For most people who have food allergies, social dining is a rare occasion. When you have to think about what's in the food, what others around you are eating, even what's in the restaurant, it's often easier to give it a miss altogether, and stay at home.
So, what is the best way to negotiate this problem?
It all depends on your particular allergy, knowing yourself, your reactions, and having a plan of action.
From experience, both as a chef and a customer with allergies, it is best to have conversations with the venue before walking through the door. Many restaurants I have been to are quite happy to work with you, when they know what they are dealing with. That said, there are still a lot who just don't want our custom, probably because they see us as an inconvenience, or it's 'too difficult'.
Whatever your circumstance, it's always much more helpful to be polite and respectful as a customer. Unlike a customer the other day, who walked into a pub that doesn't serve any food except crisps in sealed packets, demanding to know if there was gluten in the crisps and why they didn't serve gluten free beer. This was a tiny country pub, where there is no demand for anything other than your usual range of beer, cider, bottled drinks and packets of crisps.....they don't do food! If this customer had asked politely, rather than demanding aggressively, they would have had a much more friendly response from the staff. What I'm saying is, as a customer who has food allergies, coeliac disease, or any other condition, be reasonable, be polite, and don't expect miracles.
So what should you do when looking for somewhere to eat, firstly, check the following link https://www.scoresonthedoors.org.uk/ to find the latest hygiene rating for any establishment in the UK. As we have seen this week, there are some food businesses who are displaying fake ratings posters higher than they have achieved, see this article https://www.thecaterer.com/articles/552778/city-of-london-clamps-down-on-those-displaying-false-hygiene-ratings?fbclid=IwAR1LZ6u8bQPwaj_bEXfDbm6ZH-d8Xg4xAXpY0WQ9rSGp_lZC55dlpfTOVgA
As I said on Facebook (@eatingoutwithallergiesUK), and Twitter (@Stella_EOWFA), if they can't be trusted to do this right, how can we trust that they'll give correct allergen information? I'm here to help with all they need to give excellent service to food allergy sufferers.
Talk to the management BEFORE you go, check again when you arrive, be specific about your needs, ask to see the allergen information documents, ask about cross contamination, be a pest, keep asking questions, above all, be polite, keep your cool, and be prepared to walk out. For further ideas check out the page on my website https://www.foodallergyfriends.com/allergy-sufferers While you're there, please sign up to be able to access blogs, recipes, and other resources as they are added to the site.
I'll be back soon with a recipe or two.