I, a Millennial, have dealt with food sensitivities for over 15 years.  I have gone to many restaurants and interacted with many waiters/waitresses over the years.  At first, it was less common for staff to understand what I needed, but they tried.  I also made effort to make sure I received a meal that was safe for me to eat.  It would really make my day when staff would go above and beyond to make sure that I was okay and got what I needed.


Nowadays, the concepts of gluten free, dairy free, and food allergens overall are more well known in the restaurant or food service space.  Popular spots, and trendy spots with a reputation of being ‘health conscious,’ have created menus that are very accommodating to those seeking to avoid several common food sensitivities, such as gluten, dairy, and nuts.  These spots tend to have servers who care enough to go to the back to check if a meal you are interested in has a particular ingredient you are trying to avoid.


HOWEVER…there is a trend I have seen too many times now:  the younger staff typically do not care (basically those in their mid 20s and younger).  There have been multiple occasions where I have asked them direct questions and received indirect answers.  Thus, what I end up doing is pushing them to go find the answer.   Here are a few examples:


Example 1

I’m on vacation visiting family and we go to an ice cream spot that has some dairy free flavors.  Before I order the flavor that is gluten free and dairy free, which happens to be ‘oatmeal cookie,’

I ask (D): Are there are any nuts or seeds in the oatmeal cookie flavored ice cream?

Staff (S): I don’t think so.

D: [I just look at them waiting for a more accurate answer]

S: There shouldn’t be.

D: [I just look at them waiting for a more accurate answer]

Staff number 2: There shouldn’t be.  There are raisins though.

D: [I just look at them waiting for a more accurate answer]

S2: Let me make a call.  [Staff makes call, then returns.] There are no nuts or seeds.


I order.  I sit down with my dairy free ice cream.  As I am eating it, I notice chocolate chips, and no raisins.  There is a flavor at this spot that is not gluten free that is called, ‘cookie dough.’

D: [I go up to the counter.] Are you sure that this is the oatmeal cookie flavor?

S2: Yes.

D: There are chocolate chips in it.  Did you get it from the right spot?

S2: Yes.  There should be raisins in it though.


I sit back down and realize that as much as I wanted to eat the rest of the ice cream, I no longer trusted the staff’s answers and stopped eating it.  A few days later, I emailed the company about my experience and requested that the staff be informed of the ingredients of each ice cream.  I did not receive a response.


Example 2

I go to a vegan spot with my friend.


D: What is the bacon made out of?

S: It is soy free

D: But what is it made out of?

S: It is soy free, that’s it.

D: [thinking to myself her question does not address what I asked].  Do you know if the hamburger bun is gluten free?

S: It is made from potato

D: [I am aware that gluten free bread can have potato starch but I have NEVER seen a bread made entirely out of potato].  Can you go check to see what else it is made from?

S: [goes to ask other staff member, which she should have done in the first place.  Staff member 2 comes over]

S2: The brand is _____.

D: [at this point, I realize that I will not be putting bread on my burger, which I have done many times in the past.]  Please leave the bun off.


To be honest, although this article is about the younger staff, I first and foremost blame the owners/creators of such establishments that I have encountered where the young staff do not care, because the owners are not equipping them with enough information, and the owners are usually not present to answer the questions themselves.  Thus, I encourage owners to provide their staff with the ingredients of each menu item.  I also encourage owners to respond to emails with concerns from people with food sensitivities and their experiences within their establishments.


To those with food sensitivities, I encourage you to keep asking questions until you get the correct answers you need.  The question that you use to push staff to go figure it out is, “Can you go check?”  Just keep asking it until they get you the answers you need.  It may annoy them, and that is okay.  Better for them to be annoyed for 3 minutes than for your body to be sick for 1-7+ days.  It does not matter to me whether I am with friends, family, etc.  I do not care if I look picky, because I have a significant reason to be.  And if you feel the need, write emails and reviews.


Sometimes your body doesn’t just need an herb or a nutrient.  It needs your assertiveness, your perseverance, and your courage.

Stand up, every day, for your health.