Out to eat a lot photoEither with my family, colleagues, or clients, I go out to eat a lot. Sticking to a gluten-free diet means I need to do a little more leg work before trying a new restaurant.

I recently planned a dinner for my work team. Aside from my food restrictions we also have a person on the team with a soy and nut allergy and someone who does not eat beef. Planning for one food allergy is hard enough but it gets even more complicated when there are multiple restrictions and taste preferences.

I called ahead to the restaurant to make sure they could accommodate our special needs. I asked about the types of cooking oils they used and whether they have a gluten-free menu. The cooking oils were all fine for my soy-allergic boss but they do not publish a gluten-free menu. The person on the phone, however, assured me they could accommodate our needs and took down our food restrictions in the reservation notes.

When we were seated at the table, I was thrilled that they had assigned us a waitress with celiac disease. She said she gets all the allergy tables and I thought that was brilliant. What a way to distinguish yourself and your restaurant by providing that level of service and understanding to your clientele.

Our server was able to tell us exactly which items on the menu were fine for me but not for my boss, or okay for the whole table. She was able to give suggestions and talk knowledgeably about easy substitutions or eliminations of problem ingredients depending on our specific needs.

Dinner ended up being a great success. Everyone was happy and laid-back because we didn’t have problems when ordering our food. The biggest complaint is that we over indulged.

That experience contrasts markedly with the one I had last night when calling ahead to an Italian restaurant. When I asked if they served gluten-free pasta the answer was: “No.” Not, “No but we can accommodate your needs with other dishes.” Or, “No but we have plenty of other options for you on our menu.” Just plain no in a we-don’t-even-want-your-business type of way. With the size of the gluten-free market these days, this attitude always surprises me. Needless to say we did not go there for dinner.

I’ll happily go back to the first restaurant again. Have you ruled out locations based on experiences you had or would you give the restaurant a second chance?