In a pinch? On the road? Is Fast Food an option for food allergic diners?
For families with food-allergic children who participate in sports and activities, eating on the run becomes more common as the kids get older and are required to travel further away from their hometown. While many parents with food-allergic children pack snacks and meals that accommodate their kid’s food allergies, there are times when games get delayed, travel is further than expected, teams decide to go out to eat as a last minute celebration, or, strangely enough – kids just get hungry! With that in mind, we decided to take a look at where AllergyEats members stopped to eat when they needed a quick bite.
We analyzed a selection of the Fast Food restaurants on AllergyEats to see how they fared with our members. According to user ratings, three restaurants earned a 4 or better on the AllergyEats scale of 1 to 5.
We looked at restaurants in both the Fast Casual and Fast Food category. For those outside of the restaurant industry, Fast Casual is a blend of fast food and casual dining – places like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Jason’s Deli. Unlike Fast Food chains, Fast Casual restaurants promote higher quality ingredients and do not have drive-through dining. For the sake of our analysis, we considered all the restaurants to be in the “Fast Food” category, simple because these venues are accessible and often reasonably priced, making them convenient choices for fast-moving families. Of course, families need to decide for themselves if they are comfortable picking a dining selection that isn’t necessarily deemed as healthy. However, sometimes hunger over-rides other concerns, especially when you are already contending with food allergies. If you are interested in a wider variety of food allergy-friendly dining choices, AllergyEats publishes a list of the most allergy-friendly restaurant chains according to our members in March of each year.
Here’s how a selection of other Fast Food restaurants were rated by AllergyEats users:
While some chains are regional, many are widely spread throughout the U.S., allowing families with food allergies to build confidence that, if one unit/location can accommodate allergies and intolerances, then it’s likely – though not guaranteed – that a similar experience could be had at another location. Of course, it’s important to always ask questions about ingredients and food preparation, regardless of how many times you have been to a particular location or chain.
If you have a favorite Fast Food restaurant that is not on the list or rated yet, please take the time to rate it. You can rate a restaurant more than once if you eat there frequently. In that case, the new rating will replace the old one, but all of your comments will remain in place. While it may take a few extra minutes to add comments, it is helpful for other food allergic diners to read reviews that contain meal suggestions and restaurant food allergy protocol details, such as whether or not a manager comes out to speak to diners or if sections of the kitchen are dedicated to handling food allergies. Overall allergy-friendly ratings are based on the average of individual members’ experiences so that our community can benefit from the collective wisdom of the crowd.
How can a Fast Food or Fast Casual Restaurant BE food-allergy friendly?
In looking back at the Blog comments from our March 2014 post about the top-ranked chains, there were differing opinions about how the ratings were derived, and to some degree, the worthiness of certain chains making the top list. In the comments, AllergyEats member, Sharzad, summed up our approach to ratings nicely by saying “What makes them allergy friendly is not the absence of any particular ingredient, but how knowledgeable they are about the ingredients in each of their menu items, how willing and effective and honest they are in sharing that information, how well they can accommodate you when you tell them you need a meal free of certain ingredients, and how well they can actually provide you with a meal that is truly free of the ingredients you want to avoid.”
So, given our findings and the perspective on what makes a restaurant “allergy-friendly,” are you surprised by these ratings? Do you think certain fast food outlets are a reasonable option for food allergic diners? Do they work for your family – and why or why not?