An allergy sufferer from Manchester was left to eat a Sainsbury’s meal deal whilst out to dinner with friends, after being refused service by a local restaurant on account of her food allergies.
Despite having already signed an allergy waiver at the eatery and travelling home to get her EpiPen, at a personal cost of £16 in taxis, Megan Seymour, 22, was ultimately left to fend for herself during a recent visit to glitzy Salford sushi restaurant Firefly.
The vegan communications advisor from Manchester is used to being asked by staff about her allergies when dining out but said on this occasion she was made to feel like she had ‘a contagious disease’ after the trip to the glamorous sushi joint, reports Lydia Patrick.
“For someone who has dealt with serious issues with eating this entire experience was rather traumatic. I was made to feel as though I couldn’t eat and was unwanted as a customer”, she told The Manc.
All began well, with the group ordering cocktails and admiring their surroundings before being asked by their server if anyone had any food allergies – a textbook procedure.
Megan explained that she was seriously allergic to both nuts and fish, and, as part of FIrefly’s procedure, she was then asked by their server if she had her EpiPen. She did not.
“I had left it in another bag at home which was admittedly a silly mistake and agreed I would go and pick it up,” she said.
Whilst she left to make the 30-minute round trip home to collect it, the rest of her group were told they could order while they waited – only to be informed shortly after by another team member that they would have to wait until Megan had shown her EpiPen.
£16 in Ubers later Megan returned, armed with her EpiPen, and signed a waiver stating that even though Firefly had done everything they could, there remained a risk of cross-contamination and trace ingredients.
In the case that Megan did have an allergic reaction, the restaurant would not be liable.
With the whole group hungry and eager to eat at this point, orders were placed – with Megan opting for three vegan dishes from a special allergen menu in order to be extra careful.
Twenty minutes later, the group was approached by another member of staff and informed that Megan would not be served after all.
Firefly’s staff said this was due to the fact that the food had been in contact with seaweed, and she was told: “seaweed may contain fish.”
Megan felt confident that she would be fine, having eaten seaweed many times before whilst traveling around Asia, but the restaurant would not concede.
By way of apology, the staff offered her a complimentary cocktail, which she accepted, but after watching her friends enjoy their food whilst eating a Sainsbury’s meal deal herself she ultimately left feeling disappointed.
This sour taste was not helped by the addition of a service charge on the bill, which the group of diners contested and was ultimately removed by staff.
Megan said: “I was made to feel as though I was an issue, that my allergies made me a nuisance and an inconvenience to them.
“I genuinely was made to feel like I had a contagious disease and was looked down upon.”
What’s more, it does not seem that the incident at Firefly was a one-off as a number of customers have reported similar experiences.
A week after Megan’s ordeal Kay, a dental nurse from Manchester, reported having a similar experience.
Whilst dining out with friends for a birthday celebration, the dental nurse – also a vegan – informed their server when asked that she had a mild allergy to prawns which causes her tongue to swell slightly.
She had already taken antihistamines as a precautionary measure and explained, after being asked to show her EpiPen, that her allergy is not severe enough to warrant one.
She also offered to sign a waiver taking full responsibility if she were to have a reaction after dining from the restaurant’s plant-based menu, but says this was refused by staff.
The dental nurse said: “I’ve never in all my life been treated like that. I just wanted to cry, I couldn’t sit there and watch all my friends eat. It made me feel so small.
“They even locked the door near where we were sat as if we were going to run off without paying the bill.”
Kay was given three complimentary cocktails by way of apology and managed to sneak some vegan food from her friend’s plate, but ultimately left hungry and upset by the experience.
Reviews on the restaurant’s TripAdvisor page also point to this being a recurring issue.
In a recent review, entitled ‘Horrific with Allergies’, customer Megan N writes: “Never felt so uncomfortable in a restaurant ever. They have no care for the customers, they only want to cover their own backs if something did happen.
“The processes they were following made me think that someone had died from an allergic reaction here and they couldn’t face this happening to them again.”
Firefly restaurant owner Christian Coates said in a comment: “At Firefly we care about our guests’ safety and experience whilst dining in the restaurant. As part of our procedure for any visitors with allergies we would only ever serve food if we thought it was safe to do so.
“Every allergy is different, the circumstances and risk levels are different, but we have to follow a process, so we take any allergy incredibly seriously.
“If this has been received or interpreted as a negative experience then it’s only in place to protect the well-being and safety of the customer.”
Feature image – Firefly
Manchester United opening up ‘warm spaces’ in Red Cafe to the community this winter
Manchester United are opening up the doors of their Red Cafe to the local community for December, providing “warm spaces” to those set to struggle over the coming months.
As part of the club’s winter campaign, United by Your Side, the Red Cafe will provide a safe space for people to stay warm, eat, drink and chat.
The area will be available to absolutely everyone and completely free of charge every Monday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, starting on 6 December from 5:00-8:00pm.
People can arrive and register via the North Stand reception (Sir Alex Ferguson Stand), before being guided to the Red Cafe and left to get warm, enjoy hot beverages and plenty of snacks, as well as socialise.
Crucially, another objective of the Red Cafe’s United by Your Side scheme is helping combat loneliness, as a big part of the warm spaces are the ‘talking benches’ located on the forecourt at Old Trafford.
Signposted as a welcoming place for people who feel alone or are simply worried, shy or anxious to sit and talk to others, this area is designed for people to look after one another and reach out during a period when we’re all encouraged to be more giving.
As United’s COO Collette Roche detailed in an official statement: “Whether Christmas is part of people’s life or not, the festive period can be a difficult time for many. It’s a time of year that puts extra pressure on people and can affect mental health and wellbeing in lots of different ways.
“Through our United by Your Side campaign, we want people who are struggling to know that they are not alone, particularly in our local community. We want to make Old Trafford a second home by providing winter accessories, company, warmth and food for those who need it.”
In addition, today (Friday 2 December), fans are drumming up extra support for the United Foundation and homeless charity Centrepoint by staging a fundraising sleepout in the Munich Tunnel.
The club is working with the council and several local and national charities like Centrepoint to deliver the initiatives and communicate them to people who need it most.
Eleanor Roaf, Director of Public Health at Trafford Council, said: “This year with the increase in the cost of heating and food, many people are likely to find winter and the festive period challenging.
“I’m delighted that Manchester United are opening their Red Cafe and providing this space with hot snacks and drinks. This helps to how football is at the heart of our borough.”
Manchester Mind are also playing a key role in the campaign. The CEO of the mental health charity’s Mancunian arm, Elizabeth Simpson, said: “We know that many people are struggling at the moment due to the cost of living crisis and that this is impacting their mental health.”
She went on to note these added pressures on top of an already busy and often stressful time of year “can feel overwhelming and isolating”, which is why initiatives like United By Your Side are so important.
The sleepout alone has already raised nearly £15,000 at the time of writing and the lifeline the warm spaces set up in Old Trafford will provide cannot be overstated.
Moreover, while it fills our hearts to hear of local institutions like this doing their bit to help people in the community, it’s heartbreaking to know that warm banks are even required. Sadly, United are by no means the only organisation that felt it was necessary to offer up this kind of support.
If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, loneliness, rising costs or simply not knowing where to go for help, please send them to Manchester Mind’s cost of living information, their wellbeing hub and be sure to make them aware of warm spaces like those at Red Cafe if they need it.
Well done to the club and the associated charities for setting up such vital resources and a safe haven this December. United by name, united by nature.
*Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian over the age of 16 and due to United’s EFL Cup fixture against Burnley on Wednesday 21 December, the Red Cafe will open on Thursday 22 December instead.
Featured Image — Manchester United/Dayne Topkin (via Unsplash)
Part of Greater Manchester named as one of the happiest places to live
A new study has named a part of Greater Manchester as one of the happiest places to live in the North West of England.
This year’s Happy at Home study by Rightmove, now in its 11th year, asked over 21,000 people how they feel about their hometowns.
The results showed having a sense of belonging to your local area to be the most important contributor towards happiness, alongside a strong sense of community, and polite and friendly neighbours.
Overall, the coastal town of St Ives in Cornwall was named this year’s happiest place to live in Great Britain by its residents, with Galashiels in the Scottish Borders in second place and the market town of Woodbridge in Suffolk in third.
However, in the regional ranking for the North West Greater Manchester came out on top – with the Trafford market town of Altrincham ranking at number 17 in the whole of the UK and in second place out of 25 regional locations.
Coming in just behind Northwich in Cheshire, it wasn’t the only town in Greater Manchester to make the regional list.
Wth Stockport ranking at number 9, Bury at number 11, followed by Oldham (12), Salford (13) Manchester (14), Rochdale (17), Wigan (23) and Bolton (25), it definitely seems that residents have confirmed what we already know – that Greater Manchester is a great place to live.
You can see the full local ranking of all the regions in the North West below. To see how the rest of the country fared, click here to visit the Rightmove Happy At Home website page.