The Definitive Guide to Dealing With Allergies

Last night at work, I was told of a customer who came in earlier this week presenting one of those cards that stated every single thing she was allergic too. From coconut to sesame seeds to asparagus, she gave us the run down of the things the can’t eat. This, before even looking at our menu to see if we have coconut, sesame seeds or asparagus on our menu. Serving people with allergies can be an arduous task, but I now present to you the definitive guide to dealing with people who are allergic to fucking everything:

  • Let them know that this is a joint effort and that we aren’t going to choose their food for them like they are children. They need to look at the menu so they can make an informed decision based on their needs. They can’t just hand us a two-page, single-spaced sheet of paper with a list of food they can’t eat and expect us to craft an entree just for them. What you say: “Let’s work together on this so we can ensure a satisfying and safe meal for you, ma’am.” What you think: “Bitch, if you know you can’t eat gluten, then just skip right over the whole pasta section.”
  • If a customer has a food allergy, assure them that you can handle this responsibility. Sometimes they think that because we are servers, we must be idiots as well. I am always surprised at how many people think that being a server is so easy that a monkey can do it and that we must be so stupid that there is literally no other job we can do, but they are suddenly willing to put 100% trust in us to not accidentally serve them a peanut and kill them. Remind them that we got this.
  • Ask them if they are allergic, intolerant or just trying to adhere to the latest fad diet. There is a difference between a shellfish allergy not liking shrimp and we deserve to know where they fall within the spectrum. Be careful though, because you have to do this a very nice. For instance, you could say, “Are you sure you’re allergic to dairy? I mean I left the bleu cheese out of your Cobb salad but I watched you suck down that ice cream that came with your friend’s chocolate cake.”
  • Communicate with the kitchen and anyone else who might come in contact with their food and be sure to tell the customer that you have sent out an APB about their needs so they feel taken care of. This is super important, because even though the chicken doesn’t normally have any butter on it and you don’t feel like you need to tell the kitchen to leave it off, maybe that day the chicken looked extra dry so a cook added a dab of butter and now your customer is going to die. Good job.
  • Once the food is served, make sure their face isn’t swelling up like a giant balloon. If it is you have to options. The first is to apologize profusely, give them an epi pen and hope for the best. The second option is to take off your apron and run the fuck away.

3 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Dealing With Allergies

  1. Eimz

    If a customer mentions an allergy more than three times, I usually bluff it and say that a member of staff has the same allergy. This usually makes them back off. My exception to this is when someone asks, “Is this gluten free?” a thousand times (Bitch, what does it say on the menu? If it’s marked GF, it’s gluten free!). Then, I will stop them in their tracks and say, “Sorry, can I ask, are you gluten free or coeliac?” to which the response is usually, “What’s the difference?” I will explain that if they’re full-on coeliac, I’m going to stop taking their order for a minute so I can run in and tell the kitchen to change all their chopping boards, knives, cloths, saucepans, etc., so there’s no risk of contamination. If their not coeliac, I just stop listening at that point.

  2. Lizzie

    As someone with two odd (but real) food allergies, who has been a server, it blows my mind how many people seem to think it’s the restaurant’s responsibility to police THEIR allergy. Read the menu, ask questions, and be cheerful and willing to make a different selection or go without if you can’t be accommodated. My allergies are MY health problem, not the servers and not the restaurants. I get it when servers give me the eye roll over my allergies occasionally, if I had to listen to people tell me they’re gluten intolerant all day while they stuff their faces with free bread I would be skeptical too. In a perfect world, it would be nice to have every ingredient in a dish available to read online in advance, but until then I’ll carry my epi pen, be patient, and practice a little personal accountability.


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