My hometown recently hosted the best golfers in the world for a PGA (Professional Golf Association) tournament. The tournament has been a huge part of our community for over 30 years and is an economic boom for the town. All of the hotel rooms are filled, restaurants are packed every evening and tourism dollars are spent on merchandise, local attractions and at late night watering holes. The event spans an entire week but the main attraction are the four rounds of competitive golf from Thursday to Sunday. The weekend days (Saturday and Sunday) are more of a laid back crowd; friends hanging out, enjoying the sunshine and having a good time. While these groups also attend the Thursday and Friday sessions, a large portion of the crowd on those days are there “on business”. It’s an environment filled with sales people entertaining their contacts and hospitality areas hosting and saying thank you to their customers. It really is a “win-win” situation for businesses and clients.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend this year’s tournament on both Thursday and Sunday. As predicted, the Sunday session was nice and laid back. I went out with my wife and we basked in the sun, had a beverage and relaxed on a nice, almost summer afternoon. I attended the Thursday session with a friend of mine, who also was meeting up with one of his sales associates and one of his clients. I was just happy to be along for the ride. My original plan for Thursday was for me to also be hosting some business associates but unfortunately they could not make it in town that day. And in hindsight, I’m kind of glad that things worked out as they did. Not because I didn’t want to meet with these associates and discuss the exciting opportunities that we have been working on but because I would have been embarrassed when it came time for that day’s lunch. You see, one of the associates is a Celiac and the gluten free offerings on the golf course and hospitality areas were slim to none.
It’s a topic that I’ve been on my soapbox about before: gluten free offerings at major sporting and community events. I understand that your main customer at these events is a non-allergy, regular diet eating individual with deep pockets. But there is a segment of the population who have allergies and auto-immune responses that are being excluded. Should I have had the opportunity to host my business associate that day, I would have pre-planned (much as I do with Cam) and we would have had gone to lunch someplace outside of the golf course. My money would have walked away with me, to a place that I knew was safe and where options were plentiful. It would have certainly bested the trail mix, banana and water that I would have been limited to by the event’s concessions. I have also had the opportunity over the years to visit many hospitality areas during the tournament. These events are usually catered and have more of a possibility to provide gluten free offerings. But for Celiac’s, buffet lines are a cringe-inducing invitation to cross-contamination.
Situations such as these make me wonder what things will be like for Cam when he is older and out there as a young professional. Will all aspects of the food service community be caught up with the revolution towards clean eating? Will he be able to feel confident in getting a gluten free offering at a ball game with clients? Will he be able to have a non-awkward business lunch? The industry is trending that way but we need to continue to promote awareness and hope that our requests are answered and not ignored.