Nothing can be more frustrating to a parent who has a child that is gluten free than to visit a restaurant or other food establishment and find that the staff is not trained about gluten free or to find very limited options when dining out. We have found that even when dining out at establishments that have a gluten free menu, sometimes the staff still doesn't know what gluten free entails.
Since R.O.C.K. Charlotte started, we have had to plan many events for gluten free groups. If anyone has ever planned for gluten free group events, it can pose some snags especially when dealing with multiple food sensitivities. So here are a few tips to eating out gluten free...
1. Check ahead at the restaurant for gluten free options and possibly a menu. There are many online resources for eating out gluten free like TriumphDining or the GlutenFreeRegistry. But even after finding information online it is still prudent to check with the restaurant personally to make sure their gluten free policies are still in effect.
2. When you arrive at the restaurant, I find it is best to let every person who handles your party know that you are gluten free. From the receptionist at the door to the first time your table is greeted and waited on, it should be clear to anyone handling any part of your meal that you have special dietary needs. In some instances, if a restaurant does not have a staunch gluten free policy in effect it is best to speak with a manager and the chef who will be preparing the meal.
3.You are the biggest advocate for yourself and probably know more than most restauranteers about your dietary needs. Therefore, if something appears on your plate like a side of sauce and you know that sauces are one of the pitfalls that can contain gluten - Do not hesitate to ask the wait staff to double check that it is indeed gluten free. This simple practice can save you a lot of pain and a "gluten attack" later. If one or more of the group are not eating gluten free the chances of a mix-up will of course increase.
4. If there is a "mix-up" or if the staff of the restaurant are not trained about gluten free then try to calmly explain what gluten free is. It is not my suggestion that you eat at an establishment that gives no regard to contamination, but as we all know, "the squeaky wheel gets the grease." In other words, you may very well be the person that gets them interested in giving gluten free options. They most assuredly will miss your patronage more if you are pleasant and less so if you are frustrated and irritated.
5. If a contamination occurs and someone is "glutenated" by their visit, the best thing to do is contact the management or corporate with an email and or phone call the next day. They cannot know about an issue if it is not brought to their attention. Keep in mind that if you think about how hard it can be for some of us to keep contamination out of the environment at home, it has to be doubly hard in a restaurant where multiple people have a hand in serving you your meals.