Living with a food allergy can make dining out difficult. With some simple early planning, you can have an enjoyable evening out with little worry.
Before You Go
Know your allergens
Have an understanding of what your allergy is and how it can hide in food. Not all allergens go by their common name. Wheat, for example, can also be called durum.
Bring your medications
If you have an epinephrine auto-injector, bring it with you. This means having it on you at all times. Anaphylaxis comes on quickly and grabbing the auto-injector from the car is not an ideal option.
Prepare your restaurant card
List out your allergens and what foods they can typically be found in. Having this information available to provide to the kitchen can provide clarity.
A positive attitude
Dining out should be a fun event. Do not let the concerns of allergens come between that. Going into the restaurant with a great attitude, smile and positivity can also bring ease to the staff.
Choosing the dining spot
Review their website
Check out the website before you head out. Most restaurants will post their menus online. Some restaurants will reference specialty menus or allergy accommodations on their menu. The chef biography or “about us” section can give you a glimpse into the type of establishment it is. Does it seem like they cater to their guests?
Whenever possible, call the restaurant before you go. Try to speak with someone in charge, typically a manager. How do they present themselves? Are they courteous and respectful? Or do they seem unwilling to work with you?
What to say
Be prepared to explain your allergy. Try to be as succinct yet detailed as possible. If the manager seems confused or disrespectful, it’s time to move onto another restaurant on your list.
If your conversation with the manager has gone well, now is the time to make the reservation. Many times they can include your allergy information within the reservation so the host and server are aware when you arrive.
At the restaurant
When you arrive
Ask for the person you spoke with on the phone, by name. This will provide a connection with the staff. Introduce yourself to the team and remind them of your allergy concerns. This is the time to provide your restaurant card with allergy information. Ask to speak with the chef whenever possible.
Keep an eye out for
Check with the kitchen staff about the following areas which can cause cross contamination:
- The fryer – can be used for more than just french fries. Breaded fish products are often fried.
- The grill – are meats and fish cooked on the same areas? If not, how are they separated?
- Salad station – will the same gloves be used to grab croutons that are used to grab produce?
- Hidden allergens in drinks – some cocktails get their frothy top layer with egg and other ingredients.
Always approach the staff as friendly yet assertive. How do they respond to it? Make sure that once you are seated, you also remind your server about your allergy. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity regarding anything on the menu.
Do not let a food allergy keep you away from a fun night out with family and friends! Did we miss anything? Tell us in the comments how you prepare for dining out with food allergies.