Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An open letter to Burger King

Dear Burger King,

As a food allergy family, we appreciate your dairy-free chicken fries. While we don't eat fast food very often, when we do we are happy to have a dairy-free chicken option available for our dairy-allergic daughter.

Our daughter also enjoys your kids' meals. She likes the apple fries (minus the caramel sauce, of course) and the apple juice boxes. She likes getting a toy, just like her brother and sister do. However, chicken fries are not available as a kids' meal option. I have gotten into the habit of explaining her allergy and asking that chicken fries be substituted for chicken nuggets in her kids' meal. Sometimes your employees do this cheerfully and without question. Sometimes I have an experience like yesterday's. This occurred at our local Burger King, where we have made this substitution several times.

Me: "I'd like three chicken nugget kids' meals, but I need to substitute chicken fries for the nuggets in one of them because of my daughter's food allergy."
Worker: "We don't do that."
Me: "Yes, you do."
Worker: "No, we don't."
Me: "Yes, you DO."
Worker: "Let me talk to the manager."
Me: "Great."
Worker: "She says we can't do that."
Me: "Cancel my order. I'm coming in to talk to her."

Me: "This is my daughter, Katherine. She has a severe dairy allergy and can't eat your nuggets, but she can eat your chicken fries. We need you to put those in her meal."
Manager: "Yeah, it's a cost thing. The breading on the nuggets costs less to make, that's why there's milk in it."
Me: "Uh-huh. She can't eat it. We've had the chicken fries substituted in her meal before. You can even put in four chicken fries instead of six so that it's the same number of pieces as in a regular chicken nugget meal."
Manager: "We don't have a button for that."
Me [summoning all the patience I can muster]: "Other workers just push the chicken nugget meal button and then tell the cooks to make the substitution."
Manager: "You mean verbally?"
Me: "Yes."
Manager: "Oh, I guess we can do that. I just didn't know."
Me: "Thank you."

To keep your dairy-free customers happy, Burger King, I would like to offer a few suggestions.

1.) Offer a four-piece chicken fries kids' meal on the menu.
2.) Or, offer a four-piece chicken fries kids' meal for those with dairy allergies. Mention this meal prominently on your website and make all chains aware of it.
3.) Offer other kids' meal substitutions happily and willingly (ie., your veggie burger* for vegetarian children and your side salad as a healthy option for any child).
4.) Better yet, make them all standard options, regardless of cost.

These are foods you already supply to every Burger King. Your child customers have a right to "have it their way" just as much as your adult patrons do.



*The veggie burger does have dairy.


  1. Oh, I'm frustrated for you. We've yet to take Bug to a fast food place even though I've checked the menus online to know there are foods he can eat.

    I can't get over that you had to explain how to place an order for the substitution to the manager. Grrrr.

    Wouldn't it be great if there were more options available? Veggie burger (which I've heard are good), salads, etc. Burger King should live up to its motto: Have it your way...

  2. It's funny how the same fast food place operates differently (and I don't mean funny Ha Ha). BK is the only place with a dedicated fryer safe for my son (and I still have to go through the allergy talk because of the onion ring possible xcontamination with the boxes and the staging area). The closest one to our house has nasty people who work there. I haven't been there in 2 years and won't go back even if it burns down and is rebuilt, has new owners and if they personally invited me back. So I drive 40 minutes out of my way to a place that totally "gets it" and never gives me an issue. EVER! Even at midnight after a night in the ER they were excellent to us. We don't eat fast food often but when we do it's only at BK and it can still be such a hastle. Sorry this happened to you guys. Hopefully they'll remember this now and it'll be easier next time. But probably not :(

  3. Ughhhhhh. Frustrating for sure.

    The chicken fries are way better than the weird nuggets, anyways.

  4. At the minimum they should have options at a different price point. We only eat fast food when we travel or as a special treat (i.e. I don't feel like cooking - at most once every other month). But, I know McD's has a big kid menu. Couldn't they all have a "healthy" kids meal menu like that with the options some parents need? It doesn't sound that hard to me especially if they already have the foods!

  5. "We don't have a button for that". That really sums things up, doesn't it?

  6. I just wanted to add that sometimes the Canadian allergy guide and American allergy guide is different in some chains.

    Swiss Chelet in Canada has been making chickens on a dairy and gluten free surface for over twenty years!

  7. J and I JUST had a conversation about this the other day! It seems like all fast food employees and telemarketers, etc. are just trained verbetim by a manual and are frozen, stuck to it. Unless there is a clear instruction of what they are meant to do, or "a button" they just freeze and you're stuck explaining a very common sense solution to them.

  8. I would have reported the Manager. Sheesh. I'm sorry you had to go through that...

  9. Oh man that is frustrating! Hats off to you for not losing your cool AND for sending a thoughtful letter.

  10. Wow- amazing. I was told a story this weekend where a friend asked what was in a barbeque sauce and the worker replied: "Barbeque pork is bar-be-que pork." Amazing.

    I hope you sent a letter to the manager of the store. I know it might not do anything but they need to know about it all the same.

    Loved the letter but sorry about the experience!

  11. "Well there isn't a button for that." lol It's not rocket science people.

    Now if only we could get the fast food industry to remove soy from at least ONE of their items. :(

  12. I hope you are really sending a letter to BK.

    Have you heard the hype of people boycotting BK b/c of the booty shaking ads with Sponge Bob in them?

    "We don't have a button for that" sounds like a line from a movie! All you need is a brain and the willingness to help, BK lady!

  13. Yeah- good for you! I felt like I was reading a one-act play as you re-counted your experience. "We don't have a button for that"?!?! It could be a comedy if it wasn't so ridiculous- and involving a child's medical issues.

  14. Grace--I HATE that commercial. Who thought that was a good idea?!

  15. Who did you write? I think we should all write on your behalf and get behind this change. Also, maybe they need to learn a little lesson on Customer Service! I would love to do a follow up letter. Just sent me the address...

    Saffie Farris

  16. Thanks for the insight on the chicken fries - knew the french fries and apple slices were milk free but didn't know about the chicken fries!

  17. Burger King is our fast food of choice because of the non-dairy fries and dedicated friers, but I'd never thought about the chicken fries. I'll try that next time we fast food, and let you know if I have a "we don't have a button for that" moment.

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