Sheehan & Associates, P.L.C.

New Michigan pizzeria serves patrons on restricted diets

New business ideas come from a variety of inspirations. For the co-owner of the new Renee's Gourmet Pizzeria, the business and its name was inspired by his daughter. The pizzeria, which opened in February, is believed to be the only one in Michigan whose entire menu is both nut-free and gluten-free.

That's because his 14-year-old daughter is highly allergic to nuts and cannot consume gluten. The latter condition, celiac disease, affects about one percent of all people in the country. He opened the pizzeria in partnership with the other man and a $300,000 investment. It is located in the Cambridge Crossings shopping center.

This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision for the former owner of a Relax The Back franchise in Bloomfield Hills. The man, who had no restaurant experience or training, says it took him a year to develop his pizza dough, which is made from bean flour, tapioca and rice. He wanted to make gourmet pizza that anyone, not just those with dietary restrictions, could enjoy.

Cost can be a challenge for gluten-free bakers. That's why everything is made from scratch. Pizza is by no means the only thing on the menu. Renee's offers calzones, chicken strips, baked goods and Hungarian goulash. The owners want to keep their costs competitive with other pizza restaurants.

Renee's owner learned from his experience eating out with his daughter that there's more to dining out for those with allergies than avoiding specific foods. Cross-contamination can also be a problem. Signs on the door of Renee's warn customers against bringing in foods from outside to guard against contamination. One instance of surreptitiously-introduced baby food led to a complete sanitation of the area.

The owner of Renee's has his sights set on getting his pizza into stores and schools as well. He believes that stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market would be good retail outlets.

As business owners grow and expand their businesses, their financial and legal needs change and often become more complicated. Legal and regulatory missteps can lead to costly fines and litigation. It's essential that they have a legal team that can advise them as their business develops and changes.

Source: Crain’s Detroit Business, "Troy gourmet pizzeria tests market with menu totally gluten- and nut-free" Bridget Vis, Apr. 07, 2014

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