I was told recently that a new Five Guys Burgers was opening near us. I had never been in a Five Guys Burgers before, but had heard good things. Being a “burger aficionado” (not something I usually brag about), I was excited to give it a shot.
I still haven’t made it to the new restaurant, but I did get a “taste” of Five Guys Burgers from an article in the Norwell (MA) Mariner and realize my children won’t be coming with me. (Thank you to AllergyEats member Jocelyn for bringing my attention to this article – “One nutty experience at Five Guys Burgers”)
It’s a pity that the Norwell Mariner doesn’t post all of their articles online because Laura Anderson wrote an engaging, serious piece about her family’s experience (with some appropriate humor thrown in perfectly). Since I can’t link to it, I’ll try to do it justice by summarizing with the key paragraphs.
My husband thinks I’m trying to kill him… but I swear that I’m not.
The other night, my older son invited four of his friends to sleep over. The mother of one of the boys generously offered to take us all out to dinner first at Pizzeria Uno’s. Not wanting my younger son to feel left out, I planned for my husband to take him to dinner at the new Five Guys Burgers restaurant that just opened in town.
[At this point, the author shares how allergy-friendly Uno’s is and the boys’ great experience there that night.]
About an hour after we arrived home, my husband and younger son came back from the movie. I asked my husband, “How was Five Guys Burgers?”
“It was a death trap,” my husband replied, in all seriousness.
Okay, a little background information here. My husband also has severe food allergies. Quite a lot of them. The list is too long to print here, but two of the many items on his list are white potatoes and peanuts. Had I done my research, I might have suggested another restaurant for him to try. But I inadvertently sent him in blind.
“First of all,” he began, “they have peanuts everywhere. People are eating peanuts at every table, there are peanut shells everywhere and there are cases of peanuts stacked along the walls.”
“There were also sacks of potatoes all along the wall, and it turns out that all their handmade, fresh French fries are fried in peanut oil. It’s right there on the menu in big letters.”
My husband explained that at that point he immediately popped an antihistamine and waited in line. Luckily, the burgers were safe for him, but he couldn’t even touch the French fries bag from which my son was eating, soaked as it was in peanut grease. He added that they finally found a seat at a counter, right next to a tower of peanut boxes stacked on cans of peanut oil.
I apologized to my husband and reassured him I was not trying to kill him; that I had just neglected to research this new restaurant everyone was talking about. I can’t imagine why a restaurant would feature peanuts when there are so many folks today who are allergic, but I guess they are successful enough without that particular consumer segment.
Thankfully my husband emerged unscathed, but for the grace of God. From now on, he can stick to Uno’s and other allergy-friendly restaurants.
The author, Laura Anderson, makes reference twice in this article to her lack of advance research. This is where AllergyEats (www.allergyeats.com) could have served as a great resource. Not only do the ratings provide a first filter, but the comments can provide more color (and possibly could’ve warned her about the peanuts everywhere), as can the menus, allergen-lists, website links, and other valuable information. AllergyEats and outside blog entries also grace the “Details and Comments” page too (so now every visitor to the Five Guys pages will see at least this entry). And lastly, the phone number is also included on every listing, so she could have called in advance with the key questions we all have to ask before dining at a new restaurant.
This is the most important takeaway. As a food-allergic diner or caretaker of a food-allergic child, we must always ask questions before eating at a new restaurant. Further, we must ask these same questions again and again at those restaurants we typically dine at! AllergyEats has a link to some great dining tips by myself (just published here) and others that propose some of the key questions we should be asking. And again, the core AllergyEats site is a great resource to start your restaurant research.
I just went through the Five Guys website and found the following under FAQ:
Q: If so many people are allergic to peanuts, why does Five Guys continue to offer them?
A: Over the past 20 years, peanuts have become part of the Five Guys identity. We by no means want to exclude guests from our store, but at the same time we would not want to disappoint our peanut eating guests. We make sure that we have signage on our doors and in our restaurants about the fact that we serve peanuts in bulk containers as we would never want someone to risk their health by coming into our restaurants.
Q: Why can’t we take peanuts outside?
A: Although it is rare that a casual encounter with peanuts will cause an allergic reaction, we want to limit the risk of someone unknowingly coming into contact with peanuts.
Q: What type of peanut oil does Five Guys use?
A: We use 100% peanut oil
Q: Is Five Guys Gluten-Free?
A: Our buns contain eggs, soy, dairy and gluten.
Q: Do any Five Guys products contain soy or dairy?
A: Our rolls contain both soy and dairy.
So what are your thoughts about this article (or my comments)? Have you been to a Five Guys Burgers and Fries? What has your experience been? Click on Comments or Reply below to have your say.
And please be sure to rate all your restaurant experiences at the main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com). Our growth has been tremendous, but there is still so much more to go. Every single rating you add increases the value of this resource for our entire food allergy and intolerance community. Not a bad way to spend one minute.