Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Topic started by: guihong on December 05, 2013, 12:21:40 AM

Title: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: guihong on December 05, 2013, 12:21:40 AM
Hi, all:

I think this came out OK, and I had a pleasant evening, but I wonder if I could have handled this more smoothly:

Myself, DD, DD's new boyfriend, and the BF's parents went out to dinner.  In the negotiations over the restaurant, the "winner" was a Japanese grill, the type of place where you sit around a large hot surface and the chef cooks your food in front of you, usually throwing knives around, chopping with flourish, and setting things on fire for the grand finale. 

I love most any Asian cuisine, but I have to approach this carefully.  I am allergic to mushrooms and seafood, both of which are common ingredients in dishes.  Southeast Asian cooking often involves fish sauce, which obviously could be problematic.  I'm sensitive to too much soy, so I also avoid soy sauce and tofu.  It's not a life-threatening situation, but I'd rather avoid puffing up or breaking out in front of people.  Plus, I've heard some allergies can suddenly turn serious without warning, so I stay away.   I don't often eat out at Asian places because of this, so I tried to steer the choices to Chili's or some generic place, but when the majority were so happy about the Japanese place, I didn't see how I could say anything.

When I've been to a restaurant of this type, I try to avoid sitting at the large grill because no matter how hard the chef tries to keep my order separate from the others, it's really fast and pieces fly around into one another's dishes.  Plus, since I was meeting the BF and his family for the first time, I was concerned about looking like a snowflake by "directing" the chef. 

Naturally, everyone wanted to sit at the grill  ::).  The BF's mother and I had hit it off while visiting at their home, so I tried to inconspicuously take her aside and ask if we could sit at the other end of the restaurant, where there is a kind of make-your-own bowl that you then give to the chef for cooking-separately.  I explained about the cross-contamination.  She was immediately OK with that, quietly told her husband what the issue was, and it worked out well.  I made my bowl as I needed to, and they got all the shrimps and mushrooms for theirs.

I can't see how I messed up (if I did), or if I was a snowflake, but I know you'll "tell it like it is" ;).
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: JustEstelle on December 05, 2013, 12:36:08 AM
I think you did fine.  You didn't make a big deal about asking for the change, and it sounds like the evening went well.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Pen^2 on December 05, 2013, 12:50:11 AM
You were fine. Did you mention your food allergies before the restaurant was chosen? That would have been fine also, and might have been easier--there was probably another place that they would have enjoyed just as much where you weren't allergic to half the food. Maybe there wasn't, of course, but making a food allergy known so others can factor it into their decisions is completely different to insisting upon a food preference.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: veryfluffy on December 05, 2013, 01:01:00 AM
I think when it is a matter of a group selecting and agreeing on a place, you might just say, "Because of my allergy to seafood, I'd rather go somewhere that doesn't risk cross-contamination in the dishes"  during the discussion.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: sweetonsno on December 05, 2013, 01:21:30 AM
I think you handled the situation pretty well, but in the future, don't be afraid to speak up about your restrictions when you discuss options. The need to quickly kibosh the grill seating may have been avoided if you had simply said, "The hibachi sounds like fun, but I'm allergic to mushrooms and seafood. Will I be able to find anything?"
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: cicero on December 05, 2013, 01:32:35 AM
I think you handled the situation pretty well, but in the future, don't be afraid to speak up about your restrictions when you discuss options. The need to quickly kibosh the grill seating may have been avoided if you had simply said, "The hibachi sounds like fun, but I'm allergic to mushrooms and seafood. Will I be able to find anything?"
exactly. instead of "gently" trying to redirect them to Chili's, just say the above.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Dazi on December 05, 2013, 05:46:07 AM
I have similar problems at hibachi due to severe food allergies.  What I've done in the past is sit with the people who wanted hibachi, but ordered off the other menu asking them to leave out this or that.  I've never had a problem doing this. 

I've been questioned a few times by waitresses, the chefs, and new dining companions, but when I explained I am allergic to shellfish, soy, and eggs (I actually have other food allergies, but these are the hibachi problem ones) they suddenly didn't have a problem with it.  The chef told me there was no way not to contaminate my meal if it was done on the hibachi.  It's a nice compromise.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: weeblewobble on December 05, 2013, 07:03:18 AM
I think you handled it very well.  You didn't pitch a fit when the restaurant choice was unsuitable for you.  And when it came time to ask for an accommodation, you did it quietly and with class. Kudos to you.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: lmyrs on December 05, 2013, 07:35:15 AM
I sure don't think you were SS. But, in the future, it is better if you bring up the allergies while discussing the restaurant.

I'm not a big fan of Japanese food (except sushi). So if I'm at one of those reataurants, I'm generally there to see the "show". It would be very disappointing to get there and then not get to sit at the display tables.

On the other hand, if you'd said something in the planning stage, I would have advocated not to go there at all. So we would both win.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Zizi-K on December 05, 2013, 07:48:29 AM
I'm surprised your DD didn't take a more active role in this. Unless your allergy is a recent development, she must know your allergies and your reasons for avoiding Japanese places, as well as that the grill is the worst place for cross contamination. Why on earth did she not say, "actually Asian restaurants are not the best for my mom, how about the new italian place?" I can see how you would want to be easy going just meeting all of these people, but presumably she is more comfortable with them.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: rose red on December 05, 2013, 09:11:22 AM
You were fine, but I agree it might be better next time to mention it during the decision period.  It sure would be disappointing to get ready for one restaurant and then find out we can't go afterall.  It's not as bothersome if you know it's off the table from the beginning.  I realise it was fine to go to the Japanese place anyway, but there may be issues next time.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Bees on December 05, 2013, 09:31:23 AM
I agree with the others who say you should have mentioned the allergic reactions earlier. The reason people chose that type of restaurant is for the show(hate it myself) and they were probably disappointed. They were gracious in their accommodations.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: CaffeineKatie on December 05, 2013, 09:45:51 AM
I'd say kudos to all involved--you were accomodating about the choice of restaurant while still protecting your health, and the BFs parents were polite about adapting to your needs.  That's good manners all round!
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Winterlight on December 05, 2013, 10:11:16 AM
I'd rather people were straightforward with me instead of trying to hint. For one thing, I don't always get the hint. Just tell me that due to allergies, X category of restaurant is out. I can get my Indian/Chinese/seafood fix another night, but having someone get really sick at dinner will ruin everyone's time.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: esposita on December 05, 2013, 10:20:10 AM
I'd rather people were straightforward with me instead of trying to hint. For one thing, I don't always get the hint. Just tell me that due to allergies, X category of restaurant is out. I can get my Indian/Chinese/seafood fix another night, but having someone get really sick at dinner will ruin everyone's time.

Yep. Chances are, when someone hints things at me, I'm not gonna get it unless I know the person and their way of communicating. And even then I miss things. I don't think it sounds like your choice was overruled, no one knew! Chances are none of them would have been happy with going to a place that could cause so much trouble for you, if you had told them outright.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: lowspark on December 05, 2013, 02:39:59 PM
I agree with those who say you should have just nixed the restaurant in the first place. And I'm also one who is surprised your daughter didn't run interference on your behalf.

I have no allergies, but if the choices of restaurants includes food I don't like, for whatever reason, I'll say so. To be honest, if someone had suggested Chili's I'd be the first one saying no to that and suggesting an alternative.

And that's the idea. Don't just suggest an alternative, but say no as well. I don't think there's a thing in the world wrong with saying something like, "Benihana's doesn't work for me, can we do Chili's instead?" Then they can come back with a counter offer if Chili's isn't to their liking.

In the end, I think you handled it well as far as working it out at the restaurant. I would have just avoided the dilemma of the table by not going there in the first place.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Arila on December 05, 2013, 06:11:07 PM
Agree with other posters that your DD should have arranged it so that this restaurant was not in the  running at all. Does she not know or what?
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: LEMon on December 05, 2013, 06:27:35 PM
Thinking from the other side - as if one of the other people in the group, I would much rather know that there is an issue (allergy, don't like) than to take you some place that you can't get anything to eat or that might make you ill.

Speak up next time.  Be direct (no hinting, or just suggesting other places).  Explain your allergy, ask politely for another type of restaurant.  There has to be a place that appeals to all and meets everyone's needs.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: hobish on December 05, 2013, 06:29:13 PM

I think you did great, seriously.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Need to Change on December 05, 2013, 07:24:20 PM
I agree with those who say you should have just nixed the restaurant in the first place. And I'm also one who is surprised your daughter didn't run interference on your behalf.

I have no allergies, but if the choices of restaurants includes food I don't like, for whatever reason, I'll say so. To be honest, if someone had suggested Chili's I'd be the first one saying no to that and suggesting an alternative.

And that's the idea. Don't just suggest an alternative, but say no as well. I don't think there's a thing in the world wrong with saying something like, "Benihana's doesn't work for me, can we do Chili's instead?" Then they can come back with a counter offer if Chili's isn't to their liking.

In the end, I think you handled it well as far as working it out at the restaurant. I would have just avoided the dilemma of the table by not going there in the first place.

This is good, but if there's an allergy/intolerance/restriction involved, that does carries more weight than a preference, and (yucky though it feels), the affected person should mention it.  Otherwise, "majority rules!" automatically carries the day, and everyone involved may regret that later.  A very few words should do it.  No need to pull out one's full medical record.

Similarly, if, due to allergy, only a tiny number of restaurants are even possible, that should be mentioned, too.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: lowspark on December 06, 2013, 07:50:39 AM
Interesting that you say that because I was about to say the exact opposite. I don't think the allergy need be mentioned at all. I mean, sure, you can mention it if you feel the need. But in my opinion, people's preferences absolutely do need to be taken into account when a group is making a decision on what restaurant to go to.

It would take some amount of coercion to get me to go to Chili's. And if I were to say, "sorry, I don't like Chili's, can we go to BRC instead?" for example, and someone were to say, "No, I insist, we're going to Chili's regardless of the fact that you don't like it" well, honestly I don't know how I would react because I simply can't imagine someone saying that.

It's one thing if someone is hosting and invites everyone. "Please join us at Chili's for a celebration dinner that we're hosting." Then fine, Chili's it is and I'll make do. But if it's a group dinner as in, "Let's all go out to dinner to celebrate. How about Chili's?", then it's neither rude nor even out of the ordinary for someone else to say no to Chili's, for whatever reason, spoken or not, and suggest an alternative.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Mikayla on December 06, 2013, 12:29:39 PM
On mentioning allergies, when dealing with people you don't know, I think it would be really difficult to just categorically nix a restaurant and not provide at least something by way of explanation. 

It's not required, of course, but I'd feel awkward doing that, and then I'd worry about how it came across.  That's partly because I'm not sure how I'd react if the popular choice got vetoed without much explanation by someone I didn't know. 

Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: QueenfaninCA on December 06, 2013, 01:39:11 PM
On mentioning allergies, when dealing with people you don't know, I think it would be really difficult to just categorically nix a restaurant and not provide at least something by way of explanation. 

It's not required, of course, but I'd feel awkward doing that, and then I'd worry about how it came across.  That's partly because I'm not sure how I'd react if the popular choice got vetoed without much explanation by someone I didn't know.

POD. Especially as there is a chance that you might be dining out with that group of people regularly in the future.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: whatsanenigma on December 06, 2013, 01:42:44 PM
I agree with those who say you should have just nixed the restaurant in the first place. And I'm also one who is surprised your daughter didn't run interference on your behalf.

I have no allergies, but if the choices of restaurants includes food I don't like, for whatever reason, I'll say so. To be honest, if someone had suggested Chili's I'd be the first one saying no to that and suggesting an alternative.

And that's the idea. Don't just suggest an alternative, but say no as well. I don't think there's a thing in the world wrong with saying something like, "Benihana's doesn't work for me, can we do Chili's instead?" Then they can come back with a counter offer if Chili's isn't to their liking.

In the end, I think you handled it well as far as working it out at the restaurant. I would have just avoided the dilemma of the table by not going there in the first place.

This is good, but if there's an allergy/intolerance/restriction involved, that does carries more weight than a preference, and (yucky though it feels), the affected person should mention it.  Otherwise, "majority rules!" automatically carries the day, and everyone involved may regret that later.  A very few words should do it.  No need to pull out one's full medical record.

Similarly, if, due to allergy, only a tiny number of restaurants are even possible, that should be mentioned, too.

Also, if the reason is given, others will not waste time suggesting restaurants that also are obviously unacceptable.  The conversation can turn back easily to figuring out where to go without anyone having to say "no, that won't work either" a million times in a row.

Of course, if the allergy is to something less obvious, then the last line of the above post is even more important.
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: EllenS on December 06, 2013, 02:08:35 PM
I think you did just fine, and kudo's to BF's family for being so considerate.  I understand how it is not easy to think fast when you're also concerned about making a good impression and wanting to make sure you are not coming across as domineering or snowflakey.

I think sweets' wording is good to have in your back pocket next time this might come up:

I think you handled the situation pretty well, but in the future, don't be afraid to speak up about your restrictions when you discuss options. The need to quickly kibosh the grill seating may have been avoided if you had simply said, "The hibachi sounds like fun, but I'm allergic to mushrooms and seafood. Will I be able to find anything?"
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: mspallaton on December 06, 2013, 03:02:03 PM
Others have answered your specific question and I agree that you handled it just fine.

One thing I will say though is that hibachi places will often make you a separate plate from the kitchen to avoid cross contamination and then your companions would be able to see the show and you would still be safe.  I mention that only because my DH is allergic to shrimp.  Most of the time they just leave the shrimp until the very end and do it once he's been served, but a couple places have made him a plate from the kitchen and brought it out around the time our entrees were finished.

Your should ALWAYS feel comfortable speaking up about allergies - that isn't the same as being a picky eater and it doesn't make you an SS to mention it.  But - if you like the experience of the grill or want to not shut that option off, you might consider the kitchen plate option.

 :)
Title: Re: When your choice of restaurant is overruled (food allergy issue)
Post by: Need to Change on December 06, 2013, 03:29:44 PM
I hasten to add ('cause I forgot) ... the OP did just fine.

Back in my pre-restriction days, I'd get ruled out by the majority on occasion.  Still do, sometimes, if I can at least get a coffee or iced tea ... and if I'm not starving.  Most of the time, simple planning on my part keeps "starvation" at bay, but a long day of meetings or other activities can spoil the best laid plans.  So, yes, I will (briefly) mention my intolerance, and try to suggest places where I can eat, even if the local possibilities aren't my favorites.

I also try to avoid the need to say "no" to a long list of restaurants or food items.  That's just annoying for everyone involved!