Going out for a meal is a treat some people without allergies might take for granted. For those us living with severe food allergies, it can be a bit more complicated. Food allergy chef cards are a fantastic tool for making eating out with allergies a bit easier and safer for everyone.
There are chef card options that are free to download as well as a range of cards to buy. We’ll talk about our favourites in more detail below.
(If you are short on time we recommend you check out the new digital smart cards from Equal Eats that come with a host of great extra features including translations to a host of different languages. Scroll down for our discount code).
*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. We may be paid a commission if you use these links to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
What are food allergy chef cards?
Food allergy chef cards are small cards you can provide to restaurant staff to help communicate your food allergies clearly. Usually the size of a business card, you can keep your chef card conveniently in your wallet or purse ready to show or hand to waiting staff.
Like us, you have probably ordered food at a restaurant or cafe and asked lots of questions about food allergy ingredients. When ordering, you ask your server or waiting staff to convey your particular allergies to the kitchen. You see your serve writing a note and hope that they have recorded everything properly. And hopefully you’ve asked about using clean chopping boards and utensils and cooking your meal in a separate pan to avoid cross contact. But are you absolutely confident that your message is going to make it to the kitchen correctly?
Often your order goes through a chain from you to your server, to a computer or docket system, and then to the kitchen.
Using a chef card means that the vital information about your allergies, their severity and steps that should be taken to make your meal safe can be easily conveyed to the person preparing your meal with less room for error.
Why chefs and restaurants love food allergy cards
Chef cards don’t just give extra peace of mind to allergy sufferers. The chefs we have spoken to love them too. One said that it made him so happy to receive a printed card as it helped minimise the chance of things getting lost or misunderstood along the way. They want to accommodate your allergies safely and this tool makes it easier for them to do so.
Waiting staff and servers love chef cards too. Busy staff can and do forget or misunderstand allergy requests. Sometimes they may think a request to omit a particular ingredient is a preference and not due to the risk of a severe and potentially life threatening reaction. A card which clearly states “severe allergy” and the allergen(s) helps this message get conveyed clearly along the chain to the kitchen staff. And it just makes your server’s job easier too!
The best food allergy chef cards
The best chef cards are simply the ones that communicate your food allergies safely to the kitchen staff and people preparing your meal. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you use a free downloadable card or buy a premium chef card product. Provided your message is conveyed clearly, and taken seriously, any type of card will work.
However, there are definitely benefits to using a professional looking card. Professional cards are easy to read and often have added details about food allergies and managing cross contact. If you have a professionally printed card it may tend to be taken more seriously.
Free chef cards to download
Our favourite free option is the downloadable chef card templates available from Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia. You can personalise your card by typing in your own allergies before printing. The text on this side of has the Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia logo and emphasises the serious nature of your listed allergies. On the reverse are important tips for managing cross contact (by using clean utensils and surfaces) and phone contact details and website information for more information about food allergies and training for food services.
A big advantage of using your own chef card template is that you can easily add multiple or unusual allergies. Some cards available to purchase only come pre-printed with single or common top allergens.
These cards can be printed and cut to size. Allergy & Anaphylaxis suggests laminating the cards to make them last longer. Being a free resource, you can print as many copies as you like so you can hand them to restaurant staff freely.
The Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia chef card templates are also available to download in 21 different languages.
Using an allergy chef card with a well-known allergy patient organisation name and logo also means that your allergies should be taken seriously.
This is what our printed chef card looks like:
FARE also has free downloadable chef card templates available in 10 different languages.
Best allergy chef cards to buy
When it comes to cards to purchase, our favourite by far is the new smart cards by Equal Eats. These premium plastic wallet cards not only look professional and convey your food allergies clearly, they come with some very nifty extra features.
The single food allergy cards have a QR code. This allows digital access to:
- a copy of the card for contactless viewing (a brilliant idea in the current social distancing environment)
- more information about the food allergy including sources of the allergen and cross-contact;
- the ability to copy and paste the card text into messages, emails or notes on food delivery apps;
- printing, to make as many copies of your card as you need (for friends, family or school); and
- translations of the card into different languages.
Equal eats also have products to help people with food intolerances and restricted diets convey their dietary needs. I’m excited about this too because I have been searching for something like this to help a family member who follows a low FODMAP diet for medical reasons.
We are proud owners of a custom food allergy chef card which lists our specific multiple food allergies in two languages. You can see our custom chef card below.
Equal Eats discount code
Allergy Spot is an affiliate of Equal Eats products, because we love the product and genuinely think the these cards will help people with food allergies in so many ways. We are also so impressed with the amount of customer research Equal Eats puts into its products and how responsive they are to feedback from the food allergy community. As an affiliate, this means we can share a discount code that will get you 10% off the cost of your order.
Other important ways to stay safe when eating out with allergies
Food allergy chef cards are a brilliant tool, but they aren’t the complete answer to staying safe.
If you are planning to eat out, there is no substitute for:
- reviewing the restaurant menu in advance to see if there are likely to be safe options to suit your allergies. For example, it’s not a good idea to go to a seafood restaurant with severe fish or crustacean allergies!
- ringing ahead of time to book and speak to the restaurant about your allergies and whether they are able (or willing) to accommodate them.
Taking the necessary steps to prepare an allergy safe meal takes extra time and effort. It’s only reasonable to give a restaurant advance notice. This helps everyone have a positive experience. It also give you the opportunity to judge whether you think the restaurant fully understands allergies and if you feel safe eating there or not.
Ask to speaking to the chef or the manager directly about your allergies again when you arrive for your booking. When ordering make sure you disclose your allergies again and ask questions about the menu items you intend to order. This is important even if you have eaten the same meal at the same restaurant many times before.
And this goes without saying: always carry your emergency medication with you just in case. Accidents can and do happen despite all the steps we take to stay safe when dining out. Read more about why you should always carry two EpiPens – Making friends with your EpiPen.