You’re not alone. We’ve all been through it. Though we don’t necessarily know each other, let’s be gluten free buddies. I know we can help each other not feel so weird, ok?!!
I invite you to join me and not allow yourself to be on a pity pot. You have to grab life by the horns and just do what you need to do to make it work. Plain and simple. Not so plain and simple, you say? Let’s brainstorm and come up with strategies for eating out and making sure you return home feeling healthy, ok?
1. Stick up for yourself ALL THE TIME! When you explain your needs to the waitstaff and you can just tell by his/her body language that he/she wants to run as far away from your table as possible, hold on tight. Don’t give into the urge to take a chance on whatever they serve. You have to make sure that what you eat will be gluten free. Even if it is blatantly obvious that you are causing them a major headache, persevere. Trust me, you’ll be happier when you return home.
2. I’ve found that it helps to literally take the waitstaff and/or restaurant manager aside and help them understand the seriousness of your situation. This way you can ask the questions you need to ask and have their full attention.
3. Ask as many questions as you need to, but always be polite. It really will go a long way towards making sure you have a safe dining experience.
4. Before visiting the restaurant, if the restaurant has a website, view their online menu so that you have time to carefully and thoroughly scrutinize the menu for adequate gluten free possibilities, especially if the restaurant doesn’t have a gluten free menu.
5. Try not to go during their peak hours. You’ll be more likely to get personalized service and attention if you go either before or after their busiest times.
6. For emergency purposes, bring something safe to eat with you – a gluten free snack bar, a bag of nuts and dried fruit, for example. This way, if there ends up being nothing safe on the menu to order, you’ll at least have something to eat.
7. Eat a small snack before arriving at the restaurant. This will ensure that you aren’t ravenously hungry when you order and will help you make safe decisions.
8. If your meal arrives and you’re even the tiniest bit uncertain about it being gluten free, DO NOT hesitate to send it back. But first, before your food is taken back to the kitchen, try and ask for the manager so that you can enlist their help.
9. Tip generously. If your waitstaff has really done a super job of delivering your needs to the chef, and if you enjoy your meal, make sure to tip well. They will appreciate it and it will help future gluten free people who dine at the restaurant -we must stick together!
10. Make sure to communicate your satisfaction (or lack thereof) to the management before leaving the restaurant. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest writing a letter to the restaurant (pick up their business card before you leave or go online – oftentimes, you can email comments at the restaurant’s website).
Do you have any other suggestions for gluten free dining at restaurants? Please share your strategies – we can all learn from each other!