Gluten Comes Back to Roost at Moo Cluck Moo

Moo Cluck Moo has made a change to their menu. A change that many people are sad to hear. 

Moo Cluck Moo Gluten Announcement
Image taken from Moo Cluck Moo Facebook page 

They announced on August 15th through Facebook that they would start serving gluten buns again. If you're unfamiliar with Moo Cluck Moo, they are a a Metro Detroit franchise. They changed their business model two years ago to make their restaurant totally gluten-free. So the news that they were bringing regular gluten buns back to Moo Cluck Moo was a shock. They also further stated they do not recommend people with Celiac Disease eat at their establishment.This is their comment directly from their Facebook page.

Moo Cluck Moo Celiac Facebook Comment
Image taken from Facebook page comments 

I reached out to my business contact to let them explain this huge decision, which impacts all of their locations. Here is a reply from Brian Parker, one of the co-founders.

1) Are the new non gluten-free buns made in house?
No, all buns are made off site. Gluten-based in one and gluten-free in a separate facility. (The regular buns are baked by One Bite At A Time. Gluten-free buns are made by Rumi's Passion.) The only change/ difference in our menu is that we added a gluten based bun. Everything else stays the same. Everything that we cook in our fryers will continue to be gluten-free.

2) What steps will your staff take to prevent cross-contact?
We are informing our customers that we now have two options. Over much debate and conversation, our staff knows that each sandwich will have its own container and the bun will be placed on waxed paper on the prep line. The buns are stowed in their own packages and not co-mingled. Every time a cook touches a piece of meat they change gloves.
Separate cookware will not be used for gluten-free items. Buns will no longer be grilled, due to the risk of cross-contact. We are not cleaning the grill between orders, but nothing containing gluten will be cooked on our grills. With that said we cannot guarantee someone will not make a mistake, and the chance of cross-contact may occur.

3) Why did you make this switch? I am assuming it was a financial decision.
Yes, partially. (See further explanation below.)

Image of a gluten-free burger from Moo Cluck Moo Facebook page

4) What other information can you give me that will hopefully win back the local Celiac population who are now, quite honestly, really upset?
We never tracked our customers based on Celiac, gluten-free, or gluten preferences, so it's difficult to tell how much support we had. either way But again, we let it be known to Celiac customers about who we are and what we're doing based on our gluten-free menu. Again, we never claimed that we were free of cross-contamination.

I noticed that a lot of the push back seems to stem around the fact that people think we just don't care about the gluten-free or celiac community. We do care about our customers and if we sent the wrong message, it was purely unintentional. The reason that we put the info about this change out there is to alert the gluten-free community that we simply cannot guarantee a contaminate-free environment. In other words, we DO care.

 Brian Parker further explained why they chose to make this change.
1. We never made the claim that we were free of cross-contamination. Although we never carried gluten in either store, we were never designed to be a contaminate-free facility.
2. As we grow, some of the venues (Ford Field specifically) would make it impossible to be gluten-free due to the fact that we're working in a shared kitchen environment.

Moo Cluck Moo French Fries made in dedicated fryer
Photo Courtesy of MI Gluten Free Gal

My communication with Parker from Moo Cluck Moo was not just one way. I spent time explaining to him why this hurt some of our community so deeply. I explained that up until this change they were one of only 5 restaurants in the state that were 100% gluten-free environments. It's hard to lose something that was such a saving grace for so many. I explained that until you walk in our food allergy shoes, you might not be able to understand the depth of our emotions.

I explained that the blanket statement that "If you have Celiac Disease you shouldn't eat here" doesn't sit well with the Celiac Disease community. I explained that it's kind of a slap in the face. He was grateful for the back and forth conversation, and explained that his biggest fear is that they would accidentally make someone sick. I can get that. And in all honesty, the bottom line of any restaurant with any of these statements is that they don't want to get sued. Because it happens.

So here's the bottom line. The only change to the menu is that they are offering regular buns. They will change their gloves when they handle meat. The rest of the menu is gluten-free. The decision lies in your hands. It is similar to other establishments that offer both regular and gluten-free buns. In full disclosure, I don't live in greater Detroit. I've only eaten here once, two years ago, and don't tend to be in the Canton area. I don't know that I'll eat here again, simply due to proximity.

So how do you feel about this change? Will you eat at Moo Cluck Moo again?  This can be a space to share your sadness or praise. And please, no "fowl" language. :)

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