Planning Ahead for Allergy-free Dining – Now more frustrating than ever – Or is it?
I’ve been hearing recent complaints from those with allergies that when contacting ‘Special Diets’ all they get is a “form response” giving a list of counter service restaurants that should be able to accommodate your needs. This generic response began in December and has continued through the present. It states that your allergies will be addressed when you arrive at the table or counter service restaurant. This has been leaving guests feeling uneasy. They can no longer make their food selections ahead of time, leaving them unsure if they’ll still receive the quality service that they were accustomed to from previous visits. In the past, after contacting Special Diets, you would receive Documents containing each location that could accommodate your allergy and what brand-name foods they regularly carried – many being pre-packaged. Without the availability of these Documents anymore, guests feel as though they’re being put on the back burner with their allergy concerns.
I’ll admit, I felt uneasy as well with such a generic response from Special Diets when I contacted them about my gluten-free diet (due to having celiac disease) and my son’s egg allergy. But we went to Disney World anyway (of course!) and to my surprise, I felt as though my dietary restrictions were treated with top priority – even better than before. The chefs still prepare meals with careful attention to your dietary restrictions, and they really seem to enjoy making a meal specifically just for you.
We ate at Olivia’s Cafe, and the Chef came out and said to me “Order anything you like off the menu, and I’ll make sure that it’s gluten free!” I was elated! I ordered a Club Sandwich, and the Chef personally brought out my plate, set it in front of me and assured me it was gluten-free. The same holds true for almost all Table Service restaurants. I’ve even had Chefs offer to make other delicious dishes that weren’t even listed on the menu!
As far as Quick Service restaurants go, you do need to specify that you have an allergy when ordering. A manager will be called out to speak with you and take your order. Cosmic Ray’s was able to prepare a Hot Dog for me on a gluten-free bun, AND give me french fries that were prepared in a dedicated fryer. It had been so long since I’ve had french fries! The Boardwalk Bakery always has gluten-free goodies on hand, although it is “luck of the draw” as to what they happen to have available that day. I was able to get a vanilla cupcake with Chocolate icing. The Chef there came out and prepared a new batch of icing right infront of me – they know what they’re doing! Making a new batch of icing, ensured that there was no cross-contamination of gluten on my cupcake! Talk about special treatment! I also went to the Beach Club Marketplace and asked if they could accommodate Gluten-free needs… Yes, they can! Any of their sandwiches could be made on a gluten-free bun. I ordered the Turkey sandwich. It would normally come on flatbread – making it a slightly larger than normal sandwich, although the gluten-free bun was of generous size, it was still smaller than the flat bread loaves. The Chef there made me TWO sandwiches (which together ended up being larger than a regular flatbread sandwich!) He only charged me the price of one sandwich. I ate one sandwich for dinner, and saved the 2nd for lunch the next day. I was able to get two meals for the price of one. It was gluten-free and glorious!
So, I believe the reason for such a “form response” from Special Diets is because the Chefs are customizing meals for everyone’s allergy needs, giving guests top notch service. I’d much rather enjoy a meal or treat specifically made for me, than be handed a pre-packaged cookie or brownie. Wouldn’t you?
I felt well taken care of, and my worries were quickly put to rest. So if you’ve got an allergy and are concerned that you can’t plan your food orders ahead of time… don’t worry! Disney is still going to take care of you (quite possibly even better than before!) If you want to get a better idea of where to find allergen-free meals, try helpful resources on the internet such as Allergy Free Mouse or AllergyEats!
- Disney trip planning with food allergies (chipandco.com)
- Meatatarian Dining at Walt Disney World (couponingtodisney.com)