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Eating out with food intolerances

Eating out when you have food allergies can be tricky. Depending on the number of intolerances some people have and their severity does impact on whether eating out has to be a problem or not.

Tony, my boyfriend is fortunate, as we know what he can and cannot eat, so therefore we just make sure we choose foods we are confident do not contain ingredients he is allergic to and we generally manage fine. However this is not the case for everyone – sometimes even the atmosphere in which foods are produced can be problematic, meaning that they can only rely on foods from trusted suppliers, which are purchased in a sealed packet.

With less severe food allergies, eating out can actually be fairly straight forward…if you want to spend a significant amount of money on eating out. What I mean by this is that many really good restaurants are extremely flexible and responsive to a customer’s needs. We have found many top restaurants to be extremely accommodating when we phone ahead and explain the situation. They will often produce a special menu for the guest concerned and offer alternatives where they can. Again, this is to be commended, but does require some planning ahead. And this leads me to what I really want to talk about.

On a recent trip into town, and in need of a comfort break, we decided to call into Debenhams. I’ll be honest, this is not a shop I would ever set foot into. We trekked up to the fifth floor and found ourselves having to walk through the cafe. Again, it would not even cross my mind to stop at Debenhams for refreshments. But what caught our attention as we entered the cafe was this folder attached to the wall in a very prominent place as we walked in.

Inside, it had details of every item they sell and every allergen it does or does not contain. We thought that this was an absolutely brilliant idea and very considerate of them to position it in such a prominent place. We’ve found in other establishments, when we have asked for information, the staff can be lacking in knowledge and spend an age rooting around the back for a dusty file with the relevant information in. Well, not at Debenhams. What a pleasant surprise.

So, if you are in need of a spontaneous drink or snack when out and about, do bear this in mind. We didn’t sample any of the food and drink, so I can’t say what it’s like, but I do feel as though they should be commended for taking this step to make their cafe more welcoming and accessible to allergy sufferers. Do you know of any other chain establishments who are doing this? Please let me know if you do!

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