As a lifelong vegetarian, I almost always ask for substitutions at restaurants. If the answer is no, then fine – so be it. But I also almost always call ahead to ask if the chef is cool with making substitutions to accommodate a vegetarian diet. If the chef won’t do it, then you probably won’t find me dining there. (If the restaurant tells me that they serve a number of salads when asked about vegetarian options, you also probably wont find me there.)
This past week Gordon Ramsey and an 8-month pregnant Victoria Beckham dined at Gjelina in LA and were apalled by the restaurant’s strict enforcement of its no substitution policy. The LA Times Blog reported that Beckham ordered the smoked trout salad and requested the dressing on the side and the grapefruit/avocado/red onion/lemon garnish left off. The restaurant denied her request. Gjelina’s menu clearly states that “Changes & modifications politely declined.”
Chefs and restauranteurs are entitled to make their policies. If they don’t want to make any substitutions, then that’s their choice. As diners, we vote with our feet (and mouths). If patrons find Gjelina‘s policy intolerable, they will stop going there and Gjelina will go out of business. If Gjelina offers such a good dining experience that diners will tolerate the policy, then Gjelina should be able to enforce its policies.
What do you think – are restaurants justified in having and enforcing no substitutions policies? And if you think restaurants should accomodate substitutions, how far is too far?