How do you decide if a restaurant is a good fit for you and your food allergies?
Eating out with food allergies and making sure it will be as stress-free as possible means there is some detective work involved. Especially, because I’ve had one too many experiences where we rock up to a restaurant only to find out they can’t cater to my allergies.
Eighty percent of the time I go somewhere new to eat I will contact them to vet if they are allergy aware, whether they can cater to my allergies, and if they want to serve me. You see coming with a list of food allergies puts a lot of strain on a kitchen. I want the people making the food to be happy and not resent I am there, so the wanting to serve me part is important (you can read more about this in a post I did about allergy fakers at restaurants). I don’t want to feel like I am a burden to the staff all evening… you know this if you’ve experienced it.
Not only is contacting a restaurant beforehand helpful for me, it is also a heads up to the kitchen that there may be a little more work ahead of them that day.
How to contact a restaurant about food allergies
The two tools I find the most helpful in ensuring a safe and stress-free dining experience are:
1) e-mail the restaurant and make a reservation
2) to bring my allergy card
When I contact the restaurant, I like to start with an email because of all my allergies (so I can list them out). If it is last minute, I will call, but find that this can feel rushed and you aren’t fully heard. With an email I can also confirm a reservation and follow-up letting them know I will bring an allergy card when I show up.
If a restaurant can’t cater to my allergies, it is much easier to find out via email than when you arrive hungry and without a plan b.
Ordering at the Restaurant
When you get to the restaurant, reiterate you have allergies. Mention that you have been speaking with someone and the kitchen should have been informed. Ask the waiter if they have questions about allergies and when you order present your allergy card.
When presenting the allergy card, I like to say that the list is the same as the one I emailed and that the kitchen can keep the card (I get the cards printed as postcards). I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of restaurants that have planned for my arrival by already having the list printed.
One more tool is to be kind, open and respectful in your interaction whether via phone, email or even Instagram. If they say no, it was an opportunity for you to help create more awareness around food allergies and maybe open up a future door for someone else.
To help you out I have included a draft of an email I like to send as my first contact.
My initial e-mail
Subject: Allergy Question
We were thinking about having lunch at your restaurant tomorrow. I have multiple food allergies and would like to know if the kitchen would be able to cater to them.
My allergies include: Sesame seeds, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Pine nuts, Soy, Poppy Seeds, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds*, Lupin, Pink Peppercorns, Lobster, Peas, Green Beans, Alfalfa Sprouts, Bean Sprouts, Strawberries, Banana, Kiwi, Pineapple, Cherries, Blueberries.
*this also includes the oil
** this includes oil, but I can eat the flesh of the pumpkin
Is this list possible for your kitchen to work with? You can also reach me at xxx-xxx-xxxx if you have any questions.
Many thanks in advance.
Kortney is your typical atopic triad! She manages asthma, eczema, environmental and food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!