How To Order Out Safely with Celiac or a Food Allergy Anywhere You Go

Eating out with celiac disease can stir up anxiety for a lot of us. You never know whether you can trust the restaurant. It can be embarrassing to speak up for yourself. And we are often marginalized due to the “gluten free” social stigma.

17 years of celiac and 36 countries later, I’ve developed a 3 step process that helps me walk out of almost any restaurant with a full and healthy belly.

#1: Asking for a Chef or Manager right away.

Servers & hosts don’t work in the kitchen. A lot of times they aren’t familiar with what’s in the food or how it’s prepared. Skip to the people that will be able to actually answer your questions. Having the server go back and forth to the kitchen is time consuming and creates a high likelihood of communication errors.

If a restaurant is well trained, the servers will also have a good idea of what’s going on. But always approach each conversation assuming the restaurant doesn’t know anything.

You’re likely to get more face time with the chef or general manager if you dine at non peak hours (before noon, between 2-4pm, or after 9pm). During rush hours, having a conversation with the right people can get very difficult.

#2: Direct the conversation.

I use what I like to call “directive ordering” rather than “passive ordering”.

When I first got diagnosed with Celiac, I used to go into restaurants and say “I have a gluten allergy and it’s super severe”. Unfortunately, for a lot of restaurants this isn’t enough context!

Every chef has a very different level of education when it comes to Celiac & food allergies.

Some go the extra mile while others think heat kills gluten. That’s why it’s important not to make assumptions about their level of expertise.

Here’s an example of how directive ordering would work. Let’s say I go to the restaurant and am looking to order a burger. Here’s how a typical conversation would go:

Me: Hi, I have a “gluten allergy”, I am looking to order the burger. Can I ask you a couple questions about it?

Chef: Sure! Go ahead.

Me: Awesome, I appreciate that. I just want to make sure there is nothing added to the burger patty. Is it just meat?

Chef: Yes, only salt and pepper is added. 

Me: So great. Do you put either bread or anything marinated in soy sauce on the same flattop or grill you cook the patty on?

Chef: Yes, we put buns on the grill.

Me: No worries, is there any way you would be able to cook the patty in a separate pan or put tin foil over the grill as a barrier?

Chef: Sure!

Me: Great, I appreciate that. And does the gluten free bun go in a separate toaster?

Chef: No, it does not.

Me: Would you be willing to warm it in the oven on a clean tray?

Chef: Sure!

Me: Great, I really appreciate that. Is there any way you can also use untouched ingredients from the back for the burger toppings? 

Chef: Yes, we can make that work.

Me: Okay thank you so much and very last question. Do your fries go into a shared fryer with gluten?

Chef: Yes, they do.

Me: Thanks for letting me know. Could I have a different side then? Like a salad, boiled veggies, or fruit instead?

Chef: We can do fruit!

Me: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you working with me on this. It can be difficult to eat out so I am grateful for your patience.

As you can see, I go through each part of the meal. I ask how it’s prepared and give suggestions on how they can make it safe for me. This makes a huge difference when ordering. It becomes a collaborative effort rather than the full responsibility of the restaurant.

#3: Empathize with the Restaurant

When dining out it’s important to understand the restaurant perspective.

Dietary restrictions in general are still new for them. As an industry, there has been very little training and awareness around this topic.

And to make matters worse, they have customers everyday that come in claiming an “allergy” to then turn around and eat that “said allergen”. So the restaurant staff gets confused.

Think back to when you were first diagnosed. Did you understand cross contact? Were you a pro on day 1?

Look, I know it’s exhausting to educate and empathize with restaurants.

I’ve had breakdowns.

I’ve lost my cool.

I’ve stormed out.

You name it, I’ve done it.

BUT if you run into a staff member that is not willing to work with you, EMPATHIZE with them.

Here’s a phrase I use A LOT:

Hey look. I appreciate you looking out for me but I eat food from shared kitchens all the time. I understand that I am making life more difficult for you right now. I want you to know that is not my intention. I unfortunately did not choose my medical condition, but would be so grateful if you could help me enjoy a safe meal. Do you think we could figure something out?

Understand that we are all human here. The staff is just as nervous as you are. One mistake and that could mean a huge lawsuit for them. So understand that no one is out to get you. They are just trying to protect themselves.


If you want to be a pro at eating out, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Ask for a chef or general manager right away! Try and dine at non peak hours so the restaurant has time and space to give you the attention you need.
  2. Direct the conversation. Assume every restaurant has no idea what gluten is. Identify a few menu items you want to order and ask questions about how that meal is prepared.
  3. Empathize with the staff. A lot of them aren’t trained on celiac or food allergies. So don’t blame them! Instead recognize their feelings are valid and work as a team to figure out a safe solution.

About Me – Kayla King was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at 9 years old. She is a certified nutrition coach and has worked in restaurants as a server and manager. She recently released her app MyMeal, which helps you find safe restaurant meals for your food restrictions. You can learn more about it here: