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  1. #1
    TheGooch's Avatar
    TheGooch is offline Winner 2014 - Newbie of the Year
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    Default How accommodating should restaurants / cafes be when it comes to allergies and/or die

    I observed an interaction at a local cafe today that got me thinking about restricted diets, allergies and food preferences.

    I was standing behind a couple of people at my local cafe. One of the customers asked the waitress what they had that was vegan.

    The waitress showed her the display case with a variety of foods, each with a little sign next to it explaining whether it was dairy free, gluten free or whatever. In my regional town, this cafe would have to be one of the best in terms of variety for different needs.

    The customer was not only vegan but also gluten free and sugar free and preservative free. They also didn't want nuts/seeds and didn't want legumes.

    I thought the cafe did really well at trying to find a solution and in the end offered to make a salad with roasted pumpkin, avocado, tomato, greens, dukkah, and a dressing that met the requirements but the customer was not satisfied. Her response "you mean to tell me that all you can offer me is a garden salad?" And then chastised the waitress on the lack of choice, and mumbled to her friend.

    She then wanted to read the ingredients label on the dressing, and didn't want pumpkin because it had some oil on it for roasting, reminded the waitress that the dukkah was no good because seeds and nuts.

    The waitress asked if any of the requirements were an allergy. The customer snapped back "does it matter?" The waitress looked upset and tried to explain that the reason she was asking was because she couldn't guarantee the food preparation area would be free of gluten, dairy or other animal products because they prepare all those things there.

    The customer said "I guess I'll just eat wilted lettuce leaves then. Make sure you wash it properly."

    Throughout this interaction I thought staff did a great job trying to accommodate but nothing they did/said was good enough.

    It made me wonder, how far should cafes/restaurants go to be as inclusive as possible? And also what is reasonable for a customer to expect? And finally, does it make a difference whether the request is an allergy or a preference?

    This customer may have been at the extreme end, but I did wonder how frustrating it must be to have particular needs and not be able to enjoy going out to eat with friends.

  2. #2
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    In your above example I feel for the waitress. She did fantastic!

    I don't think people should expect that their food preferences are catered to. However, allergies are a bit different.

    I don't eat seafood (or anything from the sea) and I never have. My parents took us to one of the biggest most popular seafood places in Sydney years ago. I had a garden salad as it was the only non-seafood thing on the menu. Now I just avoid seafood restaurants and only go places that have other options.

    I don't think customers should get upset if their needs and even allergies aren't catered for. Surely it is better that the cafe/restaurant is being up front about it

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    The waitress seemed very patient and understanding. Not sure I would have been able to be so accommodating! If you cut out meat, eggs, fish, diary, nuts, legumes, seeds, sugar, preservatives - I'm not sure there is much left to eat besides plain fruit and vege. Maybe pasta? Im all for being accomodating to the extent practicable but this customer sounds plain difficult and rude. Surely she would understand that her request is difficult to manage and be a bit more polite about it at least?

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    Wow!! That person seems completely unreasonable! I feel like an inconvenience asking if mayonnaise products have raw egg in them at restaurants since becoming pregnant, since it's not actually an allergy. And I feel like all my Christmases have come at once if the kitchen substitutes the mayo for an eggless sauce on the side without me requesting it. Some people are just waaaaaaaaayyyy too entitled.

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    I will begin with saying I don't have allergies or food preferences.

    I think it is hard for a place to cater for everything and everyone.

    And to keep separate food preparation/serving tools for everything is also pretty hard.

    I think that they should be somewhat flexible and try to ensure the customers are kept safe (in the instance of allergies).

    I think that cafe tried to do the best they could. And the customer was just rude.

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    I'm allergic to eggs, so the pain of having to check everything when I eat out is real but necessary for me.

    I think restaurants should be able to accommodate for allergies. The customer in the OP however has an extremely restrictive diet (which seems to be by choice) and therefore I would say any eatery would struggle to come up with something that suited their needs outside of the realms of plain salad/vegetables.

    I do feel sorry for the waitress considering she was really making an effort to meet their needs. How bloody rude.

    The only expectation I have when I dine out is that the staff will check properly that the item I'm ordering is safe for me to eat. I'm very clued up on what does/doesn't have egg, so to begin with I only choose items on the menu that appear to be safe, but still double check. Hell, sometimes I'll just order hot chips rather than risk a reaction!

    I don't even mind if a restaurant tells me 'sorry, I don't know' or 'I can't be sure', as I'd rather them be honest then say 'oh, it's fine' then I have a reaction because it's got egg in it.

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    I think that the waitress did an amazing job at trying to find a solution for a fairly extreme diet choice. The customer in this instance was rude. The waitress gave explanations, and tried her best to provide something. With such extreme exclusions, surely the customer should at least anticipate that her needs can't be met everywhere. I know places that would just flat out refuse to do anything if they were confronted with such a long list of exclusions. What if the customer ate something on the no-go list (purely by accident) and the customer decided to destroy the reputation of the business.

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    My kids all have food allergies, which means I have a strict diet whilst breastfeeding & my kids can eat a limited menu at cafe's - nothing to the extent of this woman though! If I'm not sure if a restaurant will have something I can eat, I would ring first and check what's available. There is almost always something me and my kids can eat at most places.

    I bring my own alternative milk to a cafe and ask if they can make me a coffee with it instead of using their own cow/ soy milk. I think a restaurant has a responsibility to provide a safe allergy environment according to their claims - eg, if they say something is nut free, they need to be sure it's safe for someone with a nut allergy to eat. And I think a restaurant needs to be understanding when I bring my own alternative food for my kids to eat there if they cant eat anything on the menu. Apart from the above - the restaurant has absolutely no responsibility to cater to my food restrictions or make sure they have something I can eat. That woman sounds like a royal PITA 😐 i bet the poor waitress would have liked to tell her where to go. It's totally unreasonable to expect the restaurant to cater to so many food preferences.

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    It would be nice of places to come up with a meal to suit someone's dietary choices or needs, however I don't think it should be expected.

    Most places will have at least one vegetarian, vegan and gluten free option on the menu anyway, or meals that can be adjusted by omitting or swapping ingredients.

    When I was a waitress, I would ask if it was for an allergy, intolerance etc. once someone started asking questions, because the kitchen staff would then check every single ingredient to make sure it was safe.

    That customer sounds like a nightmare! I would have wanted to tell her to enjoy her lettuce leaves or go elsewhere.

  11. #10
    rainbow road is offline look at the stars, look how they shine for you
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    DD is highly sensitive to dairy (not sure if allergic or very intolerant as she's only 4 months old) so if I order something without dairy I expect it to be dairy free.

    But, I always order things I know will be fairly easy to modify.

    Eg tonight I'm going out for dinner and I've already looked at the menu online and decided what to eat. If I am going somewhere I know will be harder to find something, I'll eat beforehand.

    My local cafe I gave a tub of drinking chocolate that is DF and so when I go I can easily order a soy hot chocolate with my own powder.

    I think the customer in the op was totally unreasonable frankly.


 

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