When discussing which restaurants are the best at handling food allergies, two answers routinely come up in conversation.
Up here in New England, Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA is one. Ming has been a pioneer in addressing patrons with food allergies ever since his first son was diagnosed with seven of the “Big 8.” Ming has also been a strong legislative advocate who was a driving force behind the new Massachusetts law pertaining to food allergy training in restaurants.
The second is technically not “a” restaurant, but all the Disney resort locations. Disney understands that they have to cater to kids and their families for their own successful financial future. Most food allergic diners who have visited the Disney resorts come back with glowing reviews of how the servers are very compassionate and understanding, and how the chefs always come to the table to discuss what they can custom-make to accommodate the individual with allergies. (I can enthusiastically endorse this opinion with the experiences of my own family and my two food allergic children.)
Yet when I was looking to discuss what was then the concept of AllergyEats with one or two restaurants that “get it,” one name came to mind both from Ming Tsai himself and from Peter Christie, the President of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association: Legal Sea Foods.
Looking into Legal Sea Foods further and checking the blogosphere, it seems to me that this assessment is right on the money. They get it. I’ll share 2 anecdotes:
First, a woman I know visited a Legal Sea Foods in the Washington, DC area in a party of 4. The FIRST question they were asked after being seated was “Does anyone in the party have food allergies or other special dietary needs?” This question came even before “Sparkling or Still!”
Second, I read a restaurant review of a Legal Sea Foods in Paramus, NJ posted on NorthJersey.com. In it, the writer, Bill Pitcher, started his article with two sentences that should sound like beautiful music to those of us dealing with food allergies or intolerances. “I’d never heard these words when I’ve called a restaurant, so I asked the reservationist to repeat herself, just to be sure. ‘Do you or anyone in your group have any food allergies?’ she asked.” (The full review can be found here.) This conversation took place at the time of the reservation! That, to me, shows a level of dedication that must come from the top and be pervasive throughout the chain.
I would also point out that a quick visit to the AllergyEats main site finds that within Legals’ home market of Boston, 4 of the 11 restaurants have already been reviewed (by 7 reviewers in total) in the first 10 days since the site was launched. Of those, Legals has posted a perfect 5.0 rating in each of the units (as it does in some units outside Boston as well).
“Being a chain restaurant doesn’t have to be a stigma,” says Bill Pitcher in his NorthJersey.com article. Apparently not. Leadership comes from the top. Roger Berkowitz, CEO of Legal Sea Foods, has clearly created a culture of accommodation towards those with food allergies and intolerances. We can only hope that others will follow their lead and understand that what is right for all customers can also be good for business. In doing so, we all win.
What have your experiences been at Legal Sea Foods? Do you agree with my assertion that they are a leader in addressing the needs of our community? Please click on the Comments link below to share your thoughts, and be sure to rate your restaurant experiences at Legals’ and elsewhere on the core AllergyEats site. Remember that rating a restaurant only involves answering 3 simple questions and takes under a minute. The more ratings we can accumulate on AllergyEats, the greater a resource it will be for the entire food allergy and intolerance community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Antico, 41, is the founder and visionary behind AllergyEats. He lives in suburban Boston with his wife and five children, aged 13, 10, 8, 3, and 6 months. After a successful 17-year career in finance, Paul decided to pursue more personal interests. He was inspired to start www.AllergyEats.com because two of his children have food allergies that make dining out challenging.
Read Paul’s previous article entitled “Peanut Shells on the Floor No More”.
You can read part two of this article here.
From our home to yours, Tina Turbin.