Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chili's Gluten Free Menu....A Winner...Right?

I had heard that Chili’s had a gluten free menu from a few of the blogs I visit but I couldn’t remember if it was a good menu or not. Then I remembered reading about Stephanie’s glutening but I thought that it wouldn’t happen to me because, what would be the odds? Plus, I would not only tell the server about my intolerance but also I would go prepared with my handy-dandy cards!

Was I naive? Maybe, I was. Maybe it is because I have put too much faith in people or maybe it is because I expect that if you actually have a gluten free menu, it means that you know the meaning of what gluten free is and what cross contamination is. Is that too much to ask? Do I sound harsh? Well, keep reading. I am more than just a little upset, this ladies and gentlemen is by far the worst culinary (if you can call Chili’s culinary) experience I have ever had.

My boyfriend and I were meeting his sister, her husband and their adorable daughter for dinner. I mistakenly suggest Chili’s for dinner because of the gluten free menu. Jared and I get there first, we sit down and we talk the game plan. The game plan includes how I am going to order. I always think this through because I get nervous and never want to leave anything out. Jared orders for me often because it makes me uneasy and he has great attention for detail, but I ordered for myself last night. His family arrived, they decided on their order and the waitress came. She was not very pleasant but I was nice to her.

When it was my turn to order I chose: A hamburger. No bun, with cheese and the garnish. No French fries. Instead of the fries can I please have a side salad? She nodded. I continued: No Croutons. No dressing of any kind. Instead I would like lemon wedges. I have Celiac Disease meaning I cannot have any gluten or wheat because it will make me very sick. It is all on this card. Can you please give it to your cook and their staff?

She took the card and gave me a look. I didn’t care though. I have no clue if she gave it to the cook or not. When she returned with my order, she brought me my burger with a side of ranch on the plate. The ranch was in a separate container so I didn’t freak out but I was still annoyed. Ranch was not on the gluten free menu and I didn’t order it. She wasn’t listening to my needs. I told her again “I am highly allergic to gluten and I don’t want to take a chance, could you please take the dressing back.” I know that celiac is an autoimmune disorder but I didn’t feel like explaining it to her, she wasn’t getting it. I figured the word allergy would work better with this chick. Then she really crossed the line, she replied with, “Yeah, I would be PARANOID too.” I didn’t want to make a scene. I was at dinner with my boyfriend and his lovely family and I was on the verge of tears. It had been such an amazing week for the gluten free community with the release of the G-Free Diet and all of the promotion surrounding it and also with the launch of the Starbucks gluten free dessert. I wasn’t going to let this girl get me down. I wasn’t being paranoid, I was protecting my intestines.

Dinner was awful. My salad tasted old. I couldn’t even finish it and my burger kind of sucked. I started not feeling well during my dinner. My boyfriend said it was the worst steak he ever had. My boyfriend's sister didn't really like her dinner either. I left still hungry since I didn’t finish my meal so my boyfriend took me to In & Out for some french fries. I had a bad feeling about the food I had eaten at Chili’s so I took some Pepto while we were still there, especially since I wasn’t feeling well. I know that Pepto isn’t cure at all, but maybe it helps a little? Hey, kept me from having the craps! So, I would like to think that maybe it lessens it a bit…right?

We were going to this arcade called Golfland to play games and by the time we got there I had this massive headache. After ten minutes I threw up in the restroom. I threw up a total of four times while we were there, but I didn’t want to leave and let stupid Chili’s get in my way. I was in so much pain that it hurt to walk and I felt really bloated. On the way back to my boyfriend’s we stopped at the store and picked up some things so I would feel better.

I can honestly say that Chili’s was the worst restaurant experience I have ever had. It wasn’t the worst glutening of my life but it was by far the worst customer service and pretty awful food. I do not like being insulted by people when I am trying to have a good time. I am saddened by the lack of humanity that waitress showed for me, it is hard enough trying to eat out. I know that there are more and more options for gluten free people showing up all the time but when restaurants like Chili’s has gluten free menus, I expect their staff not to insult patrons and not to cross contaminate them. I am really disheartened by Chili’s. I normally try to not give bad reviews but Chili’s you gave me really crappy service and maybe you should give your servers a bit of sensitivity training


Erika said...

I suggest a personal meeting with the manager. That is completely unacceptable in so many way!! Without their customers, they wouldn't have a business. And yes, if they offer a GF menu, they ought to be understanding enough to know how to handle it or at least ask questions.

There's a restaurant in my area that I often think of when considering the level of service. When they make a mistake on your order of any kind, usually one of the managers comes out, *gets down on one knee*, and apologizes for whatever was done. I'm not kidding. They take their errors seriously, and they should. Even if they can't undo something, they make sure they take the "one down" position, putting their customer literally above them.

Ummm, that didn't exactly happen to you last night!! These people either need training with observations, or they need to have only a few wait staff people with some sort of internal certification to manage a situation like that. SOMETHING.

Tell the manager, then I'd call the corporate office. This chick did the entire celiac community and the people behind their GF menu a disservice.

Good luck to you, and I'm serious. DO it! :)

Erika (GFCosmetics on Twitter)

Endless Possibilities said...

I was so upset at the resturant that I didnt complain. I was afraid that I was either going to:
1. Make a scene.
2. Be offensive.
3. Cry so much that I wasn't going to make sense.

I didn't think of talking to the manager, my obvious choice :) I was so mad, I wanted to deal with her directly and put her in her place. It is almost like I wanted to give her the celiac education right there and then and also the tools she would need to be sensitive to everyone's needs. I did contact Chili's customer service last night. Hopefully now that they are aware of the situation they will speak to their employees and staff on how to properly handle gluten free orders ( meaning contamination issues) and also how to have great customer service skills.

Thanks so much Erika!

Kate said...

What a bad experience. Restaurants that claim to be gluten-free friendly should definitely devote time to sensitivity training for their employees. What if you had had an anaphylactic reaction to gluten? That waitress and restaurant would have been responsible. Celiac gluten intolerance and other allergies need to be treated with the same respect and sensitivity to detail. Good luck in the future. I agree with Erika-meet with the manager and confront the situation head on. Feel better girl! :)

GF Steph said...

DUDE, I HATE HATE HATE Chili's with a passion! I am never eating there ever again! I expect the same as you, if they offer a gluten free menu, they need to train their staff to understand what that MEANS!

Endless Possibilities said...


Agreed! I love your poem to Chili's! I wish I would have learned from your glutening and stayed far away from Chili's.


Thank you so much. I second everything you said. I so utterly disappointed in them.

H.Peter said...

Oy. Terrible.

I had an experience myself today (franchise food), but i did not do as I preach...

Traci said...

What an awful experience! I have eaten at Chili's 3 times since I have been gluten free (3+ years) The first one, I was super happy with my honey bbq steak. The second time I wanted the same thing and they said they didn't have it. I could get a steak and then honey bbq on the side. I wasn't happy with my food and never wanted to go back. THEN we went with my husbands family. So, I decided on the honey bbq ribs...SO delish! I wasn't glutenized any of the time. You should write Chili's and complain! OR you should have talked to the manager. Gluten free menu...people should KNOW if they work there! sorry you had such a bad experience!

Endless Possibilities said...

Thank you both for your comments :)

H. Peter-
I just read your blog. I normally do not have a problem eating at franchises, I guess I just have an issue with this franchise. I adore Outback. Sorry that you had an awful experience at the franchise you visited today.

I am glad that you have had good experiences there! I think that is really great. It gives me hope that Chili's isn't all bad. I have been hearing horrid things from the gluten free community left and right. I did write to Chili's last night and I am still waiting to hear back.

Stacey said...

That's awful! I'm sorry you had such bad service. She should take her job more seriously.

My husband has had pretty good lok at Chili's. He really likes the potato soup and usually gets the soup and salad. That's assuming you have decent service and they don't put croutons on the salad.

I hope you get a good response from them, let us know what they say.

Endless Possibilities said...

Thank you Stacey,

I will keep everyone updated. Still no word from Chili's. I hope that they do respond to my email soon. If not, I will call the customer complaint line on Monday. I would like something in writing though. I am glad that your husband does have good experiences when he goes. A good restaurant experience can make all of the difference :)

Gluten Free Steve said...

We tried Chili's a few months back to see if I could manage their gluten free menu. The food (even what the Artist had) was disgusting and a huge waste of money. We won't return.

Endless Possibilities said...


I am sorry you also had a crappy experience. Yeah, had I not been glutened, the food still was not savory. The only people at our table that liked their meal, was my boyfriend's brother-in law and their daughter. Shame when you pay for something and come away unsatisfied.


No word yet from Chili' them till Thursday and then I am calling. That will be over a week for them to respond to me. I figure they may be swamped with online complaints since they are so awful!

Erin said...

I just ate at the Chili's tonight, and used their Gluten Free menu and had a reaction as well! The worst part? My order came back with a big piece of toast on top of my steak, the waitress apologized and took it back, and we did not get charged for it. The waitress was great, but it's like the kitchen had no clue what gluten was. They left off the sauce because their menu tells them to, but they don't understand the concept. My boyfriend is a chef and was furious, he and I both think if you are workin in a kitchen you should know all about dietary needs!

bathmate said...

Happy new year.
Very nice website.
I am impressed.
I like it very much.


Impressions Of My Life At The Moment said...

Thank you Bathmate :) Happy New Year to you as well!

Anonymous said...

I went to Chili's tonight. LOVE how at the top of the gluten "allergy" menu, it states that all the foods are subject to cross contamination and frying in the same oil as other foods. COMPLETELY invalidates the entire point of having a separate menu. Idiots.

Impressions Of My Life At The Moment said...

Anonymous- I know! I dont eat there at all anymore!

ChilisMenu said...

Chilis Menu isn't the least bit appealing to me. I mean what do you expect from a national chain but corporate like meals with corporate like service. They treat everyone the same and no one knows your name.

Harmony said...

I wish I had done a google search and found out about this before I went to Chili's. A friend of mine held the opening dinner of her bachelorette party there recently. I went and ordered off the gluten free menu. The food was horrible and I started getting sick from it before I even left the restaurant. I also had a server who treated me really badly when I explained why I needed what they called the "lame" menu in the first place. I described it as an allergy too because I didnt think they would understand and they literally told me I was over reacting and being dramatic. Thankfully for the server and my friends I held my tongue and didnt actually over react because I wanted to let lose on the server really badly and had I not been with the group I was with that night I might have. Never will I go there again, and whenever I hear people talking about going there I plan on changing their mind. I dont like giving negative reviews either but they really deserve one.

Impressions Of My Life At The Moment said...

Harmony- I am so sorry you had a bad experience at Chili's. I would contact Chili's and let them know that not only was their service underpar but their skills when it comes to top food allergins were lacking too. Clearly, the franchise has been lacking as a whole!