Monday, February 8, 2010

When a Server Doesn’t Take Your Allergies Seriously

Most of the time when we go out to eat, we find the staff and the servers to be very accommodating to our food allergies.

But every now and then, it’s a different story.

A few months ago we had a family celebration at an upscale restaurant. I called ahead to make the reservation, and made sure they would be willing to accommodate food allergies. This was a busy place, and considered one of the nicest restaurants in the town we were visiting.

My son was very clear with the server that he was allergic to milk and butter, and asked her to check to make sure the meal he ordered could be prepared without it. Without going back to the kitchen, she assured him that the steak had no butter on it, and that the vegetables were sautéed without butter. He asked if they were done in oil. She told him they were sautéed in a dry pan. That was a red flag, so I asked her asked her to check with the kitchen. She assured us there was no need to do that.

You can guess where this is going, can’t you?

When the meals were served, the vegetables were glistening. Luckily I could taste them for him, and it was clear they had some kind of oil or butter on them. It was a special event, and the veggies were separate from the rest of the meal, so he cast them aside and just didn’t eat them.

I didn’t speak to the manager, but I should have.

What would you have done? How often do you run into these kinds of problems when eating out?


Anonymous said...

I'd have cast the vegetables aside, as your son did, and let it go during the celebration - but then I'd have followed up with a call to restaurant management the next day. I feel we owe it to our food-intolerant fellows to continue educating others.

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience recently. I am allergic to wheat, but fortunately not as seriously allergic as someone with Celiac's. I went to an authentic Mexican restaurant. They served homemade corn chips, and I asked if there was wheat in them, they assured me they were 100% corn. I ordered a meal with corn tortillas, again asking if there was wheat in them. 5 minutes later, and 20 minutes since I'd started eating about half the basket of corn chips, the waitress ran back, frightened, with a package in her hand: The tortillas and corn chips were made from the same packaged tortillas, and the first ingredient- you guessed it- was wheat, not corn. I stopped eating them, changed my order, and had some allergy symptoms the next day. I let the waitress know how displeased I was, and will not go back to that restaurant. I'll also be more careful at other Mexican restaurants. If I were more seriously allergic, this could have proved more than an irritating experience.

Colette said...

Anonymous 9:47 -- great suggestion -- I should have called them the next day. And yes, we all need to work together on this.

Anonymous 10:02 -- I wonder what made her look at the ingredients after she had served the food. If only she had looked before she placed the order. Luckily you're reaction wasn't too serious but none-the-less, this shouldn't happen!

Anonymous said...

Upon entering a restaurant with my daughters who both have life-threatening allergies, I ALWAYS ask to speak to a manager. They are very accommodating, pull out ingredient lists and the way things are prepared. It helps to go out at a time that is typically not too busy. Also, do your homework online before you go to get menus and narrow down the possible options for your child (mine are both teens now) so they can have some ideas on what they might like to eat.