Recently, I went to Fuddruckers, a little excited about trying an ostrich burger. The counter person was unfamiliar with allergy information. So, I spoke with the manager, who was also unclear as to what a gluten allergy was. After I explained (wheat, barley, rye), he informed me that he did not know which menu items would contain gluten, so he could not help me identify any suitable menu items. He walked away before I could ask if they had a binder setting out the menu items and their ingredients. I ended up getting a hot plate of nothing.
In 2008, Massachusetts implemented a law that requires restaurants to provide train staff members on handling food allergies. Clearly, some restaurants have not implemented the requirements of this law, but what still throws me for a loop is how surprised some wait staff are by allergies and the request for an ingredient binder or knowledgeable staff member (usually a manager). Allergies affect a lot of people.
It is probably not a worthwhile business practice for a restaurant to train their whole wait-staff on food allergies. However, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect 1) a manager to be trained on food allergies and/or 2) sufficient information to provide customers with the tools to make their own decisions.
Gluten-free bread, sauces, dressings or other substitutes are probably not requested often enough to make the purchase of those items economically feasible for most restaurants. I have eaten at a number of restaurants where my choices are limited to an undressed salad and some plain grilled chicken/fish/steak. As much as it pains me to be limited to food less exciting than what I can make at home, I appreciate their knowledge of their menu and food allergies.
To those that tell me that I shouldn’t expect a lot from fast-food joints: McDonald’s provides detailed ingredient information, supposedly in all their locations, but at the very least, online. In addition, McDonald’s has an allergen grid to give customers a quick guide to which items on their menu contain the eight most common allergens. In fact, most major chains do at least one or the other on their website and supposedly at all locations, including: Wendy’s, Burger King, Sonic, Qdoba and Panda Express (which has no gluten-free offerings).
When I got home, I went on Fuddruckers’ website to see if they post such an ingredient listing / allergy grid online. Nothing. So I e-mailed them to suggest that they make such information available at the counter of the restaurant. No response yet, but it has only been a week.
9/17/2010 Update: Fuddruckers has not responded to my email suggesting allergen information on their food and asking about which items on the menu are gluten-free.
To sum up, Fuddruckers is not at all allergy / gluten-free friendly. If you have an allergy, try somewhere else.
G/F suitability: 0/5
Ambiance in 1 word: comfortable