While eating out at restaurants can be stressful, there are many excellent establishments who have gone out of their way to accommodate special diets. And why not? Once trust has been built with an allergic customer, we tend to be very loyal. Some smart restaurants have discovered that their investment in staff training and foodsafe practices pays off by earning that loyalty.
But it goes both ways. Restaurants have also been highly frustrated by customers not letting them know about a food allergy before ordering and customers who say they are allergic who the server then sees eating off others’ plates. Frustrated establishments often then choose not to go the extra mile. How we communicate our needs is incredibly important.
It also pays to be smart regarding the type of food establishment you choose. Ideally it makes sense to not purchase from street vendors or outlets where they do not actually cook/assemble the food on site unless it has been manufactured at a separate establishment where they’ve put a proper food label on it.
Take into consideration your particular allergy as well. Do you have Celiac Disease? Eating out at a bakery deli might not be the wisest choice. If you have a peanut allergy, Vietnamese restaurants often use peanuts as a garnish and avoiding peanuts would be extremely difficult.
There are different tools available online to help you with choosing a restaurant. One site called Gluten Free Registry is a searchable database of American restaurants/delis/coffee/fast food businesses that are recommended by Celiacs. Even if you don’t have Celiac Disease, it is a good place to start as many of the establishments mentioned also accommodate other special diets and some of the chains are located in Canada.
One caveat in finding a great local restaurant that is part of a chain; unless it is fully company owned, each restaurant is franchised by different individuals. Don’t assume that each restaurant in the chain handles their food allergy safety the same way.