All new ventures come with a learning curve. Over the years we've been in business we've tweaked many of the things we do to make them work better. Sometimes it's to make them work better for us, other times it's for our guests. Actually, that's for us as well, since anything that makes our guests happier is good for us and the business.
One of the things that has evolved and changed over the years is our check-in speech. We've added or deleted certain things when it's become clear that guests weren't understanding what we were asking or telling them. Part of the procedure when checking in new guests is to tell them what time breakfast is, then find out what they drink in the morning (coffee, tea or decaf coffee) so we know what and how much to prepare. We also at this point ask about dietary restrictions. What we're trying to find out is whether our guests have specific food allergies or are vegetarians, we're actually not that interested in what foods our guests don't like to eat or if they're on the diet du jour. We serve breakfast as a buffet so if there's something a guest doesn't like or isn't supposed to eat it's easy enough to avoid.
Over the years we tried phrasing the question a number of different ways because guests were giving us answers that made it clear they didn't understand the question correctly. The number one answer I seemed to get when I asked the question the wrong way was "I don't like lima beans". My husband seemed to get "I don't like raw shellfish". Okay, folks... we're not serving lima beans and raw shellfish for breakfast. We want to know if something we might actually use in a breakfast dish is going to make you sick or kill you!
We have finally settled on "Do you have any dietary restrictions that might affect breakfast?" as the phrasing that most often gets us the answers we are looking for. I'm grateful to add that the vast majority of our guests don't have any serious dietary issues. The few that do, we've been able to handle easily. Vegetarian? No problem as long as you eat cheese & eggs. Nut allergies? We use nuts only rarely and we cook & bake from scratch so we know what's in things. Wheat gluten issues? We have a very good friend with Celiac disease, so we understand that, too.
Of course it would be lovely if guests could let us know about issues like this in advance of their stay, and a few do. But as long as we know before we actually start cooking we can deal with almost anything. That's been part of the learning curve as well. We rarely stress out about dietary restrictions because we've been doing this long enough to know how to adapt our dishes when necessary.