No one wants to mess with a food allergy. Restaurant proprietors would like their guests to leave their establishments fat and happy, not covered in hives or gasping for breath in an ambulance.
In the restaurants I’ve worked, even a hint of an allergy issue from a patron–“It’s not an allergy, but could you leave the lettuce off the sandwich? It upsets my stomach.”–constitutes a red alert conveyed from the host stand to the server to the chef.
Other times, when the allergy list goes on and on–“I am vegan AND I can’t eat corn or soy or wheat or oats or strawberries …”–I have been known to interrupt the patron and ask, “Why don’t you just tell me what you can eat, and I’ll work it out with the chef.”
Honestly, sometimes I wonder how people get through life when all they seem to be able to eat are carrots and potatoes.
So, be they vegan, vegetarian, gluten sensitive, lactose intolerant, allergic to nuts and shellfish, or if they just detest a specific food–how does a restaurant charge such patrons for the special orders that may ensue?
Nicholle wrote Ask the Gal to share a recent experience:
“The other night, we went out to eat at a hamburger joint. I am a vegetarian. I know it’s a pain to modify the menu, but there were not very many items on the menu that I could have. I ordered a BLTT and asked for cheese instead of the bacon and turkey. When I got the bill, I had been charged for the piece of cheese. I accept that I have to pay for a sandwich even when the most expensive item is removed, but I thought it was a little ridiculous to have to pay for a substitution of cheese. I didn’t fight it or talk to the manager, but do you think that’s fair?”
Nicholle, I hear you, and frankly, I think the charge was unnecessary. Maybe someone had the attitude, “If she’s a freakin’ vegetarian, then why did she come to a burger joint?” Voila, $1.50 for a slice of cheese. On the other hand, plenty of restaurants charge extra for cheese and other sides on a sandwich, so maybe that’s what happened. On the other hand of that, you didn’t have the meat that usually comes in that sandwich, so, yeah, kind of crazy.
If I ever own a restaurant (which I will NOT), I would make sure to have at least a couple of veggie items on the menu, or allow for obvious substitutions at no extra charge. If I had to make up a special dish to accommodate dietary needs or restrictions, I would tell the patron the price of the item beforehand. And if I charged extra for cheese, I’d say so up front, too, in person or spelled out on the menu.
Of course, there are also those pesky guests who want to rewrite the menu and substitute half the items in one entree for something else entirely. How do you draw the line on that? And if you don’t draw that line, how do you charge for it?
Chefs? Owners? Managers? Chime in, please.
Meanwhile, could I have that salad with chicken instead of steak, with just a sprinkle of cheese–it’s goat cheese not feta, right? Oh, and extra sunflower seeds, no onions–unless they are red onions, which is fine, I like those. And just a few croutons–not too many. Can I also have it with the dressing you serve for the salad listed above this one, but only use half what you normally use and then can you pre-toss it really well so the dressing doesn’t sit in the bottom of the bowl? Thanks!