On Tuesday, we ate at a restaurant--part of a national chain--not far from home. We've had good luck at other locations and thought we'd give it a try here at home. (See A Food Allergy Friendly Restaurant Tip.) It was a good learning experience because I was reminded of an important piece of information--an allergy menu is only one part of what makes a restaurant a food allergy friendly destination. Without a food allergy conscious staff, the allergy menu is useless.
I might even go a step further and question whether allergy menus are even a good idea at all. They do help the diner sort through the meal options, but is that where their usefulness ends? Using the same arguments as those against peanut bans and peanut free zones, are allergy menus counter-productive? Do allergy menus create a false perception by restaurant management and diners that a restaurant is more aware of food allergies when the staff's knowledge and awareness of cross-contact might not match the care that was taken to create those allergy menus? I'm still trying to make up my mind. The one thing I am sure of is that many restaurant staffs need more training and education on food allergies and associated the risks of cross-contact.