What are the things you look for when choosing an allergy friendly restaurant on vacation?
Here is what you should be looking for and how you can seamlessly plan ahead when navigating dining away from home with food allergies with confidence.
Look for restaurants at your hotel or nearby.
Pick a cuisine that can be accommodated easier for your specific allergens (ex. Italian would be a tricky choice for dairy/egg allergies)
Check the menu in advance to see if there are options that could be safe for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for things off the menu if the restaurant offers dishes with certain proteins or sides that could be easily accommodated. (Ex. If there is a chicken dish but the sides aren’t safe, just ask for plain pan seared chicken with a simple vegetable)
Keeping it simple when dining out, especially on vacation, makes for easier experiences all around. Prioritize enjoying your trip and eat basic foods to minimize risk.
What should you look for in a restaurant?
Make sure the menu has options that seem safe for your food allergies or very easily customizable dishes. This makes it easier to know that the food can be prepared safely.
Talk to the manager on the phone → learn about their food allergy protocols and notice whether they are reassuring or just acknowledging.
You shouldn’t be a burden for asking questions, planning ahead, or double checking → if this is the case consider choosing another restaurant where the staff is understanding and patient with taking note of your accommodations.
Look for places with a staff educated about food allergies and where they can prepare your food in a clean, separate station.
Bonus points if it is a peanut/nut free restaurant because many places are but they don’t advertise it (helps to ask on the phone).
Steps for planning ahead:
Read the menu before even making a reservation. (try to see if anything seems safe for your allergies or if anything could be easily modified by the restaurant)
Call in advance and ask to speak with the manager of the restaurant. Make sure your allergies are noted on your reservation and that you have a plan laying out what you will be ordering and how the chef can safely prepare it for you (what accommodations).
Make sure to mention: severity of food allergies, avoid cross contamination, separate prep stations/pans for your food, clean utensils, not using a fryer that could be contaminated with allergens.
International Dining: Plan things out extra and in advance. For example, decide exactly what you plan to eat and how the restaurant will prepare it safely to minimize confusion when you order during your trip. Email the restaurant all of your allergen information, what you want to eat, discuss protocols and follow up with a phone call to double check everything.
When at the restaurant make sure to reiterate your food allergies and all of the reminders listed above. If possible, talk to the restaurant manager in person along with your server to go over your safe dining plan. The manager usually isn’t as busy as the servers, so they can spend more time communicating to the chef about your food allergies. Carefully go through order, allergens, and preparation (also what to avoid ex: cross contamination, friers, shared pans, shared batch, shared part of the kitchen). The moral of the story: communication is your best tool!
Give the server/manager your Equal Eats Card to provide more detailed allergen/allergen information, ESPECIALLY if you are traveling internationally and there is a language barrier.
Make sure to notice how your server talks about your food allergies and whether they are reassuring about everything. You shouldn’t feel like you are a burden for asking extra questions or double checking. Someone who really understands will be completely transparent and patient.
Talking about allergies thoroughly at a restaurant is a process of conversations between many members of their team. This strategy gets the information across to everyone so you can have a safer experience; everyone will be on the same page with protocols.
Communication, asking questions, and being assertive are the best things to keep in mind when navigating a restaurant. You are your own advocate so always speak up if you aren’t comfortable with something and just know that you shouldn’t be pressured into eating out unless you feel completely reassured.
If at any point during initial dialogue or when you are seated at the restaurant you feel that the staff are not taking your food allergies seriously or willing to accommodate and answer questions clearly, don’t feel bad about choosing another restaurant. There will be times when you decide to walk out, but trust that you are taking care of yourself and prioritizing your wellbeing. Trust your gut and use your voice.
Disclaimer: Please follow this according to your own food allergies and what you personally need accommodation for. Dining out safely with food allergies is different for everyone!
© 2023 PURE Allergy Life LLC