Questions to Ask When Dining Out with Food Allergies
We strongly believe that a dialogue between restaurant staff and food-allergic guests is essential to a comfortable dining experience. Simply telling a wait staff member that you have a food allergy is NOT enough, nor is relying solely on an allergy menu. By properly planning in advance (see dining tips from AllergyEats for details) and using these questions at the restaurant, you should be able to more confidently order an allergen-free meal. Send this list to your phone via text or email and share it with family, friends and food-allergic tweens and teens in your home. The key to a more successful dining out experience is preparation!
- “I have a food allergy (or multiple food allergies) to [list your food allergies]. Is that something your restaurant is comfortable handling?” If you have many food allergies or those that are less common, it is best to contact the restaurant in advance.
- “What is your process for managing food allergies and preventing cross-contact in the kitchen?” Listen for protocols like managers who handle your order personally, separate food preparation areas, and plates or stickers used to identify food allergy orders.
- “Is it possible for me to speak with a manager or chef?”
- “I am interested in [these dishes] on your menu. Would any of them be a good choice for someone with my allergies?” Listen closely to understand not only the ingredients of the dish, but how it is prepared in the kitchen.
- “Could the chef modify [this menu item] to accommodate my allergies?” Ask if the dish can be made without butter, cheese, egg wash, breadcrumbs or other ingredients containing your allergens. Consider restaurants with scratch kitchens, as they are best qualified to customize your meal.
- “Is the [bread/pasta/dessert/other item] prepared in your kitchen or is it pre-packaged with an ingredient label that I could read?”
- “If [this menu item] gets cooked in a fryer, what type of oil is used in the fryer and what other menu items go in there? If necessary, could [my item} be cooked outside the fryer?” It’s best to ask open-ended questions about what specifically goes into the fryer versus simply asking “does anything with my allergen go in there?”
- “If [this menu item] gets cooked on the grill, could the grill please be cleaned in advance or could my order be cooked in a different spot, on tinfoil or in a pan?”
- “Would you mind changing your gloves, washing those utensils and/or getting a fresh container of [item]?” Ask for these accommodations at counter-service venues.