Is It Worth It To Dine Out With Food Allergies?

Photo Credit: Noel Malcolm
We don't eat out often. Frankly, I try to avoid it. I keep hoping my child's food allergies will go away and I won't have to worry about food allergies and dining out.

Dumb, I know...but the whole restaurant thing still feels scary and intimidating to me. So much can go wrong. Now, we have had several great restaurant experiences (McDonald's, Universal Studios, The Strand Bistro) and a couple of bad experiences. 

Mostly good, though...

Photo Credit: Noel Malcolm
Last Saturday, we thought we should get brave and have dinner out. I immediately went to AllergyEats and typed in our zip code. Several recommended options popped up. We checked out on-line menus and discussed the options.

Then, I noticed that it was 5 pm...on a Saturday night...

"Try to dine out during off-peak hours" is advice I've heard over and over. Not heeding that advice has led to some of those bad experiences. 

We ate dinner at home that night, but I've resolved that we will eat out locally once a month so all of us get comfortable communicating with wait-staff, chefs and managers. 

This is why I was so excited to see the results of the Allergy Eats survey of the most food allergy-friendly restaurant chains based on diner feedback (as in real people who care about food allergy concerns when dining out). The most recommended large chain  restaurants were (in order), Red Robin, PF Chang's, Chipolte, Outback Steakhouse and Longhorn Steakhouse.

A few comments as I explored these restaurant websites:
The most recommended medium chain restaurants (between 50-200 locations)  from the Allergy Eats survey were, Bonefish Grill, Ninety Nine, Zpizza, Uno's, and Bertucci’s.

I also took a look at their on-line allergen info:

  •  Bonefish Grill - has a Wellness tab on their site and talks about offering a gluten free menu in their restaurants for those with celiac or an intolerance to gluten. No other food allergy information found on-line.
  • Ninety Ninehas an on-line pdf that lists the top 8 allergens in every menu item- Awesome! They also have a gluten-free menu.
  • Zpizza - offers gluten-free crust and vegan cheese (with ingredients listed for both).
  • Uno's Chicago Grill - has nutrition information AND INGREDIENTS (perfect!) for every menu item. Also, under nutrition information there is a page about food allergies as well as advice to diners to alert their server of food allergies prior to ordering. A list of gluten-free menu items can also be found.
  • Bertucci’s - has a gluten free menu and asks diners to alert their server if they have any food allergies.
I hope to see more allergen information on-line for those of us who want to check out menus from home or on our devices while travelingI do believe that most restaurants are "getting it" in terms of serving people with food allergies, but more information is always helpful so we can make the safest choices for our families.

Check out Allergy Eats for smaller restaurants that made the recommended list and be sure to rate your restaurant experiences at the site so we can all benefit from the ratings.

Are any of the recommended restaurants your go-to favorites?


maddie said...

All of the restaurants cited serve processed GMO laden food and are a part of big agri-business, which is a big causative factor in allergies. They do not deserve my business, especially McDonald's. Just MHO.

TCH said...

While I appreciate what chains are trying to do, when we dine out we always try to find little, owner run places.
While it is not a guarantee to get all requests sorted out, we found that in general they do care more and don't mind going the extra mile for a diner with food issues.

A franchise is a franchise is a franchise. Staff turnover, indifference from location to location makes it somewhat more challenging.