We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisa Heath and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisa, what do you attribute your success to?
I think the most important factor behind our success is the passion that we have to be the change in the restaurant industry. Our desire to create an inclusive dining experience. Feeling the need for normalcy, the desire to gather with friends and family safely and worry free, for our family, for our daughter, makes it personal. Connecting with our food allergy and celiac disease community all over the country that shares this same need and desire, and having their unwavering support has been the most important factor to the success of our brand. We are nothing without them.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Our restaurant is the only restaurant in the nation that is free from the top nine most common allergens. With our daughters life threatening food allergies, and a desire to create an atmosphere for those with food allergies and celiac disease to eat, gather, make memories and share community all in one place, My husband Chef Ned and I created Intentional Foods. Known as IF Cafe & Market.
Food allergies are life threatening. Most people think that if our daughter eats her allergens that she will get hives, and we can just give her the epinephrine and she will recover. The truth is, if our daughter eats her allergens even the smallest amount she can die. Sometimes epinephrine is not enough to save her. This is true for all people with food allergies, not just our daughter.
What do we do different than all other restaurants ? We make sure that we know where all of the ingredients in our kitchen come from. We have a certificate of allergens for each ingredient that shows us that the ingredient does not contain any of the top nine most common allergens, but also that it is manufactured in a facility where our ingredients are not cross contaminated with any of those allergens. We are transparent with our customers when they ask what is in our food.
I would say our most difficult part of this journey has been navigating the pandemic without staff, and sourcing our safe products consistently. We have had to remove beloved dishes due to manufacturing facility changes or ingredients simply getting discontinued.
One of our hugest accomplishments this year was having Yelp name our cafe #9 on their 2021 Top 100 places to eat in the United States. This brought us media, and an opportunity to gain many more regulars that didnt even know we were here, because they didnt have food allergies, but just came to try the food, and decided they too would come back week after week. And our favorite part was being able to educate this new clientele about food allergy awareness.
We want people to know and and understand the life threatening nature of food allergies and have empathy and understanding for those that struggle with feelings of isolation and anxiety when it comes to something as simple as sharing a meal.
We want our customers to know that we walk this journey with them, and will continue to try to make safe, allergy friendly food convenient to access.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This one is hard for us as our family can only eat at our cafe
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We want to dedicate our shout out to our incredible food allergy and celiac community that surround us and continued to lift us up during these hard times. The only way to describe how our clientele has continued to move our business forward is as if our community has literally thrown us on their back, while we together climbed this huge uphill mountain that this global pandemic has been. In this past year, Chef Ned and I were a two man show, with our daughters learning virtually inside the cafe. Every morning I handled all the baking ( Which I had not done prior to the pandemic ) while Chef Ned prepped and cooked all day and night. Packing each order, answering the ringing phones, running out the orders, washing the dishes, cleaning the cafe, while trying to be a source of nourishment and light to the community. It was groundhogs day every day. As more and more people began to try the food from all over the valley, the sales continued to climb. It got to a point where we had to get our high school age daughter Madelyn to jump in and just put school aside because we could no longer handle it just the two of us. Our customers all began to choose a day of the week, and ordered on that day every week, and they still do every week. Sometimes twice a week. From Maricopa, from Queen Creek, from Glendale, from Tucson, from Florence…every week. You cant put a word to the deep deep gratitude we feel for our customers. They have become family.
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