I love it when restaurants have gluten-free options. But I hate it when things go wrong with the meal. It seems to happen more often these days. I have a few theories, and I want to hear your take on whether you are seeing the same challenges with dining out.

The Gluten-Free Incident

Emma Made Art out of Foil as she Waited for her Meal

Emma (right) Made Art out of Foil as she Waited for her Meal

The other day the family went out to dinner to Olive Garden to carb load before my husband’s big race he had coming up. Now the Olive Garden has a gluten free menu that lists 8 items that are gluten free, including a pasta dish. Wow! Pasta at the Olive Garden! Problem is, Emma didn’t want the sauce on it so she ordered the pasta plain with butter. Easy right?

So the waitress came to the table apologizing that the cooks put the sauce on anyway and she took it back to get more noodles redone. Wrong. The waitress came back to the table telling us how that gluten-free dish actually comes to the restaurant already prepared that way – sauce and all.  Basically, it’s impossible to do “noodles-only,” (seems weird I know but it probably helps in lessening cross contamination).  In my estimation, there  two problems here:  #1, of the few items on the gluten-free menu, the server didn’t know that this noodle dish was prepared this way when we ordered and couldn’t redirect Emma, #2 as a backstop, the cooks didn’t even tell the server about this issue when she rang it in with no sauce and butter only (at least she says she put in the order correctly).

So Emma asked for steak, the lady warned us that it would take a while to cook. So finally she came up with ordering the Mixed Grill – basically kabobs of steak and chicken. And we waited and waited….My husband and I couldn’t bear to eat while Emma sat there with no food. About 20 minutes, two manager visits, a few apologies and a “comped” meal later, Emma got her meal.

The Issue

So here are my questions: Does this happen to you? How often? Take the Gluten-Free Dining Out Survey!

Why is this happening — seemingly more often than it should? Is it because more places are attempting gluten-free accommodations? Is it because staff doesn’t pay attention? Is it because the whole gluten-free phenomenon is so new that the staff isn’t educated? Is it because people don’t take it seriously?

I am not sure what I think. In some cases when I’m whipped up and frustrated, I think the answer is “all of the above”. But when I get past being immature about it, I think it is probably one or two of those or maybe something I haven’t thought of.

I just know it’s has happened to Emma three times in the last six months, and my recollection is because it was because of the “miseducation” or “uneducation” of the staff. Either way, it is something that makes a person with celiac disease say – “This sucks.” And that’s just too bad. I really don’t want to hear anyone be so down about it – even though sometimes we all have those days.

I would love to hear what you think for a follow up post. I have created a survey to get your input on this issue.

I look forward to telling you more about what we’ve learned.

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