Even the best sometimes let us down – P.F. Chang’s

I have a tremendous amount of respect for the P.F. Chang’s restaurant chain and their attentiveness to food allergies and gluten-free.

I have posted positive comments about them on this blog as well. The AllergyEats community seems to share my feelings given P.F. Chang’s chainwide allergy-friendliness rating of 4.5. Thus, I was quite surprised when Audrey from Northern Virginia posted the following comment on a support group message board:

We had such a good experience at P.F. Chang’s in Baltimore that we were excited to find out about their diner-style restaurant, Pei Wei. When we went, the food was good for the casual diner it is, but when I asked about milk ingredients in the food, I completely got the brush off when a manager became annoyed with my questions and told me that nothing in their restaurant had cow’s milk in it. Of course, I didn’t feel comfortable with his answer, so only fed DD the food I had with us. When considering a return visit, I checked their website for allergies and saw that nearly every dish has milk in it, including the ones the manager had specifically told me did not. Of course, I was ticked when I read it so I fired off an email to them about the need for education, the danger of lack of information, etc. etc. I figured that was that.

Tonight, however, I received a phone call from their marketing director who wanted to know the details and seemed genuinely concerned. He told me they would develop better education and that he would personally speak to the managers about this, and he’s sending free coupons. It’s certainly not a guarantee things will improve, but I also had the thought that maybe someone from here knows how to conduct such education and would perhaps take the initiative and call the company? [someone on the message board subsequently addressed this]

My take away from this is as follows. A restaurant is not just a building, tables and chairs, and food. Every restaurant is made up of individuals, and individuals are not always perfect. Therefore, while some restaurants (like P.F. Chang’s) have well-deserved reputations and strong AllergyEats allergy-friendliness ratings, thus deserving greater consideration when dining out, even these are not infallible. Knowing this, we should never let our guard down – whether at the most allergy-friendly restaurants or those we frequent regularly.

That said, some restaurants ARE certainly much better or much worse than others when dealing with food allergies. This is why AllergyEats exists — to provide a resource where members of our community can share their experiences and help each other gain more comfort dining out.

So please continue to support AllergyEats by rating your restaurant experiences after each visit (particularly on travel weekends such as this one!). It only takes a minute, but increases the value of the site for all of us. (Click here to go to the main site now)

And please share your comments too, by clicking below. Have you had a negative experience at a restaurant that is highly-regarded by food allergy peers? Are you surprised at Audrey’s Pei Wei experience? Did P.F. Chang’s respond appropriately to Audrey? We always love your thoughts.



    From Vicki Dyson via AllergyEats Facebook page:

    The best thing we can do is share what we know when we go into these restaurants. They are definitely not perfect and we are dealing sometimes with individuals in the kitchen that are there to put in their 8 hours and that’s it. I am thankful that these places are trying to educate their staff but until this system is perfected I have to continue… See More to be responsible for my own food choices. I recently had a Gluten cross cantamination issue at PF’s but I probably will go back based on the fact that they do try 🙂

    michele carrick

    Having grown up in the restaurant industry and having a child, now an adult, with serious and multiple food allergies, I completely understand the disappointment that Audrey experienced. I have left many restaurants, over the years, that are unable or unwilling to meet my standard of diligence when it comes to eating out safely. Having said that, I accept the fact that eating at a restaurant is a risk for those with food allergies, one that we often assume. Even with futher education and policy, it is still a risk. I think milk is the most difficult food allergen to avoid in restaurants. It does not mean that you don’t take that risk when you feel safe enough to do so. One problem that restaurant face are the frequent turn over in staff. Another problem is the commotion that exists in the back of the house, especially when it is a busy time for them. Another problem can happen when restaurants employ staff that do not speak English or it is not their native language. These are only a few issues that complicate the safety of eating out. It is amazing how well and how often restaurants can accommodate the public that have either food allergies or gluten intolerances.
    We have yet to eat at any asian food establishments because of our allergies to nuts and peanuts. I have not felt that any asian restaurant could accomodate us safely enough.
    So sites like these are only going to help us navigate this world of eating out, once a luxury, now an everyday occurrence.
    Calling the restaurant ahead of time helps, checking websites before you arrive also helps but always be prepared for an unexpected exposure and above all keep up the communication with the food industry, both positive and negative!


    Some people either don’t care about their customer’s satisfaction, or don’t think they have the time to care. Too many times that has happened to me. You have to check all of it up on your own before coming to the restaurant. The staff may not be willing at every place, even if it is a chain.

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