Ordering from Room Service on a Wheat-Free Diet

If you're on a business trip or at a conference and want to be discreet about your wheat-free or grain-free lifestyle, ordering room service may be the best way to get a meal suitable for your dietary needs. It's also a good option when an extra-long business meeting or a delayed flight means you get to your hotel after the restaurant has closed.

If you know you'll be ordering room service before you get to the hotel, call the hotel and ask whether the room service menu is the same as the restaurant menu. (This conversation is also a good time to tell the hotel of your wheat-free needs.) If the menus are the same, you can predetermine what to order from looking at the menu online (or at least narrow down some options to ask further questions about). If the menus aren't the same, find out how the menus differ and whether the hotel kitchen can accommodate you. Certification and training programs on gluten-free dining for restaurants exist to help ensure knowledge and quality. See whether your hotel restaurant has been certified or trained in this area.

Ask the hotel management to place a gluten-free menu, if it's available, in your room so it's there when you arrive.

The in-room menu allows you to order like any other restaurant menu, but you'll only have one person available to you to answer any questions you may have regarding the hotel's wheat-free capabilities. Hopefully, your room service waitperson will be well trained about the foods on the menu and how they can be altered to meet your needs.

When placing your order from your room, let the waitperson know you're avoiding wheat and want to make sure there isn't any cross-contamination with utensils and plates that may have wheat residue. Ask the questions that the online menu didn't answer. Make sure you know how the chefs prepare the salad dressings, soups, meats, and sauces of the foods you're most interested in, especially if they don't have a gluten-free menu. If the hotel offers gluten-free food, the waitperson will be ready and available to assist you. If the hotel doesn't offer room service, make alternate dinner plans.

Consider some of these ideas to help make your room service plan work:

  • Don't be afraid to ask questions regarding the gluten-free menu. When you call to ask about the room service menu, speak to the hotel manager and the chef for in-depth information on how the food is prepared. The more assertive you are, the more information you get. Remember that the hotel industry is in the business of accommodating you.

  • Make sure that the cooking staff and waitstaff understand how important the wheat-free issue is, especially if you have celiac disease. If you have celiac disease (which means you can't process gluten) or a severe allergy/intolerance to wheat, you can't afford to assume that the hotel staff knows what you're talking about. They're more apt to accommodate you when they realize the importance of your situation.

  • If you have to educate the kitchen staff on what wheat-free/gluten-free is, you're not in the right situation. You may want to reconsider whether room service can meet your needs.

  • Choose an item that requires very little alteration to meet your needs. That way, you can provide your waitperson with very simple instructions as to what you want added or left off.

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