(Photo courtesy of Red Robin)
We rarely eat at restaurants. When we take our annual car trip, however, we do not have much choice. We packed as much fresh food as was reasonable, but the kids grew tired of eating picnics. When we drove past a Red Robin restaurant (in Greensburg, PA)--a chain restaurant I had read about on one of the allergy discussion groups online--I decided to give a call and see if they could accommodate the peanut allergy. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they actually had an "allergy menu". We discovered that Red Robin is a national restaurant chain whose specialty is hamburgers. It's a kid-friendly restaurant, complete with a mascot--Red, the robin.
The manager visited us shortly after we were seated and brought a menu for "guests with PEANUT allergies". After reviewing the "Recommended Menu Items for Guests with PEANUT Allergies", we ordered a Royal Red Robin burger (plain hamburger) for our peanut allergic child and celery sticks as a side. The manager stopped by more than once while we ate to check on us. Everyone was happy with their meal, and Red the robin even visited our table for a free photo with the kids. Both children were very content. We had such a good experience at the Red Robin that we actually ate at another Red Robin (in Mechanicsburg, PA) a few days later and enjoyed another positive experience. In fact, the second Red Robin restaurant provided the entire allergen menu for all eight of the top allergens. It was 23 pages long--quite extensive!
As you may have surmised, we do not have any Red Robin restaurants near home. For us, it was great find! A good hamburger place where you can feel comfortable bringing your kids, food allergic or not. There seems to be something for everyone on the menu. I was so impressed with the allergy menu and the way the restaurant handled a peanut allergic customer, I decided to contact Red Robin's corporate headquarters to find out more. Jennifer Andrews, Director of Menu Leadership at Red Robin, explained that the food allergy menu suggestions began with gluten-free in the fall of last year and have expanded from there. When a food allergic guest visits a Red Robin restaurant, it is their procedure to always have a manager involved in the process. This was evident in the two locations we visited. In addition, the allergy menus are updated on a monthly basis and more frequently if necessary. Red Robin aims to be a leading family restaurant destination, and they certainly have my vote.
Do you know of a great food allergy friendly restaurant? Write a comment here or send me an email at email@example.com. Who knows--your restaurant tip might help make someone's summer vacation even more special!
EDITED on 02/18/2009 to add that management and service will vary from one location to another in any restaurant chain. A recent dining experience reminded us of that: Allergy menus--Friends or Foes?