Thursday, December 11, 2014

Red Robin - Good and Bad Gluten Free

I have a love hate relationship with Red Robin. I was super stoked when they started to do gluten free buns with their burgers. I was even more stoked when they said they had dedicated fryers for their French fries. It was great progress from a chain restaurant to handle allergies with such care. I know it’s more for the sake of having options for children, but hey we all need a good ‘normal’ meal every now and then when out with friends and family. They seemed to train their staff really well, and everyone was on board with allergies. Now as staff has probably cycled out and new staff has come in, things have dwindled in my opinion. I am at the point of avoiding the place like the plague because I’ve left more than once almost in tears due to bad experiences of ignorance.
The first issue came from a disgusting, wet, cold burger. I refuse to be charged extra and then served a sub-par meal! The gluten free bun was so soggy and gross it almost disintegrated when I picked up the burger that was cold. That same location told me they didn’t have a dedicated fryer so I got 4 pieces of broccoli as my side dish. By the time the server came back most of our group was done eating. Pointed out to him how cold and gross the burger was and he told me “It is gluten free.”. – WOW! Really, that’s your response?

The second issue came 6 months later; we were at a different location in the same area as the one where this happened, since I wasn’t too keen on going back to that location we tried another one. 

This time as soon as we were seated and handed the iPad with the allergen listing the server couldn’t figure out how to turn it on, and unlock it. My brother called the manager over who right away started to praise how great their location is with allergies and how wonderful the gluten free bun is, and how awesome they handle allergies. It would have been nice had he given us 2 seconds to ask questions before he started to push their burger club card. He also pointed out the iPad was the “safest way” to ensure the meal made correct, even though the internet is super slow and takes a long time to load each page. So one would assume if I am holding the iPad that designates someone has a food allergy and ask the server no less than 5 times to make sure the meal is made GLUTEN FREE; and if he can double check that the fryer for the French fries is gluten free, that my meal would come out GLUTEN FREE. NOPE!

He brings out a basket of deep fried chicken fingers on top of French fries. I stared in horror at the meal, and asked him if he was certain it was gluten free. He goes “YUP!” I asked again and told him if he was wrong I’d be horribly ill, and in the hospital, was he certain? He responded, “Well I think so…. Do you want me to check?” The manager came out of the kitchen, Hands up in the air and loudly said “That’s your meal!” He walked over looked at it and responded – “That’s not on the gluten free menu…. That’s not how it should have been prepared….”

The sad interjection I should add is when I told my dad this he told me “I would have assumed it was rice based flour or something and that it was safe”. So back to the catering to children – my dad would have let me eat this because he would have assumed all the safeties of talking to the manager, telling the server multiple times, and their “super safe” way to order this would be correct. Major Fail! 

I walked out of the restaurant and told my brother I didn’t feel safe eating there, that I couldn’t risk their ignorance. The manager figured out besides flagging the meal gluten free in the computer the waiter needed to list out the modifications that needed to be made to the meal, he needed to list, no breading, grilled, not fried for the chicken. One would think with their fancy technology on the iPad that their system for ordering would be more advanced to know gluten free = no breading on chicken or their staff would have a cheat sheet how to enter the items for the cook to make sure they are safe. I settled for a microwaved Amy’s meal back at our hotel that I was too agitated to actually eat more than half of. 

That being said, no more Red Robin for me! 

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