P.F. Charges: Restaurant Chain Sued Over $1 Charge on Gluten-Free Dishes

32fff651bced73efb92a3555789c9250a6b42427There is a fascinating lawsuit in California where Anna Marie Phillips has sued A California woman P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Inc. for charming a dollar extra for gluten-free food. Phillips says that gluten diets are necessary for people with celiac disease and thus the added charge violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit questions the basis for the charge which vegetables are gluten-free but are subject to the added charge. However, this is a relatively small charge and could be justified on the grounds of not just special ingredients but special preparation. The size of the charge is so small that the advantage will be with the restaurant. The chain can also point to the fact that it is ranked as the second most allergy-friendly restaurant by the website Allergy Eats. As shown above, it advertises its gluten-free approach. Moreover, a study by Canada’s Dalhousie Medical School found that all the commercially available products labeled gluten-free were 242 percent more expensive than comparable products. While this may also be due to inflated prices, it would work to the advantage of the restaurant chain.

The British Medical Journal found that it costs around $550 a year more to live gluten-free. It turns out that that amounts to $1.48 more per day, which is in line with the charge. Again, however, it will depend on the restaurant establishing a basis in the ingredients or the labor associated with the dishes.

Source: Yahoo

109 thoughts on “P.F. Charges: Restaurant Chain Sued Over $1 Charge on Gluten-Free Dishes”

  1. Karen S,
    “The closer you are to an arts center, the more likely you will hear someone taking 10 minutes (and 3 order tickets) to order a sandwich turned into a lettuce wrap.”

    Makes me think of the apple pie ala mode scene in When Harry Met Sally. 🙂 LOL

  2. Dust Bunny Queen,
    There is definitely a “look at me culture”, but its manifestation involving gluten is fairly unknown where I live. We live in a more rural area where lots of folks just plain ole don’t know what gluten is. I figured the “look at me, I’m gluten-free!” crowd was in the ultra-minority.

    We also have trouble with sulfides–my cheeks get extra rosy when we have non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice and my daughter gets a headache.

  3. Well, I need to learn not to try to read and respond to posts when I’m pressed for time to go somewhere! 😳

    DBQ–we are in violent agreement. 🙂 I think you’ve asked some excellent questions! Sorry for not reading your post well earlier.

    “The issues are: can a provider charge the extra $ that it costs to produce the food or not?” Sounds reasonable to me.

    “Does this extra charge to cover the cost of production constitute a discrimination issue.” I do not think so.

    “Does the need/want for a special diet qualify under the ADA guidelines at all?” Not at all.

    “Is celiac disease a disability?” Not in my mind. Steve said as much above, and he is a celiac.

    “Should you have to prove that you have this “disability” need as opposed to just wanting to have this specialty diet because you just want it?” Not sure what this question is asking. Do you mean in regards to the ADA position on whether or not celiac and/or gluten sensitivity constitutes a disability?

    “If you have a special diet can you force the restaurant to provide you your special diet if they don’t have that on their menu in the first place?” I do not think so.

    “Can you force them to provide it at a loss to the business?” No.

    “I would just jerk gluten free off of the menu and not offer it at any price, in any shape or form.” I tip really well at restaurants because I really appreciate it when they do their best to accommodate dietary issues.

  4. DBQ, I was working @ The Drake Hotel in Chicago in the 80’s when there was a complete renovation done by the new owners, Hilton International. It had been family owned for generations and the family was revered by employees. There are housekeepers, plumbers, bartenders, etc. who had worked there 40 years. You should have seen the reaction, particularly from the tradesmen, when they brought in architects and interior designers. The looks from some of the guys as they were told how to do something were precious and pee your pants funny. Most of the tradesmen were in house, so it wasn’t like they were losing money as a contractor can. But, that is an age old conflict that plays out everywhere in the world.

  5. The Architect and the client create a program which illustrates the function of the structure and basic layout. From there a segment allotted to design is paid for. Then the ‘Conceptual Design’ is moved through ‘Design Development’ to control costs, tweak stuff, and reinforce the concept. Then the agreed upon developed design is moved into and through Structural Documents where it is nailed vis a vis engineering, costs, bids, etc.

    Wonderful concepts and the great imagination of architects……

    But they never consult the plumber or concrete guys or other construction professionals about the local conditions and how their beautiful plans will work in the real world. Those guys know that sh*t does indeed need to run downhill, that water freezes at 32, that your plumbing can not be on an outside wall when the winter temperatures get to be -20F at night and barely 15F during the day, that those steam powered radiant heat pipes are going to burst and flood your ceiling, floors and walls, that the amount of water you need for your mandatory fire sprinklers cannot be provided by the aquifer existing in your well or provided by the pumps that you currently have. The planners don’t consider that the lovely concrete walls, stone work and patios are going to crack with frost heave and spall off in the alternate freezing and scorching heat conditions. Plans that the landscape architect devised that were impossible to irrigate and populated with plants that are guaranteed to die.

    The smartest, most educated people don’t seem to be able to grasp that freezing thingy. They are sincerely surprised to find out that their house is ruined and has 8 inches of ice in the living room in the spring. When they left it was all hunky dory?.

    On and on….with the practical real world applications and disastrous results of what looks really good on paper but turns out to be a nightmare in reality.

    Real world experience in dealing with some absolutely beautiful homes and buildings that were maintenance nightmares, cost millions of dollars and were unlivable in the long run. Dot Commers come up with their architectural plans drawn by some guy in SF or San Diego. Who wants to take the advice of a construction profession who has lived in the area all of his life…..pshaw. Disaster.

    Regardless of all the bs here, PF Changs adding a buck onto a Gluten free dish is simply stupid.

    Maybe….maybe not. 🙂 Perhaps PF Changs is making a calculated decision that the paltry numbers of people who demand gluten free are not as important as the majority who don’t care or don’t want that type of food. So you lose the expensive and whiny 5% of your business, but retain the 95% without raising prices and driving them away as well.

    That math works.

  6. Paul

    The process goes something like this: The Architect and the client create a program which illustrates the function of the structure and basic layout. From there a segment allotted to design is paid for. Then the ‘Conceptual Design’ is moved through ‘Design Development’ to control costs, tweak stuff, and reinforce the concept. Then the agreed upon developed design is moved into and through Structural Documents where it is nailed vis a vis engineering, costs, bids, etc.

    There are a lot of gray areas in the beginning where the Architect may make more per hour or less per hour depending on how difficult the project is, the client is, or the city. When, after all is agreed upon and the project is in the working drawing stage or structural document stage, the client wishes to make a substantial change then an AIA contract allows for extra costs. However, there are always minor changes and the Architect that charges for every little thing on top of lump sums soon goes out of business.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with a restaurant. When a client goes to an Architect he or she expects problems. When someone goes to a restaurant one expects nothing but to be accommodated without exception. If there was a substantial difference in labor and material cost then the difference would not be a mere $1. The restaurant would have a separate menu with substantially higher prices. Regardless of all the bs here, PF Changs adding a buck onto a Gluten free dish is simply stupid.

    1. issac – tacking a buck on to the bill for extra work is not the same as going 10% over budget on your building. 😉

  7. A lawsuit may go nowhere. But it costs big dollars to defend. There are consequences to our Litigation Industry and Grievance Brigades running rough shod over private businesses.

  8. Tyger, I actually understand atheists to some degree. I had some family that were real holy rollers, shoving religion down folks throats. As you might expect, I didn’t put up w/ it. I’m religious, I keep it private, and don’t care what if any religion people are or are not. I do not abide organized religion. But, atheists can be as big a pain in the ass as evangelicals. You are not one of them. There are a few here that are.

    1. Thanks, Nick. I try to avoid crusaders no matter what brand they represent, too.

  9. Gluten free dishes are an accommodation. Not something that the government can or should mandate. This suit is ridiculous.

    As has been noted there is a big difference between people with a legitmate health issue and those who are just hipster douches dilettantes like Gwyneth Paltrow. Such people are only owed the back of your hand.

  10. Chuck, cats often have better instincts and judgment than judges do. Bird-dogs just do what bird-dogs will do.

  11. Two thoughts:

    1 – There is no argument in the medical community that gluten free diet is necessary for some people. It could be due to allergy, or for some other health reason.

    2 – The restaurant offering gluten-free dishes has two choices. Special dishes are usually more expensive, as indicated in a comment above. The restaurant has a choice. Either pro-rate the cost across all dishes, or charge extra to defray extra expense for a special dish. Everyone who reads this has been to restaurants that charge extra for add-ons. Want cheese with that? It will be 99¢ extra.

    I think the lawsuit will probably go nowhere, but I never bet on what bird-dogs, cats, or judges will do.

  12. Karen, I had a conversation w/ a waitress the other day. A down to earth, Hispanic college student. I’ve gotten to know her @ the coffee shop I hang. She worked @ one of these trendy, gluten free, liberal, pretentious restaurants. She HATED it. She said the customers were pretentious, would drone on about all their health needs, and then be horseshit tippers. She left and is now working @ a sushi place. The Korean owners treat her well, feed her, treat her and the others like family. The customers are normal and we laughed about not having to hear about peoples bowels, stool consistency, etc. This kid is majoring in communications. Comes from a blue color family and has those down to earth values. You are right about California and crazy trends. But, there are also many great, NORMAL restaurants. I like to focus on the normal ones and laugh @ the pretentious ones.

  13. Tyger, The greatest liberation one can experience is not caring what people think. Oh, there are some people I care what they think. But, they would all fit @ my dining room table.

    1. Yeah, Nick, I have a few important friends I respect and listen to as well. I know you have disdain for Atheists, and that’s okay. I like you anyway. 🙂 You’ve never aimed that type of comment at me personally, and we all have our more acute opinions on some subjects.

  14. Karen, IMO Paltrow is an average actor, @ best. And, it is amazing. Virtually everyone has now tired of her act. She is a pariah in Hollywood. Like I said, eventually people pick out the narcissistic, toxic, nasty ones. Brian Williams is the latest. Maureen Dowd said folks @ NBC saw this coming a long time ago. He is a lying, BSing sack o’ sh!t. Now, I expect that when I buy a car, from an attorney, politician. But, a mews man is supposed to have some credibility. Interesting Brian Williams is Obama’s favorite. Another Toxic Twosome.

  15. I’m gonna try again

    The POINT is not whether some people benefit from removing gluten from their diet. Pogo and I have both conceded that there are people who have gluten sensitivity. So?

    The POINT is it discrimination under the ADA for a restaurant to charge higher for a gluten free meal? When the cost of the ingredients and the cost of preparation is higher can the restaurant pass on those costs?

    It is discriminatory (which I doubt), then how do we prove that the person is REALLY “gluten disabled” or just following the latest fad.

    Can a restaurant just not serve gluten free foods? Would that also constitute discrimination under the ADA?

    Can you force the restaurant to provide a special diet for people who are TRULY gluten intolerant?

    If so….what other special foods can you force a restaurant to prepare or not prepare.

    Maybe people who have such narrow special dietary needs should either cook at home or only attend restaurants that specialize in their special needs.

  16. Nick – I don’t think any state is more obsessive about food fads than CA. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Listening to people order in a restaurant in So Cal is a different experience than doing so in Central CA or anywhere else. The closer you are to an arts center, the more likely you will hear someone taking 10 minutes (and 3 order tickets) to order a sandwich turned into a lettuce wrap. 🙂

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