UnderCover Waitress: Food Allergies and Restaurants

Monday, January 10, 2011

Food Allergies and Restaurants

Somewhere, in some "foodie" magazine, some writer must have been on deadline. Writing to the entitled yuppie masses, he advised people who don't especially like certain foods or ingredients to bold-face lie to their waitress and claim to have a food allergy. While customers who lie are responsible for their behavior, this writer owes the entire restaurant industry an apology.

Food Allergies are Serious

Real food allergies kill people, and some food allergies are not common. For example, am acquainted with a woman who is allergic to strawberries. She was served cake with "raspberry" filling in a restaurant and was rushed to the emergency room. (This was years ago and I am happy to report she is fine.) Nut and peanut allergies are so severe many schools now have "nut free zones" in the cafeteria.

When restaurant customers claim to have a food allergy, the kitchen must be alerted. They must either clean and clear a safe area, or alert the customer about possible contamination in the food preparation area.

Bad Customer Behavior in Restaurants

There are many reasons customers should not lie to waitresses:

  • It is morally reprehensible.
  • It causes a massive inconvenience to the kitchen.
  • A good restaurant will accommodate food preferences, within reason.
  • Waitresses know when they are being lied to. Really. Be embarrassed. 
Some of my favorite memories of liars: 
  • Carrot allergy: does not want carrots on her plate or in her salad. Ordered lentil soup. Soup is full of carrots. Response: oh, but its okay 'cuz they are small and cut up. 
  • Shellfish allergy: decided to eat shellfish. 
  • Me: are you allergic? Woman: Uh....okay, yes? Me: Don't lie to me. Woman: No, I'm not allergic. 
Good Customer Service

If a dish can be prepared without the olives that you detest but are not allergic to, any good restaurant will accommodate your request. If they can't because it was made ahead of time, order something else. If they won't because the chef is in a mood today, eat somewhere else. A good restaurant will be happy to accommodate your preferences. 

Real Food Allergies

To those of you with real food allergies, please, please, PLEASE tell your server that upfront. It is not possible for restaurants, especially good ones that make your meal to order, to list every single solitary ingredient every time. 

Served dessert to a woman who was incensed that there was raspberry sauce on her plate. She never mentioned a raspberry allergy. When I asked her if she was allergic to anything else, she gave me a dirty look. 

Bottom line: your server may not like you but she does not want to kill you. Tell her your allergies and avoid anaphylactic shock. 

And whatever you do, do not lie to your server. 

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