I saw this meme on Facebook the other day:

GlutenAllergy-Graphic

People definitely had something to say about it:  Some of those who commented said they found this offensive.  That servers should know what is in the restaurant’s food and how it is prepared.  

Some said they weren’t offended, but didn’t find it particularly funny either.

And finally others actually found some truth to the meme. 

What do you think?

What are our gluten free expectations?

Back in the 90’s when I was a server in college, I don’t remember any customers asking about ingredients in food. We had a vegetarian lasagna…that was about it for special diets. Of course, I don’t think people were as aware or vocal about gluten sensitivities and food allergies at that time.  But I also don’t remember any education on food allergies and preparation.  

Fast forward 25 years and things have changed:  vegan, gluten free, paleo, vegetarian, top 8 food allergens –many Americans are more aware of food intolerances, allergies or choices. But also, in my opinion, I have never seen restaurants try to capitalize off a food “trend” like they have with gluten free.  When low fat was a popular diet, did you see a menu dedicated to that?  But many restaurants have an entire menu for gluten free dishes (some menus are called gluten-sensitive, gluten-free friendly, gluten-friendly menu).  

I think when a restaurant puts together a full gluten free menu (or does serious marketing on a new gluten-free option) comes responsibility.  Servers, management and cooks/chefs need to know how to assist with helping a gluten free eater make a safe choice in their kitchen.  They need to be prepared to answer detailed questions.  Gluten free eaters expect this so they can try to eat safely and with some peace of mind.

If there is no gluten free menu, then I do think the expectations should be different from the gluten free consumer.  Ask the questions like How can we prepare the eggs to reduce the risk of cross contamination?  I actually asked this once in Perkins Restaurant and the server said we should just scramble them in the microwave.  That is how we have requested eggs for my daughter ever since.  Sometimes asking those kinds of questions can lead to positive results when the server is not an expert in gluten free cooking.

But I also believe that when people with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity go out to eat, we are accepting the risk that we could get contaminated.  It stinks, I know.  But since we aren’t making our own food in our own kitchen, it simply is out of our hands.  That is a risk.  

I can see why someone would make this meme to be quite honest.  Sometimes, because we have to, we (and folks with other food allergies) ask a lot of questions about food ingredients and preparation.  I could see where it might make a server feel like they need to have a dietitian’s certification or worry about needing malpractice insurance.

Ultimately I hope that between the restaurants and folks who can’t eat gluten, we can come to a happy place.  Where restaurants will do their very best to make a consistent effort to make their marketed gluten free options safe for someone with celiac, but that customers will also do their due diligence, always asking questions (tip– call ahead and ask the detailed questions when it is not so busy and you have a chef or manager’s undivided attention) and then choosing to patronize the location or not.  The choice is the customer’s.  

A good gluten free experience often means a loyal GF customer in the end. 

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4 Responses to “Should Servers Know All? What Do Gluten Free Eaters Expect in Restaurants?”

  1. Even if a restaurant has a gluten free menu. The server cant remember everything. The chef should have a better idea of what they can do or cant do. I am out to make it easier for restaurant staff to learn and serve any one with a different diet around gluten or food allergies. We also need to understand how to ask the right questions and be clear to the staff what we have to watch out for. It takes both parties to work on this and make it a win-win .

  2. I agree Connie!

  3. Hit it on the head (again!), Amy!
    Although our “average” server knows probably twice as much as a server at any other restaurant, there’s always room for improvement. Having a hands-on Owner, Operator and Chef (in one) makes a huge difference for us and our guests. It takes work, but the GF population is fiercely loyal. When you take care of them, they’ll take care of you right back. :)

  4. Thanks John. Ernie’s Pub is a great gluten free option in the Twin Cities (Located in Burnsville)

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