You’ve reviewed the menu in full, called ahead and spoken to a manager. Once you arrive at the restaurant, take these extra precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable meal.
Communication between restaurants and customers with food allergies is essential to a safe dining experience. View an example of how this communication can work well in this video.
- Talk to everyone. Tell a manager or your waiter about your allergies before you are seated. Present your chef card and ask that it be shown to the chef on duty.
- Ask what is in your dish and how it’s prepared. Make sure your server understands what you are allergic to, and explain that cross-contact must be avoided. Explain what procedures a restaurant should follow to keep your food safe. You may want to speak to the manager and the chef, just to be sure. You can also use a chef card or My Teal Ticket to clearly communicate your allergens.
- Don’t be embarrassed. If the wait staff doesn’t seem to understand your situation, you may blame yourself for not communicating effectively. Always trust your gut and seek out another staff member or manager. Sometimes, the safest choice is to avoid eating, enjoy the company of your friends or family, and find a safe meal somewhere else afterward.
- Give praise. If you have a good experience at a restaurant, tell the staff about it and go back. Reward excellent service and food allergy awareness, and build a relationship.
- Keep it simple. The more complicated questions you have to ask about the items on a menu, the more room for error or misunderstanding. Ordering simpler fare—like a baked potato, broiled chicken or steamed vegetables—may be the safest way to go.
- Avoid fried foods. Both the grill and the frying oil are ripe for cross-contact. It’s best to skip fried foods unless you know for sure that they are prepared safely.
- Be especially careful when ordering dessert. These foods are often a source of hidden allergens. Since many restaurants order their desserts from specialty shops, the staff may not be able to provide a complete list of ingredients. If in doubt, wait and have a safe dessert at home.
What to Read Next
FARE works with individuals, policymakers and restaurant industry groups to advocate on behalf of families managing food allergies.
The Food Code is a summary of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) best advice for uniform systems and practices that address the safety of food sold in food service and certain retail establishments and is revised every 4 years.