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This restaurant owner is planning a chain of restaurants for people with deadly allergies

Zero8Instagram/sundaysgroceryZero8, an allergen-free restaurant in Montreal, Canada.

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 neighbourhood in late 2015. Dion will soon launch another crowdfunding campaign to turn the restaurant into a chain.

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.

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