Is pre-ordering from a restaurant a good idea?



While I was on my cruise to Hawaii, I learned a very valuable lesson.  The smoothest way to ensure that my food was prepared correctly and allergen free was to pre-order the next days’ meals in advance.  Yes, it sort of put me on the spot,  but it worked to my advantage.  Kitchen and wait staff were extra careful and gave my meals the attention they deserved.  It made me wonder if the same could be done at home.

I have written in the past about calling the restaurant in advance and speaking with the manager, but I never actually put it into practice.  It also worked well at the Hilo Bay Cafe, where I had my chirashizushi.  I emailed ahead and asked if this could be made gluten free.  They were able to accommodate me, and had it ready and waiting for me when I arrived.  What a pleasure!  Not to have to pore over a menu for ages just to find something “safe” or to not have to wait an eternity for my food.

This might not work with a small, local restaurant but it would probably work with a large chain.  Also, pick your dish wisely;  as I learned, a caesar salad isn’t a caesar salad when it has no croutons or parmesan and has balsamic dressing.  Choose dishes that can be easily converted.  There are a few tips that will help you achieve this:

  • Pick a simple dish to be converted, like the sushi dish I described.  If you have dairy allergies, avoid converting dishes made with complex ingredients.
  • Ask if there is a dedicated fryer
  • Ask if they have gluten free soy sauce (Asian)
  • work with the chef-they might have great ideas, or you might.  Know your ingredients if possible (some website menus show all ingredients in a dish) to see what might be swapped out.
  • Expect to forego dessert
  • If it’s a holiday, give plenty of notice, but the busiest time might not be the best time.
  • don’t expect miracles-sometimes swapping or leaving out ingredients will ruin a dish.  Have a backup plan.
  • Ask to speak to the restaurant manager.  Or better yet, send an email.  Emails will allow you to explain in more detail what you are looking for.
  • Make sure the manager speaks to the chef.
  • Ask if gluten free pasta is available.
  • Olive oil can be subbed for butter in quite a few dishes-even hollandaise!
  • Non-dairy milk can be subbed for dairy milk in most cases.
  • Bring your own butter substitute and/or salad dressing with you.
  • If you can, book a reservation through Open Table-this will allow you to include details on your allergies and give the staff more time to accommodate you.
  • Give ample time to the staff to find ways to help you.  Don’t call an hour in advance. and expect them to be able to whip something up on the spot.
  • Ask if there is gluten free bread-and ask for olive oil for dipping.

These are just some of the ways you can pre-order a meal at your favorite restaurant.  I would love to hear your stories about how you planned ahead,  and also about your disasters!  Please comment and share your experience!


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