Step-by-Step Guide to Dining Out Safely
Continued from previous page.
Step 2: Picking the Restaurant
It’s time to choose a restaurant. At this phase, if any information you collect doesn’t feel right, take your business elsewhere.
Preview the menu: When considering a restaurant, first look up the website; almost all restaurants post their menus. Are there dishes that appear to be safe or could be made safe with a few adjustments? Does the menu say, “Please tell your server if you have any allergies?” Is there a website tab with a description of how the kitchen handles dietary restrictions? Is there an ingredient or nutrition tab? Does the restaurant have a gluten-free menu, or a special diet menu for allergies?
Read the chef bio or “about us” section – does the restaurant pride itself on its hospitality? That’s what you are looking for: an establishment that caters to all of its guests; is clear about its allergen policy; perhaps has a special menu and indicates the staff there understand food allergies or celiac disease.
Call ahead: This is crucial, and restaurants truly appreciate it. Speak with the highest person in charge you can reach: the general manager, chef or owner. Don’t settle for a host. Introduce yourself and get the person’s name. That person represents the restaurant; you’re looking for a knowledgeable, courteous, informed representative. If you receive pushback, such as the manager promises to call you back but never does, I’d move on to another restaurant.
What to say: When you speak to a chef or manager, say you have food allergies (or celiac disease). Find two sentences that spell out your needs succinctly. Mine are: “I’m severely allergic to all nuts, fish and shellfish. Is this something the chef feels comfortable handling?” You may get a “no” here. That’s OK, it’s information too and just saved you a trip. But presuming the conversation continues, use your pleases and thank yous, be your nicest self. Ask for assistance. Most restaurants will be happy to help if they can accommodate you. However, if the restaurant representative seems confused about your needs (“Gluten is sugar, right?”), too vague (“I guess you’ll be OK”) or rude (“The chef doesn’t speak to patrons”), then move on to the next restaurant on your list.
Reserve, with reservations: If you’ve now received a green light, great. Make your reservation but remember, you still have work to do once you’re there. Book on the early side if you can, when the kitchen and staff aren’t as busy and can focus on your needs. Try to dine on a quieter night, at least for the first time at a restaurant.
Next Page: Step 3 – What to do when you arrive