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Despite what you might have been told or believe, most restaurants are pretty chill about you having a dietary preference.  Employees are not lurking in the back of house ready to sabotage your meal.

For one big reason, money.  Staff are not prepared to risk revenue, tips or their job just because your preference may or may not irritate them on some personal level.

This is a business, a service business with people’s livelihoods at stake.  Accommodating preference comes with the territory and they are fine with it.

We get it.  You want what you want, but conjuring the word “allergy” is not the way to get it.  Here is why.

Manager Gets Involved

First, the manager on duty usually gets involved, either with you personally or with overseeing order.  They do this to make sure that every step (and there are a lot of them) from order-in to prep to service is managed safely and there are no mistakes.  When this happens the manager is taken off managing the million other things they need to be doing during a service.

You don’t need this to step.  Why?  Because you won’t die or have a reaction.

Flagging Your Fake Order

Next up is flagging your order on the restaurant’s ticketing system as “allergy”.  Yes, staff would need to do this to modify your preference.   However, for food allergies in addition to the extra time involved in listing specifics of the allergy on the ticket, they often walk it back to the kitchen which has the intended effect of putting everyone on high alert.

You don’t need this to step.  Why?  Because you won’t die or have a reaction.

Chain of Communication

When your “allergy” order is received by the back of house, in a way, the kitchen grinds to a halt.

Everything in a commercial kitchen is designed for speed and efficiency.  Things are prepped, stored and placed on the line to support a speedy service. Food allergy orders interrupt this flow because of the high level of separation and care needed.

Caution, not speed is the first priority.

Depending on the level of cross-contact prevention (safety practices for food allergy) a restaurant uses, the following steps we call the ‘chain of communication’ tend to be fairly standard:

Step 1:  Food prep area is washed down and protected.  Sometimes the chef/cook will come off the line (i.e. their place in the kitchen) to prepare an order in a different area of the kitchen.

Step 2:  Gloves are changed and/or hands are washed.

Step 3:  Aprons are often changed to clean ones.

Step 4:  New utensils, cooking equipment, etc. are taken out of where they are safely stored for just this purpose and put into action.

Step 5:  Any ingredients that have been prepped specifically for allergy orders are taken out of where they are safely stored.

Step 6:  Order is prepared with as much separation from regular service as possible, using special safety techniques.

Step 7:  The order is inspected before plating or being boxed up to make sure it hasn’t accidentally come in contact with a visible allergen.

Step 8:  The order is put in the pass for the expeditor (this is where all orders get a final check before being given back to the server).  A manager will inspect your order personally.  Only now can the chef/cook return to regular service.

Step 9:  Your meal is returned to you alone from other orders.  If it is bagged, it is bagged separately.  This is to ensure there is not any accidental transfer of allergen protein during transportation if there are non-allergy orders at the same table.

Step 10:  If you are eating in the restaurant there will be special follow up by the server or manager or both to make sure there have not been any errors.

Let’s hope there have not been any errors because the only safe way to fix a food allergy order mistake is to completely scrap the one they just made and start all over from scratch.

You don’t need any of these steps. Why? Well, it should be very clear by now. 

Don’t, Just Don’t

As you can see now, true food allergy orders are a big deal to the people who need them and the people who prepare them.

They take a lot of time and effort.  They require all staff (including dishwashers) to have special training.  Food allergy guests happily and gratefully embrace the extra wait time if it means a restaurant is taking these steps to prepare their meal safely.

But to put it bluntly food allergy faker, you have just wasted everybody’s time.

You have also made eating out less tolerant and more dangerous for people who need these extra steps.

Nothing is as frustrating to foodservice employees who put into play that incredible level of care and attention only to find you eating the exact thing you are apparently “allergic” to off of your friend’s plate or ordering it for desert.

So the next time you eat out please try the gluten-free item, hold the butter or onion but stress to staff that it is a preference not an allergy, staff will be so thankful you did and they will definitely hold that butter.