Having an allergy attack while eating out can be a very frightening experience for yourself, those with you, and the restaurant. Yet, you can actually enjoy eating out any time if you prepare in advance.
Preparation is everything. Study websites and review menus till you find a restaurant that is a good fit for you. Check reviews and see what others have to say about the particular restaurant you are wanting to go to.
If you have restaurants that you know to be safe, stick to the chain. They are most likely to use the same ingredients in a similar manner.
If you are attending an event where the food will be prepared by an outside caterer, ask for an allergy-free option in advance.
Are you willing to serve me in your restaurant even though I have this allergy?
Do you train your staff on food allergies?
Do you have a separate area to prepare foods for special diets?
Do you use separate cutting boards and utensils to prepare meals for people with allergies?
Do you serve specialty products for people with food allergies?
Will you show me ingredient labels?
Will you be at the restaurant while I am there? If not, who will be on duty and will you let them know of my allergies?
Once you are satisfied that they will look after your needs, discuss the food that you will be able to eat. Find out the ingredients and garnishes, and the method of cooking.
If you are satisfied, book a table.
Choose a day when the place is not too busy so that the staff is more attentive.
Even after doing your homework, never leave home without your epinephrine auto-injector and any additional medications. If you have a medical identification bracelet or other jewelry, wear it.
Have a "chef card". It outlines the foods you must avoid and it is a great way to communicate your food allergies at restaurants. Print a number of these on wallet sized cards.
Arrive early before the place is flooded with diners. The kitchen will still be clean so there are less chances of your food getting contaminated. You will also get more attention.
Once you arrive, let the host or hostess know. Ask them if they have been told about the allergy. If they are aware of this, then maybe this restaurant is a good choice. If they are not aware of your call, then be alert.
Tell the hostess that you want to talk to the manager about your earlier call as soon as you sit down. Speaking to the manager is wise because he/she will convey the right information to the waiting staff and the chef.
Check the table for cleanliness, especially if you have had an allergic reaction simply from touching food. If the table is not clean, ask the waiter to clean it.
Use “chef cards” to discuss your allergies with the manager and ask that the card be given to the chef. Make sure your waiter understands the importance of keeping your food clean from contaminants.
Make a simple selection of unprocessed food so that it is easier to discuss how the food will be prepared. Avoid fried foods since the kitchen tends to reuse oil for different foods and your food may be contaminated with allergens.
Make sure they understand that the agreed way of cooking your food is the best one for you. Then ask the waiter to deliver your food separately, not stacked with other plates that may contaminate your food. If you feel that your waiter does not understand you, ask to speak to the manager.
When the food is served, make sure that the waiter is the person you spoke to earlier. If it is someone else, ask the manager to double check that the food in front of you was prepared specifically for you and not for someone else.
As confirmation, ask them to describe how your food was prepared. Listen for anything unusual like an ingredient or cooking technique that was not discussed earlier.
Check the garnishes too and question anything that looks different. If anything is wrong, send the food back.
They must understand that you cannot take chances with your life.
The staff cannot guarantee that pre-made desserts are safe from allergens. They can only guarantee the safety of the desserts made in-house. You may therefore want to skip dessert and have one at home.
If you have a good experience at the restaurant, let the staff know and reward them for looking after you.
Promise to return and leave a good review.
Do you have a food allergy? We would love for you to share some tips you have for eating out with allergies. Share them below in the comments.
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