Do restaurants understand your allergies?

Eating Out & Restaurant Reviews

Eating out with food allergies is always stressful. So many questions come to our minds: Will the waiter forget to inform the chef about my food allergies? Is the staff well trained? Is the kitchen constantly being cleaned? Is the allergen menu correct? We need to always be vigilant to ensure all precautions are taken and when we finally find a restaurant where they “get it”, it just feels like heaven. 

If we look at the regulations, one would think that in many countries, dining out with food allergies should be safe, as more or less restaurants are “kind of” prepared to receive people with dietary restrictions. However, the reality is restaurant staff is not properly trained on food allergies (or not trained at all) and there are still allergic reactions happening when people eat out. All of this results in some people avoiding eating out because they wouldn’t feel safe enough and that’s not fair. Some restaurants would also make us feel like our allergy is an inconvenience, which isn’t fair either.

18% of the staff unable to name any food allergen

But how much do restaurants really understand our allergies? 

In 2019, researchers collected face-to-face data from 295 restaurant staff in restaurants in Dusseldorf, Germany. The results of this study show that 18% of the staff were unable to name any food allergen, and only 30% of restaurant staff could correctly name three food allergens. There is also a pretty worrying misbelief that was believed to be true by 35% of the respondents, who thought that water ingestion could dilute food allergens, and a 25% thought that just by removing the allergen from the meal, the customer would be safe.

Another similar study conducted in restaurants in Metz and Strasbourg, France, had similar responses as 39% thought removing the allergen from a meal would render it safe and 25% thought that drinking cold water would also remove the allergen.

Restaurant staff doesn’t seem to be confident with allergies and other dietary requirements but that’s because they are not really receiving proper training on it. I learned from that another survey conducted in 2019 saw that 1 in 6 employees claimed not to receive regular training on allergens, only 35% had training on how to cope with a customer having a reaction and the worst statistic to me is that 35% claimed their meal contained ingredients not listed on the menu. This last point is extremely dangerous as there are still many people not informing about allergies when they eat out, many times because of embarrassment, and are only relying on the menus to choose their dish.


What do we learn from all of this? 

Despite regulations, eating out does not mean that the customer will be safe and there is a clear need to provide more training to staff to ensure allergen knowledge is clear, as certain knowledge gaps can be dangerous and even fatal for allergy sufferers. People still don’t really understand how serious allergies are and how dangerous can be, that’s why empowering children and young adults to speak out about their allergies is a great way to ensure allergies are starting to be taken more seriously. 

Finally, we should be celebrating those food businesses that are doing an amazing job with allergies and intolerances, those restaurants that “get it” and ensure we have a safe and pleasant experience everytime we eat out. It is hard to find these establishments but as I mentioned earlier, once you find them, it just feels like heaven.

What is your experience when eating out with dietary restrictions?

eating out restaurants allergy facts


React on my SafemealInsta