If you have a food allergy, you know that preparing a meal can be a difficult task as you work to make sure all your ingredients are allergen-free. Eating out at a restaurant has all the same risks as eating at home without the hands-on control being in your own kitchen provides. Check out these tips to protect yourself from an allergic reaction when eating out.
• Plan ahead – Whenever possible, chose a restaurant in advance and research the menu before you arrive. Many restaurants have websites that include menus.
• Pick the right time – Don’t visit a restaurant for the first time during peak serving times or rushes. Mistakes are more likely when restaurant staff are hurrying to fill many orders. Time your visit for a slower part of the day, or call ahead during an off-peak time to talk about your special food needs with the manager or chef.
• Notify staff – As soon as you enter the restaurant, ask to speak to the manager or chef. Don’t let your safety rest on a hostess or other staff member relaying your message and getting the details correct.
• Make sure the table is clean – Before you sit down ask to have the table cleaned again. Small amounts of food on the table or seats can be enough to trigger an allergic reaction in some people.
• Be kind to your wait-staff - Be polite with wait-staff and be sure to explain why you need special consideration in the preparation and handling of your food. Make sure the staff knows this is an allergy that can have serious consequences and not just a food preference. If your waiter is not willing to work with you, don’t hesitate to ask for the manager.
• Know your allergy – You need to be your own best source of information. Know exactly what foods you are allergic to and what other names the food may be called in an ingredient list. Be prepared with a list of hiding places, such as sauces or toppings that may contain your allergen.