Sunday, November 21, 2010

Gluten-free awareness still lacking in U.S. hospitality industry

Anyone who reads my work knows I love to travel. For short or long trips....just let me pack some gluten-free food and I'm ready to go! Well, I should note that I love to travel as long as I get to choose where we're going. As anyone who's married knows, there are times when family functions are planned without your input because the events are not about you. When that happens, sometimes you luck out and other times you don't. The latter happened to me recently. We got stuck in a bad hotel with the most uninformed hotel manager I've ever encountered since going gluten-free. If I had been in public when speaking with him, I would have thought we were on Candid Camera.

It's understandable that in a small town in a non touristy part of Florida, a hotel manager might not know what gluten is. However, when you explain you can't eat wheat and therefore, can't have the waffles the guy is telling you about and he says "we also have muffins, bagels and cereal" - that is just not OK. Seriously - this person is in charge of a hotel that serves customers breakfast every day of the year. The place is not nice at all, but still, to think the manager didn't know that wheat is in all the carb items in their free breakfast line-up is incomprehensible to me.

The regional hotel also serves eggs and sausage at the location we stayed at. The meat appeared to be gluten-free, but since it contained MSG I could not have it. The eggs come in a bag with an ingredient list as long as my arm so whether or not they were gluten-free was irrelevant. We prefer real eggs. I did appreciate the manager cutting the ingredient lists off the food boxes so I could read them when we checked in. For that, he deserves credit for having good customer service skills.

For the two night trip (thank goodness it was short!), I took my own sausage, an Udi's muffin and bagel for breakfast. The only part of the free breakfast I could have was the fruit. One day I ate in the room (the manager gave us a microwave and the room had a mini-fridge) and one day I used my Toast-It bags to heat my bagel in the toaster in the lobby. Admittedly, this hotel was a budget (very cheap) hotel. Even so, how much a place costs should not indicate whether or not the manager knows what wheat is.
The name of this hotel will remain nameless to protect the guilty. Just remember that no matter where you're staying, don't assume that eggs and meat are always gluten-free. And presently, we should not  assume that all managers in the hospitality industry have any idea what gluten-free means. For now at least, they most certainly do not.

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