Thank You, Restaurant

The phone rings, and on the other end of the line I hear a friendly “hello?”

Hi, I’m calling to check and see if you use soy in your food; I have a horrible soy allergy and I’m thinking of eating at your restaurant.

Now, from here, the conversation can go anywhere from:

  1. Oh, I’m so sorry about that, just give me a second and let me check. Hold for a few minutes. Friendly manager/chef answers line and explains ingredients and apologizes if I cannot eat there. This is a good experience, a good call, and somewhere I am definitely going to eat, soon.
  2. Soy? This is (certain kind of cuisine that my goodness would never even consider the use of soybean oil-gasp). We do not use soy in our cooking. That’s for sure. Um, do you mind checking? Okay, but I’m telling you, there’s no soy in our food. Well, I just need to know about the oil, or the sauces? Sometimes it gets tricky. Okay, hold on. Hold for a few minutes. A few more minutes. Then, a voice says sorry, everything has soy. Bye. Not a great phone call, but you’ve got your answer.
  3. Soy? Hmmmm, well, we don’t use anything that is soy. Can I check on your oil? Hold for a few minutes. Nope, you are fine. It’s vegetable oil. Oh I am so sorry, but sometimes vegetable oil can be part soybean oil.  Would you mind finding out what the oil actually is? Sure. Hold for a few minutes. No, it’s fine. Looks like corn, maybe. Don’t know for sure. Sorry. Click. This call gets us nowhere, fast.

And, once you get to the restaurant, like everything else, sometimes people are willing to answer every question and not be annoyed at my still new food allergy sufferer paranoia. Others get slightly irritated. Still others make me feel like it might just be better for everyone if I’d never walked into their restaurant. Ugh.

The point of all of this is that I used to work in a restaurant so I know how busy it gets in there, and I cannot even imagine being responsible for running an entire restaurant. That’s hard and scary, and with a growing number of people who are diagnosed officially with food allergies, running that restaurant just got that much harder. So, first off, restauranters and those working in the restaurant industry, hats off for dealing with all of us every single day. That’s no small victory.

Now, on to the oil. I understand soybean oil is cheap. I get that you must make a profit but can we look into using an oil that is not a top 8 allergen? Thanks, and I’ll stop whining now.

Finally, please know what is in your food, because when you don’t know what kind of oil you use that’s one more place I cannot eat, and that list is overwhelming as is, so please please know what kind of oil it is, if at all possible. Thank you.

And, while we are on the subject, potato chip companies, how about including soy as one of the things  you bold at the bottom of the label, with wheat and milk? That would be awesome.  How about finding out whether another oil might not be much more expensive at all? That would be so great.  And, Lay’s I love you for your new natural potato chips. And, they are delicious.

And, to those restaurants who have answered and explained and offered to make special arrangements, hats off to you. Because not only are you excelling at customer service and all that good business mojo, you make me feel like everybody else and that makes me want to eat at your restaurant.

Hats off, Pete’s A Pizza, @petes_newhaven, for answering all our questions, making us a freaking unbelievably delicious dinner, and for making me feel like everybody else.

Now, that’s a pizza.

*****I have decided to devote at least some posts to food allergies this year in honor of the businesses who are helping allergy sufferers and helping pave the way for others to follow suit.

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4 thoughts on “Thank You, Restaurant

  1. Great post. Suggestions for eating out: Go early. Become a regular–the staff will start to look out for you–and tip well. Make allergy cards to carry with you. Stop by a new restaurant ahead of time and discuss things with the staff. Ask what oil they use. Ask if the oil is a blend (often canola or olive oil blended with soy oil.) Ask if they use butter or margarine. If they say butter, ask if it is a blend. If the server seems clueless, ask to speak to the manager. And–if they really seem to not get it, emphasize that no one wants to end the evening by having to call 911. Sometimes it’s faster to have the server ask the chef what he thinks would be safest for you to order; they have great ideas. And, BTW, I linked to this post in The Soy-free Kitchen: http://soyfreekitchen.blogspot.com/2012/01/say-hello-to-girleat.html

    • Great suggestions! I’ll definitely keep these in mind for the next restaurant. I enjoy going to Pete’s because they know the drill now so you are absolutely right about the easiness of being a “regular” at a restaurant when you have a food allergy.

      I have learned about the oil blends (ugh!) and I get frustrated anytime restaurants tell me that they use “vegetable” oil but cannot tell me what kind. I am trying now to put together a list of restaurants in the area but so far I only have three that are totally soy-free.

      Sometimes I miss the quick food, the picking up a sandwich or “grabbing” dinner when I am out but I have gotten used to packing my food, and I try to recreate what I miss in restaurants at home, and sometimes healthier versions.

      It has been so great connecting with you. I’ll share any soy free finds, of course!

    • Thank you for the link! I will definitely use this-right now. Seriously, starting right now. That’s an absolutely fabulous idea. The soy allergy threw me for a loop for a while but I am just now getting the hang of living with a food allergy, and every bit of help helps! Thank you again, and I will definitely throw any new ideas I come up with your way.

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