Are There Good Allergen Menus?

Hello! Welcome to Beyond Soy!

Allergen menus at restaurants can often feel like an afterthought. They are easy to overlook and, when they do exist, they can be confusing and incomplete. When we eat at a restaurant, Ashley relies on a combination of information about ingredients and making educated guesses to find a soy-free meal to eat. If there is no allergen menu (or if it isn’t very helpful), finding a soy-free meal can be more challenging. If a restaurant has a high quality allergen menu, the process is much easier.



A great example of a restaurant making it really easy to identify food allergens is Chipotle. Chipotle’s allergen menu is clean, easy to understand, and extremely informative (and they even provide it on stand-alone cards by the register). It not only calls out more common concerns like gluten-free items and vegetarian items, but also goes very in-depth to identify less-visible allergens like milk, soy, and even sulphites. The fine print at the bottom of their allergen menu even highlights concerns for avoiding pork and people with extreme sensitivities to gluten. Chipotle even goes so far as to identify that there is a remote chance that gluten could co-mingle with corn in agriculture fields.

The depth and clarity of the information that Chipotle provides is fantastic! It is evident that they really care about their food and what it contains. Simplifying their allergen menu is made easier by the relatively few number of items they offer, but their tone throughout is also very encouraging. It doesn’t feel like a burden to request a specific dish (Chipotle even identifies that asking a server to change their gloves is a completely acceptable thing to do) and Chipotle even includes a little joke at the top to further identify that it's “no big deal” to have certain food requirements.


For how good this allergen menu is, there is one thing lacking: information about the use of vegetable oil. Chipotle’s allergen menu doesn’t provide any information about the use of vegetable oil, good or bad (i.e., they don’t say what kind they use, or even if they use any at all). Without this information, we still need to guess about menu items being truly soy-free. However, since Chipotle offers the same menu everywhere, once we identify a soy-free order we can order confidently at any Chipotle.

Chipotle is a great example of a restaurant doing it right when it comes to food allergens. The ease of getting this information and the smoothness of ordering when knowing what to expect keeps us coming back for more burritos!