Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bahama Breeze Fiasco

We spent Memorial Day in Cleveland and overall it was stellar. Bouncy house, swimming pool, sunshine, barbecues, playgrounds, new shoes, a pinata, cocktails, good friends and one bad restaurant experience. Having been on the other side of the food allergy equation, I'm usually willing to cut restaurants some slack. Feigning knowledge, however, is never a good idea when allergies are in play.

Here's a copy of my letter to Bahama Breeze corporate office.

Dear Boss Man (not really his name),

On Saturday, May 26, 2012, my family of five visited Bahama Breeze in Orange Village, OH. My four-year-old son has food allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. While we avoided the need for epi-pens and hospital visits, the attention we received in response to his allergies was abysmal.

I know that dealing with food allergies is a nuisance. I have worked in restaurants and am sensitive to the myriad unreasonable requests and demands we customers make.  Still, I wouldn’t be writing this letter if I didn’t sincerely believe it might help protect a future diner.

We purposely dined at an off peak time. I let our server, Tony, know of my son’s allergies immediately and asked if he would mind checking to see if the bowtie pasta from the children’s menu contained egg. Tony informed me that he didn’t need to check because all pasta contains egg. Obviously, as the mother of an egg-allergic child and someone familiar with food preparation, I knew this wasn’t true. I explained that generally only fresh pasta and egg noodles contain eggs, at which point Tony told me that Bahama Breeze makes all of their own pasta. How impressive for a Caribbean-themed family restaurant to make all their own pasta – and bowties at that! Still dubious, I opted not to argue further.

So, we ordered the grilled chicken instead. When I asked Tony to verify that the chicken wasn’t marinated in anything containing nuts or eggs, he told me that the chicken “should be good.” Well, “should be good” isn’t good enough when anaphylaxis is involved so I asked him to please check in the kitchen, but never heard back. When our food arrived the chicken was covered in a glaze. My husband questioned Tony yet again about how the chicken was prepared at which point Tony finally asked another server what was in the glaze. She responded “citrus juices and egg whites.” Thankfully my son hadn’t tasted his food yet. But what if he had? Fifteen minutes later Tony brought us a plain chicken breast but our confidence was shaky.

When we dine out we’ve learned that some restaurants are better equipped than others to deal with food allergies. That’s okay with me. But please have a plan in place even if that plan is to state that you do not accommodate allergy requests. When dodging a bullet, I generally prefer not to tip the shooter.

Thank you for your time.


  1. Nice closing. Very sharp. I hope boss-man appreciates it too.

  2. I have nothing nice to say about this, so instead:

    Thank you SO much for your donation to the walk! It really means a lot =)

  3. Thanks, Girl G. I can't help but wonder if anyone at BB is ever going to actually read it, but therapeutic to get it off my chest nonetheless.

    And Stephie - good luck in the walk. Here's hoping for some UC/Crohn's research in the right direction.

  4. We went to the Bahama Breeze in Tampa Bay. As usual, we were waiting to order and I searched for a allergen guide for the restaurant but found none, but came across your blog. Expecting the worst, we ordered asking the waiter if the bow tie pasta had egg. My son is allergic to egg and usually has a reaction even if it says the pasta was produced on machinery... He is also allergic to peas, turkey, peanuts, tree nuts, and coconut. (We have noticed lately an increase in the use of coconut oil. It is even in Cap'n Crunch?) We asked the waiter to check, and to our surprise, not only did he check, he brought out a huge bag of Barilla bow tie pasta, finally dispelling the rumor that they make all of their pasta from scratch. Needless to say, we thought he deserved a hefty tip. We should write a training manual titled "How to get a tip from parents of kids with allergies!"

    1. I'm so happy that your Bahama Breeze experience in Tampa Bay was far better than ours in Cleveland! Props to your waiter for dispelling the pasta from scratch on site theory (sheesh!) and for taking the time to check the packaging. What's funny is that weeks after I sent this letter to Bahama Breeze, they sent us a gift card. No apology, no letter, not even a signature...just a gift card in an envelope. I had lost all faith in the organization thinking they'd totally missed the point when it comes to allergies. I am relieved to hear that maybe things aren't so bad throughout the entire chain. And thanks to you and your family for not taking a competent, caring waiter for granted. Let me know if you need a guest author for a chapter of your training manual ;) Love it!