5 Questions to Ask at a Restaurant if You Have Food Allergies

| August 16, 2012

waiter answering questions from customers

Food allergies need not take the fun out of restaurant dining. Learning more about certain dishes on a menu not only helps you stay safe but also expands your knowledge of various types of cuisine. Use Dex to find interesting restaurants in your area, then arrive ready to ask these five questions of your server or the chef.

1. Is the dish made from scratch in your kitchen?

Some restaurants make each item on their menu on the premises. Others, such as large chains, may include in their dishes components made elsewhere. If the server or chef answers “no” to this question, the following two questions may go unanswered, forcing you to eat elsewhere.

2. Does the dish contain the name of your allergen?

Again, if components of the dish are premade elsewhere, the server or chef may not know the answer to this question. On the other hand, he or she might; those same large chains that provide premade components also often make available, both onsite and online, a list of ingredients for each dish on the menu.

3. Does the dish contain alternate names for your allergen?

Certain ingredients have multiple names. For example, if you have a severe allergy to peanuts, odds are you can rattle off their many synonyms — including groundnut, goober pea and monkey nut — and you should ask about them as well. Travel tip: When visiting a foreign country, even an English-speaking one, know the names of the allergen used in that country for when you dine at a restaurant.

4. Will the dish be prepared using utensils or surfaces that also prepare dishes containing your allergen?

If a restaurant does not have separate utensils and surfaces to accommodate allergen-related requests, the answers to the previous questions prove irrelevant because cross-contamination can expose you to the allergen. You will need to find another place to eat.

5. Will you take my chef card?

Those newly diagnosed with a food allergy may not yet have heard of these handy cards. The card states the allergen and a list of ingredients that can cause a reaction. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network website offers an interactive tool for making such cards.

Most restaurants will try to accommodate your needs and even suggest dishes they can ensure do not contain your allergen. However, if you don’t feel confident that the server or chef will take your food allergy seriously, then leave. Dex can help you find such a restaurant, as its listings include “special diet” tags to point you in the right direction.

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Category: Food & Dining, What's in Your Food

About the Author ()

Pamela Mitchell spent more than 15 years at daily newspapers such as the Hartford Courant and Houston Chronicle before becoming a full-time freelancer. She now writes about a variety of topics, from dining and entertainment to pets and travel.