How to Eat at Restaurants with a Food Allergy
Going out to eat can be stressful when managing a food allergy.
Going out to eat can be stressful with children.
There are many resources out there to help you pick a restaurant, so do some research in advance. Ask your allergist and friends for their recommendations. Reading online reviews is also extremely helpful. We like the Spokin and Allergy Eats for crowd sourced feedback on restaurants. Once you pick a destination you need to have your game face on. Here we have it in 3 steps:
Step one: Call first and ask to speak to the manager
You need to find out if they are able and willing to accommodate you. Call at off peak hours because you want to really talk to someone and have their attention.
Here is a script:
- My child has a food allergy to X. Is this something your restaurant is comfortable handling?
- Is it possible to speak to a manager or chef? (If not available ask when a good time to call back is)
- Ask about certain dishes your child would want to eat! Would this dish be a good choice?
- What is your process for handling cross-contact in the kitchen?
- Grill: What other foods are cooked on the grill? Are you willing to clean the grill or cook my food in a separate place (in foil or in a pan?)
- Fryer: What type of oil is used? Does anything with my allergen go in there?
- Would you be willing to use fresh gloves and new utensils when preparing my meal?
- Will you be there when we come to eat? If not, who can I talk to when we arrive?
Step two: Be prepared when you go
- Bring some food your child can safely eat
- Bring wipes (like you would leave home without them!)
- Bring some way for your child to be entertained (book, crayons, tablet)
- Take a deep breath and keep your emotions in check. You can do this!
- Go when the restaurant won’t be crowded, like the first hour the restaurant is open. Staff will be more alert and the kitchen cleaner.
- Be ready for a reaction. Never leave home without your epinephrine auto-injector and any additional medications. If your child wears a special t shirt or medical identification, make sure that is on.
Step three: Be mindful while at the restaurant
- You will sound like a broken record, and that is ok! Ask to talk to the manager when you arrive. Be clear with your server and speak to other waitstaff handling your food.
- It’s OK to calmly and unemotionally explain the severity of your child’s food allergy.
- Ask to speak to the chef about what you plan to order and how it will be prepared.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right reach for the foods in your bag or ask for the check and leave.
- If it went well, say something! Write a review. Tell your friends. Thank the restaurant team. If it didn’t go well don’t give up. You will find there are places out there that get it.