What to do when you have a negative gluten free dining experience?
I travel frequently and love to try new places, despite living a gluten-free life. I put my health in the hands of strangers all the time but it never gets easier. The language barriers seem to be one of the hardest situations I encounter when explaining that I can’t consume gluten.
But through all the experiences, some are wonderful, positive and delicious and others leave little to be desired.
So, you had a bad gluten-free restaurant experience? Now what?
Anyone who lives a gluten-free lifestyle has survived a less than enjoyable experience in a dining establishment. Whether you deal with an agitated waiter or an uneducated kitchen staff, the experience still leaves a salty taste in your mouth. No one wants to go out to eat and have a great time, only to leave there a feel a gluten poisoning coming on to ruin the next few days of your week.
Most recently I entered into a dispute with a manager from a place I’ve eaten at before and received wonderful service from the girls working there, over their gluten-free menu. He told me it didn’t exist and when I asked for the orange menu from behind the bar with the gluten filled items scratched out on it, he told me the menu was exactly the same as the regular one. No kidding, I know it’s the same, but this one very clearly has it blacked out the items they can’t make safe for me and giant warnings about their chips not cooked in a dedicated fryer. He literally argued with me for 5 minutes about it before I just sat down and talked to my server about it.
I’ve been poisoned before and had a bad experience. Here are my tips on how to handle an unpleasant gluten-free restaurant experience.
- Try not to fly into an immediate rage or hysterics. While certainly you are emotional and for all the right reasons, now isn’t the time to go into antics. Compose yourself and ask to speak to the manager.
- Hopefully, the manager will offer to make it right or at least take care of your bill since they made you sick and it will end with them. But, sometimes you need to take it up the chain. One time I suffered from a horrible experience at an Asian themed restaurant where they served me an entire plate of regular sauced food and I was sick immediately. I barely made it out of there without changing my pants. The manager was less than sympathetic and assured me I received the correct meal. Clearly by my dash to the restroom before I even finished eating was a sign he didn’t know what he was talking about. I had no choice but to take it up a level.
- I wrote an email to the corporate office of the restaurant. I explained the situation in a calm, descriptive manner. When they didn’t respond within 48 hours, I wrote a blog post about my experience.
- The blog post was shared with their Facebook and Twitter pages and sure enough within 12 hours of the post, I received a message from them and spoke with their communications director who offered me a gift card in exchange for my experience.
- Then I wrote a review on Yelp and copied it to other sites with the corrected information about how they made the situation better and finally responded to the problem.
I am NEVER quick to write a bad review. I believe the business has the right to remedy the situation prior to it escalating to a negative review or blog post. When I write the review, I will mention the problem and then clearly explain how they decided to make the situation better.
If the manager and/or owner fail to respond to my attempts to get them to remedy the situation, then I will make it known very publicly about the situation and my attempts to offer them the opportunity to make things better.
Have I gone back to a restaurant after having a negative experience? Yes. But, if I have a problem on the second time, I can tell you it will be my last time eating there.
There are also times where I’ve gone to places that I loved because I always felt safe and they failed me. It happens everywhere and we need to always have our guard up.