This post was written by our community member Jenny Finke. You can learn more about her / follow her on her Instagram (@goodforyouglutenfree).
I love having a Nima Sensor and use it often. I’ve tested dozens of dishes at restaurants for gluten.
I’m giddy when Nima smiles at me because it means Nima has given my dish a vote of confidence. I know – with a greater level of certainty – that the meal sitting in front of me is safe to eat. A smiley face means I can relax and smile too.
However, occasionally my Nima Sensor displays “Gluten Found” and it’s in those situations where I feel most uncomfortable, upset, and unsure what to do.
If you’ve ever received a “Gluten Found” message, you know just how I feel.
It means the steaming hot dish in front of you is not safe to eat after all.
It means that a difficult conversation with your server is on the horizon.
It means the other people in your party are going to feel uncomfortable and disappointed too.
I guess it’s fair to say that Nima can really take you out of your comfort zone.
Knowing that there is a possibility your meal can test positive for gluten, it’s important to set the tone with your server from the start.
Placing Your Order
As you place your order, let your server know you have a device that allows you to test your food for gluten. Giving her this courtesy notice will set the stage for any snafus to come. It is also in your benefit to disclose you have a Nima Sensor as she will know you are serious about getting a safe, gluten-free meal. Also, once your food arrives, it’s likely she will be curious about the test result, and she will more likely than not check back with you to inquire about the test results.
If Gluten is Found
If Nima tells you it found gluten in the meal set before you, here’s what you need to do:
1. Be Calm
It’s easy to feel upset and allow your hangry emotions take hold, but don’t let them. Take a deep breath and consider what you’d like to say before you say it. It’s important that you respond vs. react.
2. Tell Your Server First
Explain the situation to your server and let her know that you cannot eat this meal. Ask if she knows what might have gone wrong, or if she could ask the chef if it was a mistake or if they genuinely thought the meal was safe.
If it’s determined there was a mix up or a mistake that can be easily resolved (i.e., they were supposed to serve it to you without the sauce), allow her to bring you a remade version of this dish. If it’s something that cannot be remediated, like the marinade the chicken has been sitting in for 12 hours is not gluten-free, then ask to order something else.
TIP! Be sure to bring several Nima capsules with you when you dine. If Nima finds gluten, you’ll want to test the second dish to be sure, too.
3. Ask for the Manager
While your server should be your first contact, it’s important that you have a conversation with the manager, too. This is a teachable moment and where you can really shine! Tell the manager what happened and how your server is working to resolve it. Unless you have a totally out-of-touch and rude server, please tell the manager your server was professional and offered to make you something new.
Work with the manager to figure out what might have went wrong, and offer suggestions on how the restaurant can fix the situation going forward. Maybe they used regular oats vs. gluten-free oats, or they toasted your gluten-free bread in a toaster used for toasting regular bread. You can help the manager know where things might have gone awry and then suggest corrective actions to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
FUN FACT: It once turned out that my meal was switched with another meal by mistake. I told the manager to have the chef put a toothpick in the gluten-free dishes to notify the server, and customer, that the meal was indeed gluten-free. He now instructs the chefs to add a toothpick to the gluten-free dishes.
4. Test Again
Always test whatever meal they bring you next, just to be certain it’s safe. If Nima sports a smile, you will feel happy too. I’ve had the manager sit with me to watch the test herself, just because she cared so much about making sure I had a safe meal.
If Nima comes back with the “Gluten Found” message, return the second meal and tell the server and/or manager you would prefer the meal be taken off your check. It’s time to eat elsewhere.
5. Update the Nima App
Always share your experiences with the Nima community by updating the Nima app with your results. Write down your experiences to help the next gluten-free person decide whether or not the restaurant is safe for gluten-free diners.
TIP! The Nima Team just released some major Android updates! The Android version of the app is now almost identical to the iOS version.
The Tale of Two Pancakes
Now I’d like to share with you the tale of two Nima Sensor tests, both involving a gluten-free pancake.
One of the experiences was positive, and the restaurant made an effort to turn things around. The other experience was a complete and utter fail.
A restaurant served me a pancake that tested positive for gluten. After speaking with my server and manager, the chef came out to see what happened. He was stumped as he thought he was doing everything correctly. He told me he was going to throw away the batter and make a brand new batch for me.
When my new pancake arrived, I again tested it with the Nima Sensor… and Nima was all smiles!
The chef told me perhaps something snuck into the gluten-free batter and it wouldn’t happen again. He assured me that the were going to change some things in the kitchen to make sure the gluten-free batter was better protected from any cross contact.
I went back to the restaurant a few months later and tested the pancake again. The Nima Sensor was all smiles! The restaurant had made real changes… all because of the Nima Sensor!
A different restaurant served me a gluten-free pancake that tested positive for gluten. When I alerted my server to the situation, she was apologetic and made me a new one, but the new pancake also tested positive for gluten.
I asked to speak with the manager.
I told the manager that the batter was not gluten-free and asked her to discontinue selling it now that she knows it’s not safe to serve. She refused, saying that she never guaranteed the pancakes are gluten-free anyway, and that I knew about such inherent risks when I decided to dine there. She put the blame on me rather than taking steps to figure out what went awry and make it better.
After that awful experience, I emailed the corporate offices and got a half-hearted apology, again reminding me that they were a “gluten sensitive” restaurant and that someone with celiac disease should not eat there.
Let’s just say, I don’t feel welcome at this restaurant, nor will I EVER go back. I left this review on the Nima app in hopes that others will steer clear of this restaurant, too.
Why “Gluten Found” is Good
I don’t know about you, but for me, a little upfront emotional discomfort is better than the physical discomfort I would have experienced after eating gluten.
I know getting a “Gluten Found” message can be upsetting and cause you to fly off the deep end. Remember, no one knows gluten-free like you know gluten-free, so you must take the time to teach restaurant personnel the right way to do it while still encouraging the restaurant to continue to serve the gluten-free community.
When Nima displays the “Gluten Found” message, I remind myself to stay calm and use this as an opportunity to have an important discussion with all involved in preparing my food.
While it can be a little uncomfortable to have these discussions, they are necessary and needed. Lean into the discomfort and embrace your role as gluten-free advocate. You, along with your trusty Nima Sensor, are paving the way for a safer dining experience for all gluten-free diners that come after you.
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Jenny Finke is a certified integrative nutrition health coach and blogger at Good For You Gluten Free. She is based in Denver, Colorado.