Surprise!! You've been poisoned!

I had a pretty awful encounter at a national chain recently. We ordered an appetizer, and although our server was knowledgeable about gluten, she checked with the kitchen AND a manager just to ensure that I would be okay. After assuring me that the meal would be gluten free, and after we ate until we were stuffed, a manager came running over to our table...the conversation went something like this:

Manager: DID YOU EAT IT????
Me: Umm what...?
Manager: There was a mistake! There was gluten in your meal! Did you eat the sauces?
Me: Yeahhhhh I did. There isn't even anything left...
Manager: Do I need to call 911 or an ambulance?

It turned out there was soy sauce in the sauces we were eating, and neither the kitchen nor the other manager on duty knew that soy sauce had gluten in it. Not only was I "surprise poisoned," but the staff MAJORLY failed (excluding the server...she was awesome) by not knowing #1. where gluten could be found and #2. essentially anything about gluten intolerance.

No, I didn't need an ambulance, but yes, I definitely needed to complain. So, what should you do if you are "surprise poisoned?":

  1. Don't leave the restaurant without letting the manager know that you are NOT okay with what happened.
  2. Call corporate headquarters.
  3. Send an e-mail to whichever address they list on their website, even if it's just a submit comment form online.
  4. Keep doing #2 and #3 until someone gets back to you.
  5. If any of the above fail, blog and tweet until someone sees it and gives you a call.
In the end, the restaurant comped our meal on the night we visited. I called and submitted an online query, my dinner company also called to complain, someone from risk/liability called me back, I received a $50 gift card and my dinner company received a $25 gift card.

We're definitely going back for our free food/booze AND to make sure that they have learned their lesson from my visit...because if it happens again, I won't be so nice the second time around.

3 comments:

Brenna said...
November 20, 2010 at 3:52 PM

I also have celiac disease and I have to disagree with your process. Unless a restaurant advertises itself as providing gf food, you need to be your own advocate. You can never assume or expect all restaurants to understand your allergy. That's your job. Instead, ask about the sauces' (and everythings) ingredients prior to ordering. To throw a hissy fit after you consumed gluten makes it harder for the rest of us. Act like an adult, advocate for yourself and treat servers, managers, and chefs with respect. I blame you, not the restaurant.

KMB said...
November 20, 2010 at 4:09 PM

Actually, Brenna, we did ask about the sauces, and I didn't throw a hissy fit at the restaurant at all, and I would never and have never done that in the past. When the manager came to us, we simply told him that we were assured several times that everything we ordered was gluten-free, and were just surprised by the outcome but that I'd be okay. We were very calm and loved our server and even tipped her what the cost of the bill would've been had we been given a check (the cost of 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 glasses of wine). I am 100% my own advocate and had they made available an ingredient list or other nutritional information online, I would've read it before I ordered and still asked all of the questions I always ask. As a former server and hostess at many restaurants, I would NEVER disrespect anyone who works in the industry, and I am always cordial no matter how awful the experience is. If you were a regular reader of my blog or followed me on twitter, you would know that this is the case. Unfortunately, the internet causes people to misinterpret tone, and this is what I assume occurred in this instance. Good luck with your Celiac Disease, and I hope that by complaining to corporate headquarters (which is where I actually did complain, NOT while at the restaurant) I have ensured that your next experience at the Cheesecake Factory will be more safe.

Walter said...
April 8, 2011 at 12:36 PM

The Cheesecake Factory is notorious for knowing enough to be "dangerous" about celiacs and/or gluten, but not enough to keep us healthy. I would have suggested you avoid them in the first place, this is the third or fourth story I have heard about them.

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