I can’t believe I’m writing about Pizza Hut – again. But here I am.
At this point in time/education, at their size, there’s no excuse for not having their act together when it comes to food allergies. And yet…
My son was due to attend a birthday party that involved a trip to a nearby Pizza Hut. Since we don’t have one very close to us AND they have a strange relationship with food allergies (see “Correction: Pizza Nut… I Mean, Pizza Hut” from 2012), I needed to do extra homework in preparation for my son to eat there.
I started by reviewing their allergen menu. But since my son is allergic to food OUTSIDE the top 8 allergens, I also placed a call to double check my findings. I don’t take unnecessary risks – especially in a birthday party-type situation.
It took three phone calls to get a customer service agent on the phone due to high call volume on three different days. After waiting close to twenty minutes each time, I finally got a live voice. I presented the facts simply, “My son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (so all nuts), sesame seeds and dairy (which means milk, butter and cheese). I have read your allergen menu online but I still have a few questions.”
I went on to explain what my son would order (a regular, personal size pizza with only sauce) and asked my three easy questions:
- Does the sauce have dairy (particularly, cheese) in it? It’s impossible to tell from the online menu since most pizza is covered in mozzerella, but his won’t be.
- Is sesame used anywhere in either the crust or the sauce? It can be ground up like flour and used as an ingredient you can’t see.
- Are there any cross-contamination issues I should be aware of with nuts or sesame seeds?
Simple, right? Should be an easy answer there…
Not only could the customer service not answer the question himself, but he put me on hold while he asked a “nutritionist” somewhere in his office. Sounded promising… until he came back to the phone and told me to go to the online allergen menu. I reminded him that I had already reviewed it and had questions that this online menu didn’t answer.
I already felt that my questions (which I’d like to remind Pizza Hut concern the safety of my child) weren’t being heard and my concerns were being dismissed.
He put me on hold again to retrieve information from the nutritionist. “OKAY!” he returned. “Go to the nutrition menu on our site and the calories for each meal should be listed beside it.”
Huh?! It sounds like neither the representative nor the nutritionist understood what kind of information I was asking for and both were just blindly answering.
I repeated my questions and directed him towards an ingredient list. “Well,” he jumped in, “concerning sesame seeds: We DO offer a gluten-free crust. So your son should be okay there.” Again, WHAT?! Back to the drawing board. Time to education yet another person in the food industry about the difference between gluten and sesame seeds…
He returned to the nutritionist and came back yet again without any helpful information. But, the customer service representative took my contact info and assured me that the nutritionist would get back to me within 24 hours.
“Terrific,” I said – exhausted from the ineptitude. “the party is in three days, so that will be just in the nick of time.”
It is now eight (8!) days later and I still haven’t received a reply from Pizza Hut’s customer service OR their nutritionist.
Unfortunately, my son injured himself playing sports and couldn’t attend the birthday party. But there was no way I felt comfortable with him eating at Pizza Hut if customer service AND a nutritionist couldn’t tell me if cheese or sesame seeds were in their sauce and crust. The already hard decisions about how to accommodate my son’s food allergies so that he feels included in social situations was made that much more difficult by a lack of both understanding and a total lack of response.
They may no longer be referred to as “Pizza Nut” in our house (they once listed peanuts and tree nuts in nearly all of their products). Now, we call them “Pizza Not.”