For parents or individuals that are new to the life of an allergic reactor, everything involving food can feel daunting. When your child has food allergies, going out to eat does become more tricky but it is absolutely possible! It is essential to know what questions to ask in order to have a safe and enjoyable meal (yes, with practice the nerves go away and it even becomes fun again).
“What questions should I ask in order to safely dine out with food allergies?”
This is a question I am often asked. Of course this answer can vary depending on which food allergies, but in general the questions remain the same.
Call BEFORE going to the restaurant and ask:
Question #1: “Will you be able to safely accommodate my child’s severe allergies to _________?”
In the ideal situation, they will give you the “okay” and even tell you that they often accommodate food allergies. This is not always the case though. Make sure they can give you at least one safe option. Also, listen to their tone of voice. If they sound annoyed by your questions, then they are probably not a good restaurant option. Also, when you call the restaurant, make sure to call at a time of day that isn’t busy. That way they can give you their full attention and take the time to check with the chef.
Other clarifying questions that you may want to ask before going:
- What oils do you use?
- Is there a safe space for you to prep the meal with no cross contact?
They gave you the OK. Now you ARRIVE.
I often double check at the host stand before I am seated to make sure they will accommodate my allergies. I figure the more people that know the better and usually the host will inform the server before they even come over to the table. Eating out safely is a joint effort between you and the restaurant. You’re a team. Working together and being open to the options that they list as safe is critical to having an enjoyable experience.
When the server comes over:
Question #2: “Can you please show this card to the manager and chef? I called ahead to make sure you could accommodate my child’s allergies. Here is a chef card with all of the allergens that need to be avoided. The manager said that it shouldn’t be a problem and that _____ or _____ are possibly safe dish options.”
If you bring a chef card you will be taken more seriously. Depending on your comfort level, you may also want to ask to speak to the manager. Some restaurant managers will come straight over to the table when they are told about food allergies. It is also becoming more common to have the chef come to the table as well. You may want to ask for both. Trust your gut when deciding your comfort. If something doesn’t feel right, always ask!
When your food arrives:
Question #3: “This is the __________ dish that was made separate because of my food allergies?”
Whenever my food comes out, I always ask to make sure it is the dish I ordered and that it was made specific for my allergies. People make mistakes, so it is always better to ask. I want to enjoy my food, not sit there worrying that it wasn’t made safely. I also inspect my food and try a small bite first.
Give it a try!
Now that you know what to ask you should be ready. Leave me a comment and let me know how it goes or any follow up questions that you have!
Thanks for this helpful description of your approach. We haven’t taken our child with multiple food allergies to a restaurant before, partly because of his age/safety around other peolple’s food but also partly because when I’ve looked online at menus for restaurants known to be “allergy safe” or “allergy conscious” I have yet to find a main dish or sandwich at any of these places that doesn’t contain ingredients my child is allergic to. Have you had to ask restaurants to create novel menu items for your allergies? How do you manage that process? We would like to be able to go to a restaurant as a family someday. Thank you!