We recently ate at my father-in-law’s favorite restaurant chain: Sonny’s BBQ. It’s a southeastern BBQ chain that reminds my father-in-law of the time he spent at the University of Florida. So whenever we’re in Florida, we “dine” there.
As usual, before we went, I reviewed their allergen menu and identified a few items my FA son could choose from. And, as usual, I verified all my information with the manager.
Now, let me say, Sonny’s manager couldn’t have been nicer or more responsive. He researched the ingredients for the hamburger bun and the cornbread from his suppliers and was willing to bend over backwards to accommodate my son as best as he could. And, as a result, we enjoyed a safe and yummy meal.
But I noticed something that was distressing in asking all our usual questions. While the manager knew his ingredients and was willing to investigate further when he wasn’t sure, Sonny’s BBQ corporate may not understand how food allergies actually work. For example, Sonny’s Corporate allergen menu shows that their fries are milk, egg, tree nut, peanut, shellfish, and SOY free. But that’s only if you eat them UNFRIED because their manager confirmed they were fried in vegetable oil.
While soy is no longer a concern for my son, I can imagine this mistake would pose a danger. If I had read their allergen menu and decided to just take it at face value, my son could have wound up with some serious problems.
Corporations need to take into broader considerations when publishing food allergen menus. Their menus must reflect fry oil and cooking methods as well as supplier-driven “manufactured on equipment” issues. More information of this kind allows diners to make better, clearer choices. Whenever I can make more sure-footed decisions about meals for my son and other food allergic family members, I feel grateful and relaxed. And, that’s something that will keep me coming back.