Written byAdministrator|February 6, 2013|Essen,gluten free diet,restaurant chains|18|
"Push the allergy button"
Behind the scenes at In-N-Out Burger
February 2018:We've updated this article to reflect consumer feedback we've received indicating that training, skills, and safety protocols vary widely at In-N-Out locations. Please consider the comments below and ask questions of the manager or staff at the location you are visiting. In-N-Out Burger must commit to gluten-free safety at the corporate level and disseminate policies and practices in all locations.
I cook healthy meals at home, some really good, but sometimes my teenage son craves a burger and fries. With few celiac safe restaurants, we go to In-N-Out. Did you know that the entire menu is gluten-free, except for the hamburger buns? They have a very simple menu - just the simplest American fast food burger favorites.
You can order a "protein-style" burger wrapped in lettuce and add a shake (they're all gluten-free) and fries (from a special gluten-free fryer). If you're really smart, you can order cheese fries or extras from their "secret menu" (shhh! It's on the website), though the add-ons can exceed the price of the fast food section pretty quickly.
Here's the catch: they have an allergy button. It's an actual button that they can press on your request when you place your order. You state your "allergy" (I have to suppress my inner doctor by muttering, "Celiac disease isn't an allergy, it's an autoimmune disease"). Some In-N-Out locations train their entire staff to understand the allergy button. They have special procedures that come with the allergy button.
After visiting In-N-Out several times with a kind of blind faith that the allergy button represents good food safety practices and that it wouldn't make my son sick, I decided to find out more. I interviewed a customer service representative over the phone and a manager in person.
What I learned is that after pressing the allergy button, the staff communicates via headset to explain what allergy the customer has and how to present or wrap their food. Kitchen staff at the grilling and seasoning and packing station change gloves when the order arrives, use a different spatula or equipment when necessary, and use a different part of the grill or area that has been cleaned and sanitized. They use a clean paper surface to wrap the protein burgers.
After the manager explained all of this to me, I stood at the counter of our local In-N-Out restaurant to watch them prepare the gluten-free burger I just ordered. I watched the line of kitchen staff at the grill, trying not to blink or miss key moments. His movements were blurry, my perception was muddled, and the order was ready before I could see the allergy procedures in action.
An In-N-Out restaurant is a blazingly fast burger assembly line. With hamburger buns accounting for the vast majority of orders, there's no guarantee someone on the grill won't make a mistake that leads to cross-contact. There is always a risk. But people love their fast food, and it's undeniably satisfying to be able to say, "Push the allergy button for a wheat allergy, please," and have an efficient and friendly array of staff acknowledging your request at every window with complete understanding and security. .
Whether or not you're tempted by this popular restaurant chain's offerings, it's worth noting that some In-N-Out Burger locations manage to serve the gluten- and allergen-free segment of the population with safety, efficiency, training of the staff, courtesy and communication. Few restaurants have such a limited menu, so few ingredients, or a simple conveyor belt in the kitchen; However, there is still much to learn from this well-crafted model of engagement and clarity.
However, based on feedback we received on the original version of this article, not all locations are committed to safe gluten-free practices. Consistency is key to trust in a restaurant chain. To earn the trust of guests with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, In-N-Out Burger senior management must study the practices where gluten-free orders are processed safely and professionally and replicate these policies throughout the places.
What is your experience with gluten-free or allergen-free orders from In-N-Out? Comments are welcome below.
About the Author
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jacquelyn da rozaon December 22, 2016 at 1:51 p.m.
I love it inside and out! My daughter is celiac and being able to eat a burger is wonderful!
They do a great job of identifying an "allergy" and are very careful. Your burger and fries are always separate so there is no cross contamination. My daughter is 14 years old and she is very excited to have a place to go with friends.
Judithon March 8, 2017 at 12:53 p.m.
I don't have celiac disease, I have irritable bowel syndrome. After 2 bouts of C-Def caused by antibiotics last year, I spent several months in the "pot". I ended up changing doctors because I wasn't happy with my ER doctor's advice to "live with it." Fortunately, I found a knowledgeable family doctor who recommended that I avoid gluten. Difficult but I did it. We eat MUCH lower on the food pyramid and are healthier as a result, and I have not had diarrhea since I started. In-N-Out is one of my favorite burgers and I have no problem with their protein style or fries. Delicious things!
Andreas Pearceon April 2, 2017 at 4:52 p.m.
This article was misleading: Employees at the Mountain View, California location had no idea. They didn't know what gluten was...they thought I wanted dairy free shakes. This included the branch manager.
Administratoron June 9, 2017 at 9:19 am
thanks andres It's disappointing to hear that training varies so much by location.
Cherylon December 1, 2017 at 7:01 p.m.
You will find this everywhere as the workers are often clueless so it is best to pay close attention to what you eat and also instruct them on how you intend to prepare your food e.g.
I wish they offered GF buns like they do at our favorite Burgerville here in PacNorthwet.
Janice Schäferon February 17, 2018 at 4:23 p.m.
I'm surprised not all places know the protocol with people requiring a gluten free meal. I just visited the In and Out in Laughlin, NV and was told (when I asked the girl to press the allergen button for a wheat allergy) 'Oh, our breads are gluten free!' So what's up?!?!
Administratoron February 17, 2018 at 5:02 p.m.
As far as I know they only offer wheat buns so obviously the buns are gluten free. Based on this and other feedback, it's clear that engagement and training vary widely between sites. It has to come from above, and apparently it isn't. I placed a warning at the top of the article, updated the article, and submitted an inquiry to the company. When the company responds, I'll post it in the comments section. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Margoon April 4, 2017 at 8:20 p.m.
I love their chocolate shakes but was told by a senior doctor that the shakes are lactose free. I asked him if he was sure about that. I think he might have meant gluten free. I know there are lactose-free ice creams, although I didn't think the shakes were.
fallaon June 3, 2017 at 4:22 p.m.
I just tried Rowland Heights. They were confused and asked, "So that just means no bread?"
Isabelon June 9, 2017 at 9:12 am
I also love In N Out burgers but when I started going it was still responsive and I thought it was a cross contact issue. Then one day when I was making sure they knew I really responded to wheat, the manager came out after I ordered the food and told me that he couldn't put the onions in my food because they made up for it. Use buns. Sweep them off the cutting board and the grilled onions have been pushed onto the grill with buns. Now that I know, I don't let them put onions and I don't have any more problems. Also, I tell them they can't put my order next to one with scones as it won't be gluten free. So now my food is brought to me as each item is made. The sauce is not good either. It is high in sugar and contains a food starch, they say it is gluten free, but I am reacting to that.
Administratoron June 9, 2017 at 9:17 am
Thanks Elisabeth, that's great to know!
celiaon May 30, 2018 at 8:59 p.m.
I have never had a problem at any location in Modesto or Manteca CA...but I need to order right. Protein-style burger for those allergic to gluten, equivalent to a lettuce wrap. In addition, they all have a completely separate preparation area and a grill to prepare gluten-free burgers.
Jessicaon June 24, 2018 at 1:21 p.m.
Just left the local In and Out (ogden, ut). They were all very knowledgeable and seemed well educated on the subject. In any case, I feel safer than I usually do when I go out to eat.
Administratoron June 24, 2018 at 1:23 p.m.
That's good news!
manon July 16, 2018 at 2:28 p.m.
The one in Phoenix, AZ was very accommodating about my gluten allergy.
Juanaon May 23, 2019 at 2:24 p.m.
I just ate at In & Out in Santa Nella Ca. I didn't order grilled onions but my protein style burger came with them. Then I had a celiac episode.
I'm not sure why as I've never had a reaction after eating at an In & Out. But I have never had the grilled onions.
Ciudadon July 26, 2019 at 12:57 p.m.
Most likely it was the grilled onions. They use buns to get the onions off the grills. Next time order the burger without onion and protein style. you'll be fine
God bless you in Jesus name!
kimberlyon January 3, 2020 at 3:47 p.m.
I was diagnosed with celiac disease 2 months ago. One of my friends has it too. The In-n-Out in Fairfield, Ca, and Vallejo, Ca, are the only fast foods I can now eat without reacting (my boyfriend also eats at Red Robin [gluten-free buns!] but when I tried them for lunch, I didn't had no idea about gluten free practices).