Do you have food allergies?  Maybe you have a close friend or family member who does.  Food allergies are already difficult to manage when you opt to prepare your own food. But what happens when you want to go out to eat?

Personally, this can be a difficult situation, should you not know how to approach your server or the restaurant appropriately.  I am a gluten free kinda gal, who also happens to be a vegetarian.  So when I do have the pleasure of dining out, I try my hardest not to be that one customer that is difficult or has unrealistic expectation.  Trust me, this came with practice.

First things first, be thankful you have the opportunity to dine out. With that mindset, you can plan ahead for a great meal to enjoy!

Here are the Do’s and Don’ts of Dining out with a Food Allergy:

Do Your Homework

If you know ahead of time where you will be dining, pull up the menu online and take a look ahead of time.  See if the menu has accommodating options to your specific food allergy.  Or even take it a step further by calling ahead – let the restaurant know when your reservation is and what food allergy you have.  Tell the person you speak with what items you were considering ordering and whether or not the ingredients will cause a reaction.

Do Ask to Speak with a Manager

Depending on the severity of your allergy, ask to speak with a manager.  Food allergies can be life-threatening.  Be sure to politely and clearly state your food allergy ahead of time.

Don’t Assume Your Food is Safe

I understand you don’t want to be that dinner guest who has very specific needs with respect to your meal.  However, depending on the severity of your allergy, assuming your food is safe is never a way to go.  Ask questions regarding the ingredients in the meal of your choice and how the food is handled.

Do Be Transparent

The person that knows their food allergy best is the person with the food allergy.  Regardless if you’re on the serving side of the equation or the dining side of the equation, be sure to keep all forms of communication open and honest.  If you’re a restaurant owner or employee and are unable to accommodate the guest’s needs, be sure to communicate it.

Having food allergies can be frustrating regardless if you’re the one who suffers from the allergy or not.  Be as transparent as possible when dining out and be sure to call ahead to address your specific allergy concerns with a manager.  With all that set-aside, there are plenty of fantastic restaurants that routinely accommodate their guests with food allergies – check it out!


By Tara Massan