Learn How to Eat at Restaurants with a Food Allergy
Going out to eat can be stressful if you’re managing a food allergy. Going out to eat can be stressful with children. Foublie wants to help take away some of that stress! Continue reading for a strategy to ensure safe eating with food allergies and restaurants.
There are many resources out there to help you pick a restaurant, so make sure to do some research in advance! Ask your allergist and friends for their recommendations, and read online reviews for restaurants. We like the Spokin and Allergy Eats pages for crowd-sourced feedback on restaurants. Once you pick a destination you need to have your game face on. Here we have a strategy for food allergies and restaurants in 3 steps:
Step one: Call first and ask to speak to the restaurant manager
You need to find out if the restaurant is able and willing to accommodate your food allergy. Call during off-peak hours, because you want to be able to talk to someone and have their full attention. Also, check the menu beforehand if you want to ask about specific dishes.
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, then 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?” and “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?” and “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
Pack wipes (as if 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 isn’t too crowded, such as the first hour the restaurant is open. Staff will be able to devote more time to your food allergy and the kitchen will be cleaner.
Be ready for a reaction. Never leave home without your epinephrine auto-injector and any additional medications. Also, 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 restaurants out there that understand you and your family’s food allergy!
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