employees sign an allergy protocol waiver.
During training, we have tools that take them through the steps of service and what needs to happen if there is an allergy guest.
Our staff has a minimum of 5-7 shifts of training with a skilled team member and prior to going solo, their knowledge is validated.
How are current employees training updated?
During our menu rollout, we review all new food items and the allergens they contain. All training materials are updated and in view of team members. They also know to ask when in doubt so we can verify ingredients. If we are in doubt, we speak with the guest and are transparent in our understanding of the ingredients or the facility they are prepared in.
I have read that your Founder Kevin Harron suffers from celiac disease, was this in part one of the reasons that Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern created these protocols?
He was the catalyst. As I watched him eat our menu items, I said there is little you can't have, and he said yes because you cook with whole ingredients. Over time we saw how many people suffered from Celiac and that we could create an experience for them they had missed from their lives once being diagnosed. From that, we just kept enhancing our allergy protocols.
Beyond the above, Why did you decide to make gluten-free customers such a priority in your restaurants?
We felt that every guest should be treated fairly and have the opportunity to dine out. People were charged and still charge extra for gluten-free substitutions. We didn't think that because a person suffers from an allergy or autoimmune disease they should have to be charged more or treated differently.
When your servers are made aware that a guest has a food allergy, what happens next? Can you detail the process?
When a server finds out they then ring in the food with all the allergens attached to the ticket. They then go to the expo area and check-in with the expeditor to verify that the order was rung correctly and if there are any ingredient concerns. Once that is verified the expo communicates with the kitchen on any modifications needed to the preparation process.
We use Kitchen display systems that can highlight in bold colors the allergens so the Kitchen can see them right away. The food is presented on a different color plate than all other food and is brought to the table by a manager or the server of that table.
Do you feel your gluten-free menu is equitable to your regular menu in terms of the variety of dishes?
Yes- we can make all items except for our whoopie pies. We use GF bread/wraps for sandwiches and GF pasta for our mac & cheese. We make all our croutons GF so there can be no cross-contamination issues. GF guests are always surprised when I drop a salad with croutons, they say, um, I think you made an error and I respond with, no, all our croutons are GF. It's just what we do! We go through great lengths in sourcing great-tasting GF food items.
Kitchen Space & Menu
Do you have a separate preparation area for gluten-free food in your restaurants?
We have minimized the gluten ingredients in our restaurants. All our fryers at RHT are gluten-free along with our Josper oven. We do not use our griddle for any gluten-free items as that is the only piece of equipment that contains gluten from toasting buns.
Do you have separate utensils, cutting boards, knives, and dishes for gluten-free foods?
Yes- we use purple cutting boards, tongs, and spatulas.
Do you have a dedicated area for storing gluten-free products/foods?
As mentioned above, we source the majority of our products to be GF except for bread and pasta. All other ingredients are gluten-free. Bread is stored in a separate area of the kitchen and pasta is stored in bags on a separate shelf.
Do you use store-bought gluten-free bread/rolls or make them yourself?
We use store-bought GF bread and pasta. We don't have the facility to make them in-house.
Do you have a dedicated fryer for gluten-free foods?
All fryers are gluten-free.
What is the most popular gluten-free item on your menu? Why?
Really anything fried. People are so happy to have safe GF fried food.
Final Thoughts on Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern
Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern are one of (if not, the MOST) dedicated restaurants I know of that cater to celiac disease seriously. When you have someone that knows firsthand of the stress and anxiety that can accompany dining out with celiac disease starting a restaurant, you know they are going to make sure things are done right.
It is my hope that more restaurants can look to Burtons Grill & Bar and Red Heat Tavern as a prime example of how to correctly offer gluten-free food. Not as a fad, but as a medical need. They provide an invaluable service to the celiac and gluten-free community and we need to celebrate them for it!
Have you ever eaten at Burtons Grill & Bar or Red Heat Tavern?
What's your favorite menu item?
Let me know in the comments below!