Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Another one hits the list

And this time, it's Applebees.

Most of my students who read know I teach mass media law; I'm not a lawyer, but I have studied law, especially the law of libel. What I'm about to write here is not libel: it is true, it is a true reporting of an exchange I had with Applebees, and I am being fair to them.

But I want to warn people: if you have an allergy to any food, you should know how Applebee's feels about this. After having such good luck at Chili's, I wrote them and asked them if they had such a list. Here is the very polite response.

Dear Ginger,

Thank you for your recent request for a list of wheat-free menu items
available at Applebee's. Due to the frequency in which we change our
menus, as well as the small risk of cross-contamination, we can not
provide the list you requested. The health and safety of our guests is
simply too important to risk sharing inaccurate or outdated nutritional

You may call us at 888-59APPLE and a Guest Relations Coordinator can
work with specific requests regarding any of the FDA's Top 8 Allergens
(dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, shellfish, fish, treenut and peanut) that may
be contained in our core menu items. You can reach us between 7:00 a.m.
and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Friday,
or between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., on Saturday. All times listed
are Central Standard Time.

For some reason, that just set me off. I thought about it for an hour, and I sent them the following reply. I'm afraid the PR bitch that I can be really lost it.

Actually, XXXXX, your response tells me that I don't
need to eat at Appleebees any more. If your servers
and kitchen aren't provided with this BASIC
information, then there's no way you can protect your
guests like me with allergies. You may be worried
about cross contamination, but I'm more worried that
the only times you can help me are certain times
during the day when it's convenient for your customer
service department.

I know you're trying to be helpful, but I need more
assurance. Don't worry, there are plenty of other
places that WILL give me that list up front without my
calling them on their schedule.

I'm sorry if I sound a little frosty, but you have to
understand: I didn't choose this lifestyle, like some
of your guests choose to go on Weight Watchers. If
you want to cater to them, it your right. I applaud
that, too.

But at least 3 in 100 Americans have a wheat allergy.
Wonder what it would do to your business if you
advertised and promoted a menu that supported THAT in
your stores.

Food for thought. I thank you for your timely
response, and I really do not mean to shoot the
messenger. Feel free to share this with others. I
promise, I'm really a nice person. I just can't eat

Ginger Carter Miller, Ph.D.

This is my right to fair comment. I'm not telling you not to go to Applebees, I'm just saying, if you care about knowing what's in your food, they're probably not going to know. I mean, I was at a local Mexican place last night and asked the server, who spoke English but was new at it, how the fajitas were seasoned, and she came back with the word "worchestershire" written on the back of her order pad! THAT is service, and that's why I'll go there instead.

Earlier this summer, pre-blog, I also gave up on The Cheesecake Factory. They're not on the bad list -- they just politely said NO, we can't tell you what's in the food because the chef has control at each store. I know if I go there, I have to ask for the chef to find out. I'm not that enamoured with them to make that effort. But in MillyVegas, well, Applebees is a staple for us -- Jeffrey loves it. The fact that they won't even provide a ready list for CORE MENU ITEMS (and not those Tyler Florence things) is really upsetting. I know I probably made too much of this, but it was very condescending, in my opinion.

Sometimes life is about choice and sometimes it's not. I didn't choose this gluten allergy thing, but I sure can choose who gets my money.

Much love and a straightforward list of ingredients!



The Bouceks said...

I loved your letter to the corporate folks, especially like the use of the word frosty. Keep me posted when they reply.
For pics, click that color icon on the top of the text box and it should prompt you from there.

The Petersons said...

And there is a PR professional at work, my friends! I loved the letter...and it was very nice...although I don't have the luxury of dealing with corporate types...I get the very plesant job of dealing with local politicians!

Keep us posted on their response. I always wonder why cross-contamination is such an issue in restaurants...especially with the number of people who have allergies (like peanuts). I agree--no more Applebee's--but I don't like it anyway.