If you have food allergies, eating out is tricky. You don’t know if your meal came into contact with, say, a peanut along the way. Accidentally eating said peanut could have life-threatening consequences.
That’s not a problem at Zero8, a restaurant in Montreal where the menu doesn’t contain the eight most common food allergens: gluten, dairy, eggs, seafood, soy, sesame, nuts, and peanuts. Though there’s only one location right now, founder Dominique Dion hopes to open a chain of Zero8 locations in throughout various Canadian cities.
Dion launched Zero8 in 2008 after finding out he has celiac disease and severe lactose intolerance. He was sick for several months, until a doctor finally told him that eating gluten and dairy was the issue.
“My lifestyle changed,” Dion tells BI. “The pleasure of going out to restaurants disappeared. Going out became a source of stress, not fun.”
Zero8 gained a robust following over the next few years. In 2013, a rent hike forced Dion to close the restaurant, but customers persuaded him to start a crowdfunding campaign. They pulled together enough money to re-open Zero8 in a new neighborhood in late 2015. Dion will soon launch another crowdfunding campaign to turn the restaurant into a chain.
Me and my petit gourmet really enjoyed our dinner tonight not only because we were with our lovely friends but also because it was at a #GLUTENFREE restaurant. Oh yes my petit gourmet was so happy being able to eat whatever he wishes and grab anything on the table without restrictions! Thank you #ZERO8 Montreal for the amazing concept and the delicious food free from the top 8 allergens. My compliments to the chef for the tender, tasty and savoury #lambshank I had. My petit gourmet ordered the #glutenfreepoutine topped with #smokedduck but he ended up eating half of my lamb shank, he left me with the fries and the grilled rack of #veggies to indulge myself in ???? | #ZERO8 #allergyfreedinner #allergyfreeresturant #friendstime #dinnertime #happytoddler #happymom #cantwaitfornexttime #nexttimehamburgers #sundaynocookingday #cantwaitfornexttime #montrealrestaurants
With prices ranging from $7.50 to $19, Zero8’s menu features items like allergen-free braised beef ribs and gluten-free bread made with tapioca and millet.
The restaurant is careful to pick produce and meat that hasn’t come into contact with the eight allergens. Dion says he receives a HACCP traceability report for alls food that enters Zero8, which verifies where everything comes from, and he only works with purveyors he can trust. The staff also conducts in-house ELISA tests, which allows it to detect food allergens at extremely low levels.
Banks are often hesitant to fund restaurants, because they require many assets up-front (e.g. a stove, a lease, inventory) and can take a while to draw a profit. Dion says he feels lucky to have a loyal clientele that wants to see a Zero8 chain happen.
Those who donate to the campaign will have their names inscribed on bricks, which will be stacked inside the second Zero8 location if the team can raise the funds to build it.