U.K. restaurant asked patron with nut allergy to sign waiver before eating
A British restaurant’s staff is under fire after they asked Thomas de Ville to sign a waiver before he could sit down for his birthday party dinner with friends. He is pictured here with his girlfriend. (Hannah de Ville)
Published Tuesday, April 30, 2019 3:11PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 1, 2019 10:42AM EDT
A British restaurant is under fire after asking a patron with a nut allergy to sign a waiver before he could sit down for his birthday party dinner with friends.
And according to screenshots provided by Thomas de Ville’s sister, The Piano Works restaurant in London also suggested by email that he could bring in his own food for staff to heat up -- if he paid CAD$28.
Hannah de Ville called the ordeal “unacceptable.” She told CTVNews.ca it felt like the restaurant was “trying to ostracize someone with a nut allergy.”
“I think what they were trying to say is: ‘Our establishment is taking nut allergies seriously.’ But that’s not them taking it seriously, that’s them saving their own arse,” she said in a phone interview.
De Ville said this was the first time her brother had been asked by a restaurant to sign a waiver and told staff over the phone, “You’re setting a very ominous tone before a birthday meal.”
She later posted about the exchange between her brother and the restaurant staff on Twitter.
A statement given to CTVNews.ca on behalf of the restaurant said, “we sincerely apologize to the guest and for any confusion over our allergy policy. The disclaimer was a decision taken internally and is certainly not policy of The Piano Works.”
“We care for and do our best to cater for people with food allergies, however we cannot guarantee an environment completely free from allergens. We have an Allergen Control Policy in place and invest considerable time and resource when it comes to allergen information provision, cross-contamination controls and staff training,” it also stated.
The whole affair began more than a week ago after Thomas de Ville’s friends organized a joint birthday party for him and his best friend -- along with 15 of their friends and family members at the eatery.
After the reservation was made for Saturday, de Ville’s best friend mentioned the nut allergy.
According to email screenshots, the restaurant staff wrote: “He’s very welcome to eat from our menu but we’d need him to sign a food disclaimer form on arrival acknowledging he’s happy to eat from our kitchen knowing there’s a risk of cross contamination.”
De Ville and his girlfriend decided to opt out of his birthday dinner and simply met the group for drinks at the restaurant.
They were then told they’d have to pay a cover charge for their cancellations, but Hannah de Ville said staff backed down after she and others complained.
“They said loads of restaurants in London are doing it at the moment and we were like,‘We eat out all the time and they’re not,” she said. “We haven’t come across it before.”
After de Ville’s story went viral, the restaurant responded in a series of tweets.
“We’re passionate about food, our meals are made with high quality ingredients and we do our best to cater for people with food allergies. However, we cannot guarantee an environment completely free from allergens so traces of some ingredients may still be present in our meals,” the first tweet read.
“We are not prepared to abandon the use of nuts in our menu as we would have to include the other thirteen allergens,” the second tweet read. The last tweet read: “But if you can suggest an alternative to our policy we’d be very happy to consider it.”
In the U.K., the Food Standards Agency outlines that food businesses can’t skirt their legal responsibility to provide safe food for those with allergies simply by asking patrons to sign waivers.
Food Allergy Canada estimates there are approximately 2.6 million people affected by allergies in Canada.
The group’s spokesperson Beatrice Povolo told CTVNews.ca that in Canada, restaurant staff asking patrons to sign a waiver is “not commonplace” and she doesn’t think that approach is helpful.
Povolo said it’s common for patrons with allergies to call the restaurant before their visit to discuss how the food is prepared.
“It’s really a dialogue between the restaurant staff and the patron in order to get to understand what the risks are and if they can be minimized,” she said.
The resturant's response was: