We celiacs are a simple bunch.
We don’t like to cause trouble. We hate being a burden. And man do we miss eating out and not worrying about getting sick. So when we come to your establishment and kindly inform you that we need our meal to be gluten-free, all we ask for in return is honesty and respect.
Honesty…meaning if you cannot provide a safe meal for us, that’s totally cool. It’s better to know up front. And if you can, kudos to you.
Respect…meaning if you decide you can serve us, that you do it quietly and with dignity. We don’t like being the center of attention when it comes to our meal.
This brings us to an episode a fellow gluten-free person recently had at a Chipotle in Portland, Oregon. Now, from what I’ve heard, Chipotle does gluten-free right and their food is good. I personally have never been to one; for the same reason I won’t go to almost any chain restaurant. The reward is not worth the risk.
But that’s just me. I know many celiacs have had good experiences there. So this is in NO WAY a Chipotle-bashing post. I appreciate the effort they make and also appreciate the warning they put on their website, as follows:
Most people wanting to avoid gluten can eat anything we serve except for our large and small flour tortillas. Everything else is fine to eat for most people wanting to avoid gluten. If you are highly sensitive and would like us to change our gloves, we would be happy to do that at your request. Additionally, because our folks work with wheat tortillas all day long, there may be the possibility of cross-contact in our restaurants. We encourage you to carefully consider your dining choices.
This is perfect. It says “Hey…we get it and we’ll try our hardest to accommodate you. But no promises.”
Like I said, it’s all about risk-reward and it’s a personal choice.
So taking you back to the whole “honesty and respect” issue, listen to what happened to one of our own recently.
First off, thank you for all the advocating you do, especially in light of the surge of recent gluten free bashing going around. Sadly, I wanted to reach out and share with you an unfortunate and humiliating experience I had today.
Since I am severely gluten intolerant, I am very careful about where I eat out due to medical necessity. One place that I have had good luck at is Chipotle. Their staff is usually well trained and courteous and due to their awareness, I feel fairly safe eating there. Not to mention I really like their values as a company!
I always make sure to very kindly ask them to change their gloves and to have one person take me down the line and apologize for any inconvenience I may cause them and then at the end, I make sure to thank them for their effort. I also try and make every effort to go before peak times so as not to slow the line down and also make it a bit safer for me.
Courteous, right? But even us gluten intolerant folks need to eat.
Well, today I went to the Chipotle located near the Portland, OR airport for lunch and did my usual polite routine only to be met with a confused employee (that’s ok!) who went to get the manager, who then made an over the top spectacle of stopping the entire line, and doing more than the usual change of gloves, spoons and quick wipe down.
He had every ingredient batch and every utensil changed, made every staff person on the line step away and wash their hands and change their gloves (instead of just having one person take me the whole way down per usual) and then had them scrub the entire counter length and every single little crevice in between containers. This went on a long time. Then he sent an employee out to the people in line standing behind me who loudly explained that they were sorry for the inconvenience but this person ordering is allergic to gluten so they have to change everything out and offered everyone free drinks as an apology.
If I could have crawled into a crack in the floor I would have. The conversation in the line behind me turned to customers sharing with each other all the negative stereotypes about gluten intolerance.
So while I appreciate Chipotle’s usual effort for safety against cross contamination (so important to folks like me and those with Celiac disease), turning it into such a spectacle I was left feeling utterly publicly humiliated and you can bet I will never go into another Chipotle again.
Sad to say good by to the tasty food and embarrassed to be gluten free.
Being the investigative journalist that I am, I asked her the following question: Did the manager do it with a smile? I mean…did you get the sense that he went overboard in order to make a spectacle out of the ordeal, or was he doing it simply to keep you safe?
This experience felt like a circus act though; exaggerated, prolonged and then sending the staff member out to each of the people in the line behind us to explain I had a “gluten allergy” and offering free drinks to all to make up for up it made me feel like a spectacle.
Neither myself or my boyfriend noticed anyone in the line grumbling, complaining or acting impatient before then. It was only after that, the line behind us turned pretty hostile with anti gluten free comments and we couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
The whole episode seems kind of surreal to me. While there is a part of me that appreciates the effort, something just doesn’t sit right about how they handled it. And the bottom line is they made a customer feel so uncomfortable that she’ll never eat at a Chipotle again.
So to all restaurants I say this again: We hate this more than you do. YOU think this is a pain in the ass?? Try living with it every single day. If you cannot accommodate us, no hard feelings. If you can, I beg of you to do it with some grace and dignity.
Honesty and respect…not too much to ask for.
73 thoughts on “Chipotle Goes Above and Beyond…and Overboard”
Something similar happened to me at the Chipotle in Hilliard, Ohio. They stopped the line, shouted apologies to the people behind me in line, and generally made me feel about an inch tall.
On the other hand, the restaurants in North Canton, Ohio serve me regularly with absolutely no problems.
I don’t go to the one in Hilliard any more, of course.
I have been lucky to have good experiences with Chipotle. This is extremely hard to read. I feel so bad for that person who had to endure this. I would find another Chipotle restaurant after this. I hope they documented this online somewhere; if they do this to everyone who are celiac/gluten intolerant? It boggles the mind.
Oh wow, that’s pretty grim and totally humiliating . I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that the manager’s attitude is probably as a direct result of all the constant media fueled gluten free bashing that’s in vogue at the moment. Thanks again Dude for taking up the cause for us Celiacs, glad you have a voice to advocate for those of us who don’t!
cringeworthy! I have eaten at Chipoltle once and they were pretty good the time I went. I am a very shy person and mentioning that I am GF and asking them to change gloves just about kills me. I can’t imagine being made a spectacle!
I’ve always had great experiences at Chipotle. I have CD and I get pretty sick from little exposures. I’ve never had this type of experience at any of the Chipotle locations I’ve been to, But there are a couple other restaurants where I live that go through a very similar over the top show. One any time the employee may touch another plate along the line, counter top, bottle of sauce. They STOP take their gloves off, wash their hands, get new gloves, keep moving my plate down the line, if they touch something else, stop again, take off their gloves, wash their hands again… If they have to ring a customer before, stop…. take off their gloves wash their hands, put on new gloves. I’ve gotten so use to it, it doesn’t phase me any more.
I’ve had widely varying experiences at the Chipotle locations near where I live. I too try to go when it’s not super busy, but all of them are busy pretty much constantly. Sometimes the person I ask to change gloves and take my food down the line looks at me like I have three heads, then a coworker will know what I’m talking about and take over. Sometimes they know what to do and it isn’t even a thing. Sometimes a guy will yell, “GLUTEN ALLERGY!!!!!!!!” at all his coworkers and and point at me – not to make fun, because he legitimately is concerned, which is embarrassing but cute. And rarely everyone does what they’re supposed to, but they act like it’s the biggest pain in the ass ever. I’ve emailed Chipotle to complain when that happens and they were very responsive. I suggest others do the same.
I ate at chipotle on monday and quietly asked the server to change her gloves. It was early, about 11:30 so I knew it might be calm and not a big deal. My shock when the girl I asked politely and quietly to change her gloves, shouts ALLERGY, GLOVE CHANGE!!! Not sure what the purpose was for everyone changing their gloves, considering it is only necessary to have one person handle the food the entire time. I almost felt like it was a way to embarrass me, so glad it wasn’t a busy time because I would have felt even worse. 2-3 hours after eating, I started dozing off and couldn’t keep my eyes open, I have had stomach issues and a horrible time focusing since then. THANKS CHIPOTLE *sarcasm* for not only EMBARASSING ME, but also POISONING me!
I’ve eaten at several local Chipotle restaurants and all I have ever had to do was say, “I’m gluten intolerant” and whoever was waiting on me would immediately just take off their gloves, wash their hands and put on a fresh pair then follow my order down the line. No questions, no hullabaloo. So I’d say the issue was just this one restaurant and not a culture with the chain. You’re going to find bad apples everywhere. I’d recommend they contact the corporate headquarters and see if they can help educate the particular franchise.
Chipotle is one of the few remaining places where we’ll got out to eat. At the location near our home it’s not unusual for the first employee behind the counter to see my husband and start to change his gloves before he’s even asked. However, at other locations and on several occasions we have been met with eye-rolling and (my favorite) being told that nothing contains wheat and when we point out the flour tortilla we are told ” but that’s flour – not wheat”!
I’ve had the same thing happen to me! The girl told me they didn’t have anything containing wheat when I told her I had an allergy! I was like “uhh the tortillas are made of wheat” and she goes “No. Those are FLOUR” and gave me attitude! I was a bit speechless. Her manager came over after that and was clearly not pleased. Haven’t been back to that location…
Experiences like this are humiliating. I had a similar experience at church while taking communion. I have a GF wafer and my pastor and I worked out a way to safely store/distribute it to prevent cross-contamination. It is placed and stored in a small plastic cup with a lid (like condiments come in). I am handed the entire cup, take my wafer, put the lid back on. The cup is handed back to the pastor to reuse after the service. On one occasion the pastor was gone, the new Vicar forgot about needing a GF wafer, and the person helping the Vicar didn’t even know there was such a thing as a GF wafer. I would have just passed on taking the wafer that was offered, explained why after the service, and it would have ended there, but one of the parishioners acting as an usher noticed my “special” one wasn’t there and STOPPED the entire communion service to try and find the cup containing the GF wafers. Vicar and his helper had no clue what was going on. The church members in line were glancing at each other and those in the pews actually stopped singing to try to figure out what was going on at the alter. I was MORTIFIED!That was over a year ago and I still blush when I think of it.
I will say that I’ve only eaten at Chipotle once and had a good experience.
I was offered “low gluten” wafters, and told them met the “less than whatever ppm” standard set by the whoever, but still contained wheat. The Catholic church won’t allow g.f. wafers, as they see “bread” as an essential part of the ritual. Needless to say, I haven’t received communion in almost 4 years. It still breaks my heart.
That’s a whole other tangent, but I actually wrote to the pope and to our local bishop about this, asking for a wider discussion to be had, not only about the low-gluten hosts, but about the ways in which each parish handles this (some good, some horribly). I have been told that there is to be a discussion by the conference of bishops, but I suggest writing to yours as well. Maybe if they hear enough of these stories, someone will have some sense and compassion and make some positive changes.
Try talking to your priest or one of the Eucharistic ministers about taking only the wine instead. Every church I have been to has been willing to make arrangements for me. Usually, if wine is offered at communion, they arrange for me to be first to take it to avoid cross-contamination (even the priest and Eucharistic minister will not drink from that cup), and if wine is not offered, the priest blesses a separate cup and I am taken to the side by a Eucharistic minister to receive it.
I can understand feeling a bit overwhelmed by the extra attention..maybe go in to have a talk with the manager one day while not ordering to explain? Especially because it’s a safe haven for you, why give it up? Our family eats at Chipotle as well, which is comforting since my son is allergic to peanuts, eggs, uncooked dairy, watermelon, shellfish and has a gluten intolerance. I appreciate the fact that since the first time we went in to try it out, the manager remembers us every single returning visit and gets my son a sealed sauce from the back (its next to the cheese) and makes sure we are taken care of. He doesn’t stop the line but we are grateful that they are so on top of things.
I would encourage this customer to contact Chipotle directly. This is not their standard practice and it certainly is far from any experience I have ever had there. My son, daughter and myself are all allergic to gluten and my kids have an extensive list of food allergies. While I have run into a the occasional new employee who doesn’t understand that, generally speaking, flour is made from wheat, I have never had a bad experience eating at Chipotle. In fact, I was working on a post about the places I can trust when traveling with food allergies, and Chipotle is at the top of that list.
My husband had some trouble with an order he place online once and he emailed the company. They responded with an email, a follow up phone call, and a free meal. They genuinely seem happy to have feedback.
Best of luck!
We’ve been focussing here — as we ought to be — on how this eatery handled the situation in a less-than-ideal manner.
At the same time, though, it’s also worth paying a little bit of attention to the way in which many of the customers in the lineup behind this woman suddenly reacted with disdain upon learning that their orders would be delayed because Teh Glutenz. To me, this is a perfect example of why GD launched that SB ad petition last month.
If the manager had similarly ground everything to a screeching halt over a peanut or shellfish allergy and created the same embarrassing spectacle, would there have been as much indignation about it?
Further to my last comment, was it necessary for this eatery to explain the delay as specifically due to a gluten issue? To the extent that other customers behind her need to be informed (and apologised to because) of the delay, would it be better to make the statement more generic? Something to the effect that it was simply a food sensitivity situation — without going into what could be considered as unnecessary details?
Great points – all so true!
Guess I’m lucky living in the home of Chipotle where corporate regularly checks up on franchisees.
The glove thing &single handler are procedure, anything else is drama. Wiping & changing everything is totally over the top. If that level of safety is needed grab from unopened back up items & move on…don’t make a circus. That level of drama costs time, money from wasted food, & customers.
Chipotle does not franchise.
That is a great point — which suggests that contacting corporate headquarters about the actual restaurant, date and time that you were there might prompt them to reiterate their corporate policy and offer some remedial training to the manager who should not be tolerating disrespectful behavior of any type. Now we have to deal with gluten-shaming? Fabulous.
Funny you mention “gluten-shaming”. There was this article that appeared last month, not sure if you’ve already seen it. Maybe you have and it’s where you came up with the phrase, or perhaps you haven’t and it could be just coincidence. Either way, it’s another story of dreadful customer service, in this case at the hands of a wannabe late night talk show host:
With him being an a** wanting to know the actual proteins. I would have responded “Being undiagnosed for over 20years has caused brain damage and can’t recall them off the top of my head, but can give you some sites to research.”
As far as Chipotle, I haven’t been to the PDX airport area location but the store I go to across town got to know me. As soon as I walked in the door they’d start washing hands and replacing spoons. Never had them make a deal to the people behind me in line.
I do still have to laugh at one time at the Lloyd center area store, I guess she had too many ear piercings and thought I was asking for her to give me fresh gloves instead of her putting fresh gloves on.
This has only happened to me on one occasion. They switched out every single container and made a big show of it. I was super embarrassed.
Every other Chipotle I’ve been to has been quiet and kind about keeping me safe. They ask what I plan to have and switch out the spoons while one employee washes their hands and changes gloves. They give the counter a wipe down, and one person takes me down the line.
It sounds like this particular location needs a new training lesson.
I went to that place once, received awful treatment, so go to CHILE VERDE!! Been to many different locations and treated with calm respect at each and every one! That other chain is way over rated any way
Chile Verde baby!!!!
I ate at Chipotle almost every day on when we moved from the East Coast of Canada to the high desert of California. It was a great place to get a safe meal. In most locations, I spoke quietly, they quickly changed their gloves, they asked what I wanted and went and served it up from fresh bins in the back. One person handled my food. It was great. I never got sick, 10 days on the road. My local Chipotle though- I won’t eat there. They are sloppy. They drag those flour tortillas everywhere and practically dip them into the bins to scoop things on them. I quietly requested that they a) change their gloves and b) would it be possible to have it served out of fresh bins that had not been touched. The employee looked at me with a questioning look on her face, looked at the manager, who came over and asked what was wrong. I quietly asked her the same thing. She yelled at me and said “who do you think you are, wanting special service??? We don’t do that here.” So I thanked her and walked out. I’ve been reluctant to enter another Chipotle restaurant since then. I have been to one in another location while travelling and had the same awesome response that I did when I was travelling. It’s a shame my local store isn’t nice. I’ve looked for the corporate number to inform them, and I can’t find it. So if anyone has it, I’d love to be able to contact them. Thanks
I guess I know what I’ll be doing with all of the buy one, get one free Chipotle cards I recently got as a giveaway ….
I wouldn’t have been bothered by this, I would have been happy that they seemed to take it seriously. They probably could have handled it a little better by not being so loud about it. But I think the general concern was there for the customer’s well-being. I would rather a few minutes of embarrassment instead of hours/days of sickness due to being cross-contaminated. Sometimes I think we as a Gluten-Free community, take everything a little too seriously. We are all “sick” and it is something that we must deal with every day of our lives, not everyone understands that. We can’t expect them to. All we can do is try to help them understand what we deal with. I’m sure I will catch hell for this, but we can’t have it both ways. “We” get mad when we are not taken seriously enough, then “we” get mad when people make too much of an effort. Not everyone out there is familiar with the necessity of being Gluten-Free. Most people just don’t get that it isn’t a fad for us. When situations like this happen, then we must educate them. Not bash them because we may have been embarrassed.
OMG! How humiliating and I feel her pain. I had an incident at a Chipotle restaurant where the lady put wheat tortilla in my bowl and I asked her for new bowl and no tortilla and she asked why? I said I don’t eat gluten. I didn’t go into the detail and since I’m a little on the plus size side of life (Size 16) she made a comment that I wasn’t dieting, gluten free for what? Somehow that same bowl was used for my meal and I was sick for 2 days after the episode. Normally I have no issues with Chipotle’s food. In fact, its my go to for a satisfying meal . But this time, the ball was not only dropped, it made a sink hole in the floor.
I knew something was wrong as I was eating the meal. First thought, maybe the salsa was irritating my stomach and it’d go away because, of course, there was no cross contamination of my bowl, my husband and I thought we kept a good eye on it down the line. Midway through the meal, I knew it was something wheat in my food. I contacted the company and they sent 4 coupons for free bowls on them and a hefty apology along with terminating the employee. So they do make an effort to go above and beyond. She should definitely contact them. I made an effort to only go to one Chipotle and to get to know the staff and they know me.
As the ‘Gluten Free Adjacent” boyfriend in the above instance, I can corroborate the story. We have been to a number of Chipotle’s, as they have always been on of the ‘safer’ places we can count on while travelling. They are normally very good about their service and support wherever we have found them.
This was, unfortunately, NOT one of those times. Even after talking it through afterwards, I really have a difficult time deciding whether the manager in question was just a super expressive person, or if he was purposefully making a mockery of the situation. He truly was overly boisterous in saying that “We are here for YOU”, (Complete with arm gestures, finger pointing, and the widest cheek-stretching smile I’ve witnessed.)
Again, I stress that Chipotle has always felt like a safe harbor to us, a shelter from the Gluten Storm!, but this event was so frustrating and embarrassing that Chipotle went from the top of the list to a no-go in the space of 10 minutes.
I even wrote in to the Chipotle mother site, but the only response I got back was that they had ‘reached out to the manager on duty and he says that there was nothing out of the ordinary that occurred.’ Not once, anywhere in their response did it ever apologize, or even recognize any possible difference between intention and result. (Unless you count ‘We hope you will join us again.’ as an apology.) It was a total ‘we did nothing wrong’ form letter.
I can understand the people that are saying, “That wouldn’t bother me. They did the right thing.” But, having been there, and having gotten to spend the rest of our time down the ordering line listening to the people behind us discuss whether ‘Gluten Free’ is really a needed thing or not and receiving icy glares from people who, until they had been told that we were causing a delay, had not mentioned any discomfort of lack of service, I can tell you that, sometimes, the HOW is just as important as the WHY.
Needless to say, Chipotle, we will NOT be ‘joining you again soon.’
Good to hear from someone who was there and witnessed it firsthand. Do they normally make such a point of announcing that the lineup will be delayed *specifically* because of a gluten issue?
Do they ever do it this way for any other reason, like a peanut allergy? I wonder (assuming that an announcement was even necessary in the first place) if they simply couldn’t have made it more generic, without such particulars, e.g., just say that it’s a food sensitivity issue?
From this message and the OP, it sounds to me like this manager was frustrated with GF diners and decided to be a little passive-aggressive about it.
I agree with your assessment of the Manager as well. This is definitely NOT the typical case at Chipotle in our history.
Normally Chipotle has been wonderful about taking care of us. They assign one person to wash and reglove, who follows us down the line with clean utensils to make sure everything is safe. (And it has been, every time.)
Never before has it included such a display of ‘care’ from the manager, nor so much activity of the staff to apologize to the rest of the restaurant for the delay, (And helpful pointing out of us as the cause of the delay!)
By the end of the experience I was half expecting Circus music and Clowns to follow us out. It was embarrassing and disappointing.
Someone sent a GREAT series of tweets to GD yesterday that really nailed it; it’s worth stringing them together to read all in one shot:
“…regardless of admission from that manager, this was intentionally done to embarrass that customer. It is absolutey NOT the policy of Chipotle to do what he made everyone do the way he did it…he was seemingly trying to prove a point that people who want gluten free literally make the world stop for them…the problem is he came at it from a very immature and apparent very uneducated place….and Chipotles corporate office SHOULD be made aware (or franchisee).”
This was painful to read.. I could feel the humiliation..UGHH! In a way though, I applaud that manager for going above and beyond to keep that customer safe. I have had a few managers and wait staff go over the top for me in restaurants before.. Never to THAT degree but pretty close. Usually they are ultra-sympathetic like that because they themselves have a close family member or friend with Celiacs and have seen first hand how horrible it is when their loved one is exposed to gluten. They get it.. they REALLY get it. I appreciate their efforts but at the same time I am with Dude and agree they could use a little more discretion and do things in a way that doesn’t cause a huge scene. All in all, despite the embarrassment, I would rather have someone be over the top careful than to roll their eyes and not take my needs seriously as a result being sloppy with how my food is prepared.
I have only ever had a good experience at Chipotle. As someone with Celiac Disease, I am extremely cautious of dining out. The employees are generally respectful and courteous. It’s always nice knowing I have a safe (and delicious!) meal to rely on. While I agree announcing it to the restaurant is a bit over the top, I hesitate to criticize the restaurant. We complain if a restaurant doesn’t take us seriously enough, we complain if they are extra careful yet make a scene; I’m just happy if I successfully eat a meal out in a restaurant and don’t get sick. We shouldn’t have to worry about this kind of stuff and it is unfortunate, but the fact is we do. At least they were extra careful to not make you sick. If it made you personally uncomfortable, maybe try a different Chipotle instead of that one, don’t give up on the entire company. They generally do a really good job, so I don’t want to bash a company that is actually giving safe GF options for us!
Hi Brittany. I don’t get the sense anybody is here to bash Chipotle as a whole. It certainly was not my intention, which is why I specifically stated that in my blog. That being said, if enough people are having some issues with Chipotle, I’d think they would want to know. Thanks.
Yeah, this story strikes me as less of a Chipotle problem and more of a passive-aggressive manager problem. The woman in this story mentioned several drama-free past incidents at the same location and some others, if I read her correctly. Just wondering, maybe the post title referring only to Chipotle itself, instead of the Chipotle *manager* specifically, is getting some people wound up? *shrug* Just a thought, who knows.
We should probably focus more on the manager in this story than his workplace, although from what I’m hearing, this woman didn’t get much satisfaction upon taking her complaint higher up the chain of command, which also seems discouraging.
This is exactly why, as a community, we have to fight the stereotype of being gluten free to be among the “in” crowd. Jokes about people who eat gluten free are just way too common and I can’t see any other way to change this except to inform whenever we get the chance. When this kind of thing happens, why can’t the community come together in an effort to inform in numbers? Letter writing campaigns, clearly explaining how it feels to be singled out as the reason people have to wait for their food … or to have a waitperson roll their eyes at you because you have to request such special treatment by them … or any of the other scenarios that we come across in trying to find safe food while away from home … could be useful. Every person who reads this blog could send a letter to the business in question about the treatment a person who suffers from a disease received at their place of business. Anyone who receives that kind of treatment could get the name of the manager and the address of the business, then inform the community of what happened and when. Organize. Advocate. Educate. The general public just doesn’t “get” that we don’t want a disease that makes it nearly impossible to be safe out of our homes any more than they want to deal with our trying to be. I don’t ever go out to eat anymore. I only eat at a restaurant if I am traveling and have no choice, but even that happens rarely because, unless flying, I travel with a cooler. Last time I flew was 3 years ago and I have no plans on doing that again unless I absolutely have to or it is just a short hop. Does the world “owe” us anything? No. Does a place of business that says they offer gluten free food owe us respect, courtesy, and dignity (as well as food that really is gluten free) while we are in their place of business? Absolutely. This blog is great. I mean, GREAT! It is fantastic to have a place to go when we need to vent to others who actually understand. And all of the information here is so needed by so many. But, would it be possible that maybe, because of the community that has developed here, we could actually come together to facilitate change for those who are medically gluten free? One person doesn’t have much affect when addressing these issues. But maybe a few thousand could. Just a thought.
I wonder if that restaurant has gotten criticized in the past for not doing enough? I know at the two Chipotles I frequent, that is not the usual procedure. In fact, the one is so comfortable with celiacs and gluten intolerance that I feel comfortable eating their tacos (where they wrap both sides of the corn tortilla in foil while warming). I’ve never seen them go THAT crazy with the precautions for allergies.
That said, they do change their gloves, and usually have one person run me down the line instead of going from person to person. And if there’s fresh utensils and containers available they’ll take mine from there instead of down the line.
To the person who posted – have you talked with the manager outside of ordering the food? Most of them are very friendly and any help we can give them in navigating this complicated world of allergies and intolerances is usually welcomed, at least in my experience.
I haven’t eaten at a Chipotle since going gluten free 4 years ago. I went in to one and they didn’t seem interested in being helpful, but more importantly I could see that every spoon in every ingredient was being swiped across flour tortilla after flour tortilla. Unless they provide all my ingredients straight from a new package like Subway does, anything I bought was certain to be contaminated. They told me they couldn’t do that for me.
One restaurant that I think should have a light shined on it is Shari’s. A friend of mine got a job there and told me how they have a gluten free menu. She was excited I could come in and eat there. The next thing I know she’s telling me never to eat there! A girl with celiac disease ordered nachos, and when she informed the cook he asked her what gluten is!! When she brought it up to the manager, he told her celiac disease isn’t a real thing! Then she went over his head to a higher manager, who seemed dismissive of the situation! I don’t know if all their restaurants are like this one in Salem Oregon, but how can the franchise change their menu without training the cooks?
This is the exact same reason I will not eat at Jimmy Johns.. even though the one time I visited there staff gladly offered to change their gloves for me. I looked around the line and the restaurant , there were crumbs EVERYWHERE and on EVERY surface. I watched them make sandwiches.. taking gloved hands handling every piece of meat, vegetable and condiment with the same gloved hands and touching the bread , then putting their hands into another item container. I told my husband everything in this place has gluten all over it. I can’t eat here. In that same way I don’t see how anything from Chipotle could possibly be free from CC. Unless they got all fresh containers each and every time someone orders gluten fee
“…don’t like to cause trouble….hate being a burden…And man do we miss eating out…” My sentiments exactly.
Currently, I still only visit my tried & true handful of great hometown restaurants where the chefs know me as the “no gluten cancer guy” and they feed me safely & deliciously. As one of my favorite servers says, “No gluten…No kidding!”
I’ll have to contemplate safe eating options when I can travel again so “Thanks” for the info and advocacy! Based on the positive comments, at least Chipotle sounds like a relatively safe hit or miss in a pinch Buyer Beware option….man do we miss casually eating out…
NSFW and I’m kidding,
I’ll let Michael Palin in The Life of Brian explain how I sometimes feel about problems people have at restaurants.
In other Celiac news, un cadeaux
Your store, your rules
True enough, I suppose. And so is “The customer gets the last say… Whether to ever return or not.”
First of all, the Overboard picture is awesome! One of my favorite movies.
Unfortunately the humiliation this woman endured is not funny at all. I have been humiliated before, but not quite to this degree. Had I been there I would have left the restaurant and gone somewhere else because I would not have been able to enjoy my food after that. We have a similar restaurant here in UT called Barbacoa. It’s a lot better than Chipotle and is basically the same setup only they handle the gluten free scenario much better. I’ve experienced both as they are in close proximity to one another. The Chipotle near me just doesn’t get it. They really are far to verbal about it which is really unnecessary. While I appreciate that they try to keep their customers safe, there really is a right and wrong way to go about it as you’ve pointed out.
I really wish they had gotten a proper apology from Chipotle. Good customer service really is so much of the dining out experience. Maybe it will change now after they read this.
66% of this household are Celiacs. After a few years in Europe (where it’s infinitely harder to find tasty, safe GF options) and now back in the US, Chipotle’s is the go to place when it come to casual eating and while unfortunate what happened, I would not shine a light on it.
Very much like that customer who is suing P.F Chang’s, who believes that the surcharge on the restaurant’s gluten-free menu “violates the Americans with Disabilities Act” by forcing those who cannot eat gluten to pay more.
All this does in my old and tired eyes, is giving these corporations an easy out for serving GF options at all. And since EVERYTHING in this great country of ours is about business, restaurants will make sound business decisions based on their P&L statements. They all can afford to loose the 1 in 133 faction of patrons. And would love to.
The honorable author of this Blog would better serve his community by focusing on highlights than on plights. Numerous 100% GF businessesaround the country (Such as his favorite GF bakery in New York) would kill for that kind of exposure he provides to the industry giants such as Chipotle’s, pardon my honesty, don’t give a shit.
I’m sorry but this is in no way related to the ridiculous PF Changs lawsuit. This honorable author of this blog focuses on both highlights and lowlights.
Thank you for sharing this story GD. Someone once told me that you cannot change the darkness & difficulties in life by only focusing on the “light”. It’s not always rainbows & butterflies. Thanks for maintaining a balanced perspective.
And I thought the Chipolte employee in Vegas throwing a fit over changing his gloves was bad!
Great info. I’m so sorry for the person that went through this. I use to eat chipotle all the time when I traveled. It was great stuff! I wasn’t strict then, it was before I knew I was celiac.
I will tell you now, there is no way to eat there safely, in my opinion. They can change their gloves all day long, they change spoons, but it will not matter. The reason is, every spoon touches the flour tortillas. So,basically, all day long flour is being introduced to your food. So when they change spoons, gloves ect it doesn’t matter. The food has all been cross contaminated with spoon touching that flour tortilla all day long.
With that said, I know it must have been upsetting to go through that crap, but you are better off not going there anyway!!
Uhh! I just cringe at the thought of being made a spectacle of! Like others have said, I just want to quietly request my GF food and enjoy my meal. My local Chipotle (Sherman, Texas ) is one of the few places I am able to eat and they are very pleasant and accommodating…no big show…just gloves and foil wrapped corn tortillas or a bowl. I agree with whoever said this sounds like a management issue not a “Chipotle” on the whole issue. If this had happened to me, I would NEVER go back there either. No way! I WOULD contact Chipotle and share my experience, not as a gripe-fest, but to give Chipotle a chance to deal with bad customer service before it hurts business.
I just ate there last night … I always ask for salad bowl to avoid issues. .. my problem is letting people know I have celiac… so uncomfortable. .. not until I get sick I regret it
I really like eating at Chipotle. Here’s what I do. I go directly to the cashier and ask to speak with a manager. I explain that I need to eat gluten free and I ask that my meal be made with food that has not gone out on the line and to have the person making my food change gloves. They always have extra amounts of their cold items (lettuce, salsas, cheese, guacamole, etc) ready. I happily eat whatever protein is just finishing cooking. Almost all managers understand and have no problem with my request. Usually the manager makes the meal. I make sure to express my gratitude to the manager and the other employees.
First off, Thank YOU!
I was diagnosed with CD in August, 2014. Found your site a week later! Very helpful! It was a good day because I had at least part of an answer! Thanks to my Nuerologist! Yes, I’ve suffered most of my 49 years of life. Didn’t realize you weren’t supposed to feel any different. “Toughen up Buttercup” is my favorite saying…now I look in the mirror and tell myself that ; ).
Ok as to this eating out debate. My Hubby and I love to go out and now I find it an emotional challenge more than anything. I use good old common sense if I think it looks unsafe, I just don’t eat there. Have water or coffee and a nice visit with who ever you’re with. Easy to say, hard to do, I know! I cook and pack my own food, etc. Just not the Saltines my Mom said to keep with me for tummy issues…lol!
However, we are Ranchers and direct market our Grassfed Beef and Lamb . We supply some wounderful restaurants in Portland and Eugene, Oregon. Fortunately in our State there are so many food choices and wonderful options for restaurants-non chain types. When I was diagnosed I spoke with the owners of the Restuarants we supply about their protocals for their CD or food allergy customers. I was very satisfied with their protocols, and that they very much care about not making ANYONE sick or made to feel uncomfortable. I’d be happy to supply names, but not sure that’s appropriate?
As with all things, observation and communication is key. If you don’t feel safe, flee!
Thanks again Dude! Keep up the good work you are much appreciated !
I would sure like to know where safe places are in Eugene. I haven’t found any that my gluten loving husband would eat at. SO glad you are raising the grass fed beef!! Do you sell from your farm?
Thank you for asking!
The Excelsior . Yes we sell direct. hawleyranch.com
My experience is that Chipotle tends to go out of their way to accommodate and kudos to them for even be receptive. It would be good to put that information about the stores that are not respectful on “Find Me Gluten Free” or other popular apps people use for GF recommendations. I hope this isn’t a Chipotle bashing because we are so happy there is just one more place we can go, I won’t be really sad if some restaurant backlash becomes the norm because we a complaining about 1 bad experience in 20. Those are good numbers in my book and we just don’t eat it if its sketchy. The Chipotle near us in So. Cal. (Orange County) goes out of their way to be accommodating. We visit often so we have actually trained them and when we walk in the door they start putting gloves on and wrapping the corn tortillas in foil. They are often excited that they know exactly what to do and happy to train the newbies. I have had a few employees with the eye rolls or doing a half job, like letting the tortillas move off the foil on the burner and I HATE have to ask them to re-do it, but for the sake of my son, I must. I ALWAYS tip them at least a few dollars but mostly a $5. Even though our food is usually about $16, I still think an extra $5 will show them my appreciation.
Also want to mention In-N-Out. We have a fantastically careful In-N-Out near us. We have eaten at multiple restaurants and this is the only where my son does not get sick. PS if you do get food there – the sauce is contaminated so make sure to get it on the side.
I just came across this story on Jezebel (warning, some coarse language in the link below) entitled “Unbelievably Dumb Restaurant Customers, Part One”. Before I even started reading it, I knew right away from the headline that there would be a story of the type told by one Tim Cardin (third anecdote, no need to bother with the rest of it — at least not for purposes of this discussion).
No mistake, people like the customer in that story are a factor in how dining out can be so problematic for those who must avoid gluten.
Also, just throwing this out there, anyone know if there’s ever been a gluten version of the incident in this Oct 2013 article? Pretty despicable.
I’m so sorry to hear that happened. We eat at a local Chipotle and have not had a problem in years. However, during one visit with a new employee I told her that we were allergic to the wheat tortillas. She didn’t understand gluten-free. She said, “That’s okay, there isn’t any wheat in our tortillas. Our tortillas are made with flour.” Wow!
There is a Chipotle right around the block from my house, literally. I have only eaten there once. When i got home with my order, I could not determine if the tortillas were the soft corn or wheat. I was pretty sure they were corn, but not willing to risk it, I threw them away and ate the contents. The next day i thought I felt some symptoms, not a full blown reaction. They heat ALL the tortillas on the same griddle, doesn’t that guarantee cross-contamination? It surprises me any celiac can eat there without symptoms. So I make tacos at home with corn shells from the grocery store regularly, never get sick. Now I’m wanting to have fajitas, so I bought a pack of Mission soft corn tortillas yesterday. Not trusting the “gluten free” claim I visited their website. It says while they are made in the same facility, they are on different lines dedicated to corn only. Keeping my fingers crossed. Would love to hear if anyone else has any recommendations for safe soft tortillas. Love my tacos!
Not sure if this is exactly what you’re looking for, but have you tried this gluten-free wrap from La Tortilla Factory?
Most of LTF’s product line is non-GF, except for this particular one — but it is nonetheless a certified GF product. I haven’t tried a whole lot of GF tortilla wraps, but this one is by far the best of the ones I have. They’re made with flours of not only rice and tapioca but also teff, which is one of those so-called “ancient grains”, of African origin — which I’d never heard of before I saw these wraps.
I’ve had LTF GF wraps many times; even though they’re full-sized (9 inch diameter), they don’t readily break apart like other GF wraps (the pure rice ones are SO bad for that!). For best results I heat them in a conventional or toaster oven, foil-wrapped. I’ve found microwaving dries them out a bit and makes them accordingly less sturdy, so I avoid this. As an extra safeguard against having it turn into a mess, I also re-use the foil to cover the wrap after I’ve added the filling.
Thanks for the recommendation!
Another recommendation are the ones from Toufayan Bakeries. I’ve not tried the La Tortilla Factory ones because they aren’t available in my area. I’ve never had a reaction to them and my spousal unit who doesn’t have to be gluten-free likes them, too. (..and he is a Mexican food snob due to living in San Diego for decades).
I’ll keep my eye out for John’s recommendation as well. I also love when someone discovers a product that will make life feel a little more “normal”.
I haven’t seen Toufayan products in my area, but then again I’m in Canada (Vancouver) so we don’t get all of the US-produced GF fare I see mentioned on here (we have Udi’s and Rudi’s, but no Canyon Bakehouse or GF Jules). We may get Toufayan eventually so I’ll keep an eye out. As for LTF I just noticed since mentioning them here, that they have a “where to buy” storefinder on their site. You can try entering your zip code to see if it returns any nearby locations. I would think if they’re selling up here, then they prob have most if not all of the US covered.
Their storefinder doesn’t work so well. It didn’t return any results for my area, but when i emailed them and asked I found out they are available at my local Harris Teeters. They don’t carry the GF wraps though, so I talked to the store manager and he said he would order them for me! Looking forward to having fajitas. Looks like the Toufayan are available at Food Lions, so I might try those too.
I go to Chipotle all the time in Austin, and they are great here. Most of the locations I frequent already know me, so when I get to the front of the line, they already have a fresh pair of gloves. Today I went to the downtown location. The manager there always spots me and discretely points me out to someone and explains they should put on clean gloves and take me down the line.
If anyone pulled that horsesh*t about announcing it and apologizing to other customers, I would raise such a fuss that they would never do it again. But I’ve never had a problem.
There is a risk of cc there because they do often touch the spoons to the tortillas, but I don’t think the risk is much worse than anywhere else. At least you can see them making the food right in front of you and not have to worry about what’s happening in the kitchen. If I didn’t accept a small amount of risk, I’d have to cook everything myself, and I just don’t always have time for that.
Chipotle was in the news this week but for reasons having nothing to do with gluten.
The NY Times ran a piece analysing the calorie, fat and sodium content of their meals. To the surprise of few to perhaps nobody, their meals tend to the high side of the distribution on all of these metrics.
The article drew much reaction online. Slate mentions of a few of these articles in their own response, in which they argue that high-calorie doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy.
They may have a point on that. But I think even if Chipotle does right by those who need GF, it’s not necessarily something that should be a regular part of one’s eating habits, as opposed to something that’s good to have at the ready for those (hopefully rare) occasions when you’re short on time and just want a quick meal. I would counter Slate’s point by simply noting that you can have healthy without resorting to high calories. Yes, you might have to prepare it yourself — but it can still be done.
Just stumbled accross this post, thank you for sharing this with the world! It’s all about staffing and more so management. The staff at the Chipotle’s in Rochester, MN start rolling there eyes and slamming spoons around when they’re asked to change their gloves. Probably more of a management issue here but still very uncomfortable for my celiac daughter. We don’t go there anymore either for those reasons and as you say, it’s just not worth the risk.
I love Chipotle’s and eat there often. Some locations are definitely better than others, but what bothers me most, at all places,–is the way the wheat tortillas are dragged across the counter with part of it hanging into the filling containers. When a scoop of filling is placed on the tortilla, the spoon usually taps the tortilla, then dips back into the containers, so gluten is constantly being dragged back and forth. There should be a ridge between the counter and the fillings and workers should be trained to keep the spoon above the bread. OR, better yet (I say this with a smile) change to GF tortillas and open up a whole new world for Celiacs!