Guest post – Applebee’s disappoints!

(This AllergyEats Blog entry has been guest written by Adrienne Walkowiak, a lifelong dairy allergic who also provides public relations services to AllergyEats.)

As someone that has had a lifelong dairy allergy, I’m always cautious when eating at restaurants.  And as a mom of two young daughters – who, thankfully, didn’t inherit my food allergies – I appreciate the convenience and affordability of family-friendly chains.  Until recently, most chain restaurants have been able to accommodate my special food requirements, while also providing my children with kid-friendly foods and crayons.

Recently, we went to Applebee’s as a family, and learned that they had changed their menu.  Apparently, they have also changed their willingness to accommodate their food-allergic customers. 

I ordered a hamburger, but explained my dairy allergy and politely went through my usual requests – no butter on the bun, no cheese on the burger, make sure the burger is cooked with no dairy, etc.  The waitress immediately told me that they “couldn’t do that.”

What?  You can’t stop yourself from slathering butter on the roll?  All of the burgers come pre-packaged with cheese on top?

I was actually shocked because the staff had always cheerfully prepared my dairy-free food in the past.  Did they change their attitude along with their menu?

We asked to speak with the manager, who told us that their grill is covered in butter, so I couldn’t have any of the grilled burgers, steak or chicken on the menu.  Of course that limited my options significantly.

I reluctantly ordered a chicken sandwich with fried, not grilled, chicken, which made the meal far less healthy.  When the waitress brought my dinner to the table, the sandwich was covered in a creamy white dressing.  I asked her about it and she nonchalantly replied, “Oh, it’s our creamy Italian dressing.”

Of course, creamy Italian dressing is milk-based, so I couldn’t eat it.  I grew increasingly frustrated, since I had spoken to this waitress in great detail about my allergy.  She clearly wasn’t listening and wasn’t concerned about my health issues.

Needless to say, we won’t be eating at Applebee’s again.  I’ve already rated my experience on AllergyEats so the food allergic customers will be aware that the chain suddenly “can’t guarantee” the safety of their food.

—–

Addendum By Paul:

Before I even got a chance to publish this guest post, I came across an August 8 blog entry by Peanut Allergy Mom (who graciously allowed me to share her work here) entitled “PA Mom Nutrition Facts“.  Within this post was the following passage:

Peanut Allergy Mom reader Alison Pollard Boseck’s comment on Facebook about how Applebee’s uses the same deep fryer to prepare French fries and chicken nuggets with its pecan encrusted chicken reminded me yet again how frustrating it is to know what’s safe for our allergy children to eat and what isn’t.

I don’t know about you, but that just about takes Applebee’s (and possibly others like Chili’s and Red Robin Restaurant) off our safe list for good.

—–

And one last thing… Applebee’s has a dreadful chain-level AllergyEats allergy-friendliness rating of 2.3 out of 5!!!  (How ironic that I used them in a prior blog entry as the hypothetical example of how much more money a restaurant could make if they went from allergy-unfriendly to allergy-friendly.  Maybe they should read it!  See that blog entry here.)

—–

I’d love to see some great banter about this.  Have Adrienne’s experiences ever happened to you?  How would you have handled them?  What have your dealings with Applebee’s been like – postivie or negative?  Have you had similarly frustrating experiences at other chains?  Please share your opinion with us by clicking on Reply or Comment below.

And as always, please visit the main AllergyEats site (www.allergyeats.com) and rate your recent dining experiences.  The more ratings, the more valuable AllergyEats is for all of us!

Comments

    Author:
    AiXeLsyD13
    Written:


    Wow. I have a severe shellfish allergy, and know how frustrating it can be to try to get the message across to the server, and if I have to the manager and or cook/chef. They can’t seem to fathom cross-contamination… like why I can’t eat french fries out of the same fryer where they cook shrimp.

    Clearly, your server wasn’t paying attention… or if so, the creamy Italian dressing almost seems spiteful. It’s a shame that people can’t sympathize with how difficult it can be to dine out when you have a food allergy, or the seriousness of the situation as a whole.

    At least they were aware that they use butter on the grill & not a vegetable oil or something like that.

    I haven’t set foot in Applebee’s in years… too many shellfish dishes cooked on too many different surfaces.

    Author:
    Maureen
    Written:


    We also had a bad experience at Applebees on our staycation. We had taken the kids to the zoo and only ate french fries and told them we would go out to eat on our way home. We are ALL gluten free.
    The waitress had no idea what I was talking about and even complained about being sat tables in her section (there were 3 tables in the place). I mentioned 5 times that we had wheat allergies. She kept suggesting bread with the dinners or pasta for my son who couldn’t find anything to eat. We ended up all getting burgers with no buns and got really weird looks. We were very uncomfortable. Not ever going back there. You would think with all the attention gluten free diets and celiac are getting, restaurants would step up with some kind of accomodation for people with food allergies. My husband works in a restaurant and even though the menu is limited on what we can eat, he is very helpful with everyone who comes in with an allergy, reads the labels for them and explains their cooking procedures.

    Author:
    Cynthia
    Written:


    We live in a small town in Worcester County Massachusetts. My son is allergic to dairy,egg,nuts, shellfish…We have been fortunate to have not experienced any problems with Applebee’s. They have always been willing to either cook my son’s burger on tinfoil or in a side pan and have treated us with respect and not acted as if we are “bothering” them. ( which we have had in other places) We have had the occasional comment like ” Oh you mean he is lactose intolerant?” “Yes, very he’ll stop breathing” which usually I can chalk up to lack of education (allergy wise) But I do not know if this is because we are in a smaller local. I am shocked in this day and age that they are using butter all over a grill? Sorry about your experience, but thankful you posted it. I will have my questions ready again the next time we go in, just to make sure the changes aren’t slowly rolling our way!

    Author:
    Emily
    Written:


    I went to the Applebee’s in Nag’s Head, NC last week and had a terrible expericence. When we walked in, I asked the hostess if they could accomodate food allergies and they replied that they could and I just needed to tell the server. Once the server came to our table, I listed my allergies and my son’s allergies and then told her a couple of food items we were considering (including the french fries) and asked if they would be safe. She told me she would ask and then dissapeared for about 20 minutes. Once she returned she replied that the buns had milk. I asked if there was anything on the menu that my son or I could eat and she disappeared for another 20 minutes. She returned and said that “all of their bread had milk” but the fries were fine. I told her thank you, and asked AGAIN if there was anything I could eat, to which she replied a salad no dressing. I told her no thank you and asked for the fries for both me and my son. She dissapeared again for another 20 minutes and came back only to tell us that the fries (that she assured us previously were ok, had wheat in them). She then stated that we could print out ingredients lists online, but they did not have them in the restaurant. We sat in that restaurant for 1 hour, starving after being told that our requests would be accomodated and left angry and hungry. We will never again go to Applebee’s, and neither will any of my non allergic family.

    Author:
    AiXeLsyD13
    Written:


    @ Emily – Re: “She then stated that we could print out ingredients lists online, but they did not have them in the restaurant.” – Wow. I find that beyond ridiculous. They didn’t have the internet and a printer in their office? What a shoddy way to run a business. Did you ask to speak with a manager?

    Author:
    Julie Potts
    Written:


    Maybe if more people would write a complaint to the headquarters about their experience with the restaurants, then there would be a change. Just complaining on a blog isn’t going to bring about change. And yes, it does make a difference; they make sure their regional manager for that restaurant talks to the manager(s) about the complaints. This is how you bring about change to a restaurant, and it sounds like the restaurants mentioned above have a management and staff that needs an attitude adjustment. I have Celiac Disease and I have to have foods made gluten-free and no cross-contamination. So I completely understand what everyone is talking about.

    Author:
    W(aL)D
    Written:


    Heh. I tweeted the URL to this blog post to @Applebees, and they sent me this DM:

    Thanks for reaching out. Please contact us at 888-59Apple so we can best address the situation. Thanks again.

    They also tweeted the following:

    @W_a_L_D @AiXeLsyD13 We’d definitely like to know more about your experience, restaurant location, etc. I’ll DM both of you shortly. TY.

    @W_a_L_D @AiXeLsyD13 Also, please make sure to follow us so we can contact you in an appropriate manner.

    Author:
    Sara Gooley
    Written:


    We recently ate at Applebee’s and they gave us a printed list of the items that were okay to eat at the restaurant for each allergy. Since my daughter has a peanut allergy, I zoned in on that page – the items okay for the Peanut Allergy. Oddly, the server told me that her son also has a peanut allergy. So, I said, “these are items okay for her to eat?” She said, “oh, I don’t know you’ll have to read what it says, I’ve never really looked at it.” I thought that was an odd comment for her to make, since if you work at a place you should be an expert with the menu. Of course I was planning to and I did read all of the menu. The Allergen statement & menu did state that the items below did not contain nor did they believe to be cross-contaminated with peanuts. They believed these items to be safe. However, stated at the bottom of the menu they made a disclaimer that they cannot guarantee the item to be free of allergens. We never saw a chef or a cook, and given the nature & sensitivity of the allergen, she was not confident nor willing to say – I will be sure that you will be taken care of. Applebee’s does not take care of this cause.

    Author:
    Patti
    Written:


    We also have learned with our peanut and tree nut allergic son to ALWAYS ask about peanut oil (found that at a McDonalds restaurant down South that used it for their fries!) and about other foods that share the deep fryer with the french fries that could have nuts in the breading…)
    Applebees had always accknowledged an understanding of food allergies but lately we have been met with blank stares by waitstaff or told that they cannot guarantee the safety of anything. I think many restaurants are afraid of the liability and are just opting out.

    Author:
    Joy
    Written:


    The Red Robin’s in the Portland Oregon area have dedicated fryers for gluten free people. I’ve eaten them on several occasions and never had trouble!

    Author:
    Heather
    Written:


    I’m sorry everyone has had such a bad experience with Applebees. I have never had a waitor tell me they don’t have the ingredient list in the restaurant, or can’t get it. I had a manager once call corporate to get an ingredient list for me. I haven’t had Applebees in a long time. They put peppers on everything and I don’t like peppers on my food.

    Butter on the grill? That sounds like they’re just lazy and don’t want to cook things seperate.

    Author:
    Valerie
    Written:


    i really feel for all of you with these horrible experiences and would love my non-allergic relatives to read these. This problem is the reason that I keep a food boxx in the car so that I know i have something my kids can eat. it may not be what they want to eat but at least they can. I also carry the Triumph restuarant guide in my car, it has menu for some restuarants in there and i’ve printed out the gluten free menus for other places we might be near. all of this of course does not keep us safe, it just ups the odds.

    my family doesn’t understand why i view going out to eat to be a couple day planning process but I try to know what we can have before we walk through the door. and i’ve found that restuarants that are in that dining guide usually are pretty helpful even though I sometimes wish they had more understanding of allergies. and places with gf menus are usually thrilled to hear that you saw them in a book, magazine, web review and when we bring 15 non-allergic people and 2 allergic into their restuarant I let them know that they have our business tonight because they were the onlly restuarant in town that had a gluten free menu or a dairy free menu.

    Author:
    AEPaul
    Written:


    From our Facebook site (www.facebook.com/allergyeats):

    Susan Remian Burns We’ve had the same experience with our local Applebee’s. My youngest is dairy/beef allergic. I was told that “they couldn’t accommodate us by his allergy by grilling a piece of chicken on foil or in a frying pan.” Done- never went back! On the flip side, our local Houlihan’s has done a great job of training their staff- chef & managers came right to our table…

    Kathleen Felix Alicks I have to tell you that we have had the complete opposite experience. I think it depends on the franchise. We took a lot of time to get to know the kitchen manager. She sees us, knows our issues and personally prepares our oldest’s food. She works for the dorherty’s franchise in NY nj. After our first visit there, she trained ALL of the kitchen staff. Every piece of chicken we get I prepared with clean utensils and is cooked on it’s own sizzle plate. No cross contamination. The penne is safe four our son, so they prepare that separately with nothing but EVOO. I’m sorry that some of you have had bad experiences with your local applebees, but I don’t think it’s fair to make a generalization about them all. It’s one of 2 restaurants we can bring out FA kiddo to and not panic or bring our own.

    Amber Miller Borst I’ve never been to Applebee’s because I’ve been hearing stories like this for years. Mostly an unwillingness to disclose/confirm ingredients.

    Kim Keeney Molloy I never went to Applebees, but I agree with Susan regarding Houlihans. They went above and beyond. Chef and managers came right to the table and the manager personally took our order, oversaw the cooking in the kitchen and served us our food. Wonderful!

    Tina Richert I don’t really go to applebees becuase they do’nt really have a gluten free menue.

    Kelly Heinen I’ve done Applebees before, but the only thing they could recommend were the rib tips. I like rib tips, but I’d have liked to try other items. The person I talked to also didn’t seem too knowledgeable, so I’m interested to read this article and see what has changed.

    Linda Brukman Brown Most of the Applebee’s in my area have closed

    Melinda Munro I don’t understand how a chain restaurant can’t or won’t provide ingredient information. I feel like it’s laziness on their part and fear of being liable if a customer has a reaction. It’s really frustrating when I check the menu and it seems like it may be safe but get a poor response when I call to see if they know the ingredients and can accomodate FAs.

    Valerie McMartin in many states chain restuarants are required by law to provide ingredient info. but they usually tell me that you have to check their website or call corporate. which is not helpful when you’re there. that’s why i only go to a few places locally that i’ve checked out and I research options in destiantion cities and enroute while travelling. family may laugh at my booklet of travel info, but when they see me cross referencing menus and asking questions for the chef they stop laughing.

    Beth Ulaszewski Adams We have tried numerous times, and each time they refuse to disclose ingredients, claiming it is simply not safe to eat at their establishment – haven’t been back in over 4 years for this reason!

    Author:
    AEPaul
    Written:


    WOW! I have to say that I’ve been floored by the quantity and content of everyone’s comments. I’m shocked that one of the nation’s largest restaurant chains doesn’t seem to get it at all! (I’m not meaning to ignore those of you who have had positive experiences at Applebee’s, but AllergyEats is all about gaining knowledge from “the wisdom of the crowd” and the negativity here is far worse than I’ve seen in any prior restaurant post… by far.) I am obviously not surprised now that Applebee’s has a meager 2.3 allergy-friendliness rating on our core site.

    Thank you to W(aL)D for reaching out to Applebee’s via his tweets. I enjoyed reading their reaction as the day went on.

    I also agree with Julie about more people putting pressure on HQ – in general with allergy-unfriendly restaurants. However, it is easy for a corporation to blow off individual calls or letters, so maybe AllergyEats should contact Applebee’s directly and offer them a fair opportunity to share their position and thoughts with us. They deserve the opportunity to address the enormous number of concerns here. And after all, if one of the goals of AllergyEats is to influence restaurateurs to become more allergy-friendly (if even just to make a buck), then I think this is a great opportunity to take a small step in that direction… guided so well by all of your detailed comments. Maybe management will be glad to learn that they are severely weak in this area at the moment, knowing that they can increase their business if they modify their methods.

    In any case, please keep posting, and I’ll keep everyone updated on my efforts.

    Author:
    A. Anderson
    Written:


    Thanks for writing this entry. I’ve always been wary to go to any restaurant with our two dairy/egg allergic sons now ages six and seven. The only place we’ve successfully tried is Subway. I checked the wheat bread ingredients and found it to be okay. But even then I had to stop the girl from taking the wheat roll stacked on top of the parm/italian roll for contamination reasons. I like watching them while they change their gloves and make the sandwich under my supervision.

    As for most restaurants, I think they are being advised about liability issues. They probably counted the $$ numbers and decided (from advice of their attorneys) that the cost of losing business from allergy-customers is not as much as the cost they’d have to pay from losing a lawsuit if someone sued them after having an anaphylactic attack after eating supposedly safe food at their restaurant. I wonder if the disability act may one day force them to provide allergen-free options?

    My two cents.
    A. Anderson, author of Flourishing with Food Allergies.

    Author:
    Annette
    Written:


    I stopped eating at AppleBees years ago and it is such a shame because they used to be such a great place to go. Years ago they had no problem accommodating my pepper allergy but after a couple menu changes to make everything Bold and Spicy it meant that pretty much everything had peppers in it. So I ordered some sort of salad not labeled as spicy in any way. When ordering I told the waiter and later the manager that I am very allergic to peppers. My salad arrived with extra peppers in it next to the warm meat(the steam wafting from the peppers cooking is one of the worst things for me to be around). I immediately starting sneezing all over the place and suddenly the waitress remembers that I am allergic to peppers. They profusely apologized and remade it. The next salad arrived about 40 minutes later. As I was eating it, my lips and tongue started to tingle and swell. After again apologizing they discovered that the meat comes prepacked in a marinade which has several forms of pepper in the marinade so there is no remedy for that. Now, desperately hungry, I tried to pick off the top two layers of salad in attempt to find something to eat only to find a small piece of green pepper in the salad itself. I felt like they were trying to kill me! To add insult to injury the manager had stepped out when it was time for me to leave so I had to pay for this ‘meal’.

    Author:
    AEPaul
    Written:


    Update on efforts to address these issues directly with Applebee’s:

    Made contact with Guest Relations at Applebee’s today via the phone # provided to W(aL)D on his Twitter account. Shared with this contact the nature of the blog post and follow-on comments. Suggested that they take a first-hand look and that I’d be happy to facilitate a response to our community. Contact there said she and supervisor would take a look at these comments and consider how best to address them. I left my name and phone number.

    As an interesting aside, there were a few hits on the site yesterday originating from Lenexa, KS. This is the site of Applebee’s corporate HQ… and someplace we don’t usually get hits from.

    Author:
    Marina
    Written:


    This all pushes me more toward supporting bills like the one passed in Massachusetts (with the support of FAAN and Blue Ginger Chef Ming Tsai) that set basic staff training and informational requirements for restaurants. I think many waitstaff just don’t have a clue about ingredients in things, i.e., that “creamy Italian” might include dairy products, or that bread/buns might have milk products like “whey.” Sometimes you wonder if there’s anything between their ears, and sometimes it IS subtle and hard.

    In that latter category, we had a particularly scary experience on a Celebrity cruise this July where, after a rocky start, we’d worked out a system with our waiter, maitre’d, and a cook designated for special orders. On the final formal night, they presented our dairy-allergic son with a “special safe chocolate dessert” (we’d requested they figure out one by the end of the cruise.) It appeared to be a “chocolate mousse” — he had a bite or two and got very upset, saying that it felt funny and his mouth and throat were tight. The maitre-d went back and confirmed personally with the actual cook that this was “a dairy-free dessert, made with non-dairy whipped topping and cocoa.” Our son refused to eat any more, and we didn’t push him, but reassured him it was OK to calm him down. Fortunately he had no further ill effects. Only after our return I happened to see FAAN’s product alert that Cool Whip was changing their ingredients to add ADDITIONAL dairy items to those that have been in the original formula all along!! A bit of research educated me that “dairy free” items can have up to 0.2% dairy in them, and that Cool Whip and almost every major brand of “non-dairy whipped topping” has dairy in it. (Special order vegan brands are about all there is). So along with the waiter, the maitre-d, and the cook, I join the well-meaning, literate, but ignorant group that fortunately didn’t kill my child. So along with that restaurant legislation, round II of ingredient labeling reform is in order. (Don’t get me started on “natural flavors”!)

    Author:
    AiXeLsyD13
    Written:


    @Marina – Wow, that’s crazy! It’s ridiculous that you can label something “dairy free” if there’s any dairy in it at all.

    The words “natural flavors” and “spices” drive me nuts on labels too!

    Author:
    AEPaul
    Written:


    Update on efforts to address these issues directly with Applebee’s:

    Haven’t heard back from initial conversation with Guest Relations last Wednesday. Followed up today with another call to the same Guest Relations #. Different rep said she didn’t know why they hadn’t called me back, but that she also would have to pass this along to a supervisor who would get back to me. I left my name and phone number.

    We’ll see what happens from here. I’d be surprised if a large, well-respected restaurant chain like Applebee’s would choose to ignore our comments and concerns.

    Author:
    Applebee's
    Written:


    Dear AllergyEats Subscribers,

    We recognize the importance of making sure our food-allergic guests have safe options they can enjoy at their neighborhood Applebee’s. Food allergies are a serious concern, and we are working to improve how we accommodate the needs of our FA-guests.
    Depending on the food allergy, we do offer different menu items that are appropriate options, or that can be prepared without the allergic food. We recommend that you talk with your server or restaurant manager about the allergy, and how your meal is prepared, to help ensure your dining experience is safe. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention — we value the safety and enjoyment of all our guests.

    Sincerely,

    Applebee’s

    Author:
    AEPaul
    Written:


    In the course of this discourse, I came across another blogger with an equally infuriating experience with Applebee’s. His blog is called A Celiac On The Move (aceliaconthemove.blogspot.com) and I thought his comments were relevant here, though I have to condense them given that they were in 4 long posts from Aug-Sep 2009.

    The first was titled “Stand Up For Delicious Safe Plates.” Upon requesting a gluten-free menu before visiting the restaurant, the blogger’s friend received the following reply:

    Thank you for your recent request for a list of gluten-free menu items available at Applebee’s. Due to the frequency in which we change our menus, as well as the small risk of cross-contamination, we can not provide the list you requested. The health and safety of our guests is simply too important to risk sharing inaccurate or outdated nutritional information. You may call us at 888-59APPLE and a Guest Relations Coordinator can work with specific requests regarding any of the FDA’s Top 8 Allergens (milk, soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish, fish, treenut and peanut) that may be contained in our core menu items.

    The obviously annoyed blogger then posted the following:

    Your response reeks of uninspired, uninformative form letter verbiage. It’s a lame attempt to duck the issue. I take offense to your statement: “The health and safety of our guests is simply too important to risk sharing inaccurate or outdated nutritional information.” Well, make it accurate, and update it! If I was so important to you, why would Applebee’s not go the extra step (as many restaurants already have) to publish a list of food items to insure my dining experience is safe and positive? Is it that challenging to laminate a piece of paper containing a list of food items (that are standard menu items) that are gluten-free or don’t contain nuts or dairy, etc? We are not talking rocket science or any great expense to Applebee’s.

    In the second blog entry, “I Just Want An Icon,” our Celiac friend recounts his frustrating attempts to get customer service to call him directly, having sent them his first blog entry (sounds familiar… though I eventually got an answer – see above).

    By the third entry, “Uno Is Number One,” our friend is clearly frustrated and willing to go out of his way to mention his Applebee’s frustrations. “Kudos to Uno! Uno means one in Spanish, and you are number one in my book. Applebee’s is having some challenges when communicating (on their menu) safe plates for Celiacs and for those effected by other food allergens. Maybe my new friends at Uno can help them out… They need it!”

    And in the last, “One Person / One Company,” we get kudos to a wine bar called 13.5%, yet also get the last of the Applebee’s frustration:

    However, I remain disappointed with Applebee’s. I’ve only received one response to my many inquires about a friendly menu change for those challenged with food allergies. I continue to receive a mishmash of psychobabble and reprocessed corporate canned responses. Their commercial of “Eating Good in the Neighborhood” is very misleading. I wish I could get a valid response from them that justifies why they can’t put a simple icon on their menu to denote those items that are gluten-free. I’m not holding my breath, and I won’t be visiting an Applebee’s any time soon. However, I will encourage them to look at their competition and see what these other establishments are doing to keep all guests safe and happy equally, without picking and choosing who matters. I am one person, dealing with one company at a time to make a difference in my life and the life of other Celiacs. Here’s to eating one meal at a time, but not at Applebee’s yet.

    Author:
    AiXeLsyD13
    Written:


    @Applebees Re: “We recommend that you talk with your server or restaurant manager about the allergy, and how your meal is prepared, to help ensure your dining experience is safe.”

    That’s what the writer was trying to do in the first place! Did they even read the scenario? They didn’t even discuss properly educating their employees on the matter. I call shenanigans.

    Author:
    Bethany
    Written:


    I also had a problem with Applebees, inTraverse City, MI… I went out to lunch with my mom and sister for my 22nd birthday and I have severe allergies to several legumes (any type of pea/lentil and a few other reactions to some beans and peanuts), I explained to our waitress and she seemed very accomodating and reassured me that my food (grilled shrimp, french fries and veggies contain or be near any fod im allergic to, releived I went ahead and placed my order. Maybe 15 minutes after we got our food, (nobody else in my family has food allergies, thank goodness), my throat felt tight, dry, and itchy. I took 2 benadryl immediately,my mom got our waitress, and asked her about how my food was prepared, evidently they saute all sorts of veggie in the same pan (no washing in between uses) including sugar snap peas! By this time my breathing had become difficult, I felt weak, sick to my stomach and felt my body start to swell and shut down. My mom rushed me to the ER, thank god we were just minutes from the hospital. I ended up spending most of my bithday in anaphylactic shock.

    Author:
    Jen
    Written:


    I just went to an Applebees in Lake Grove, New York with my 2 FA kids. Between the 2 of them they are allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame and sunflower seeds. We have gone to several different Applebees before and it has usually been fine. It has been about a year since we have been there last. We stick to either grilled chicken or hamburgers with no bun and fries from the kid’s menu. This time, when we mentioned the allergies to the waiter, a manager came over and very loudly announced that due to my children’s “health issues” he had brought us allergy information on their menu items. He handed me a red binder that had sheets for each of the top 8 food allergens, with a list of “safe” menu choices for each one (disclaimer at the bottom). He said that he didn’t know all of the ingredients in the food, so we had to choose based on the sheets in the binder. My husband and I were embarrassed, as he attracted quite a bit of attention from the tables nearby, and felt overwhelmed trying to make sense of the information in the binder. Printed on the bottom it said that the information was current as of Feb. 2010 or something like that (it is now June 2012). When we asked the waiter if the fries were fried in a dedicated fryer, he flagged down another manager who suggested various types of things we could order. He was shocked when I stated that many breads contain milk ingredients, indicating a real lack of education/understanding of food allergies. I am appalled that a large chain restaurant like Applebees is so clueless about food allergies and does not attempt to educate their staff. We feel like freaks when we go out to eat with the kids and the whole experience causes such anxiety that we stick to the same one or two places, which happen to be about 40 miles from where we live. We don’t plan on going back to Applebees anytime soon, since we don’t feel confident that our kids will be safe eating there, we just got lucky this time.

    Author:
    Jill Dement
    Written:


    We had a similar experience at Applebee’s! We called ahead because we didnt want to disappoint our sons (one with seafood allergy/one tree nut allergy) by going to a restaurant and have to leave. Thy response des with yes we are allergy friendly and have a allergy menu. So we excitedly went to the restaurant. Once we sat down and asked for the special menu I was excited (and my kids were too) to see all they had to offer! Once I started to ask questions the waiter went and got a manager. I asked her about cross contamination and 90% on the menu is cross contaminated with tree nuts and they can try and make a burger in a pan for my son with the seafood allergy but not sure it would work. We were appalled that they even have a allergy menu because yes the food on does not contain the allergens but the ARE most definitely cross contaminated with allergens. Glad we asked questions or we could have risked our sons lives!

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