Picknic Overview

Why should I trust Picknic?2020-12-01T14:32:01+00:00

This is the number one question we get, and it is the reason we started Picknic: we couldn’t find enough trustworthy information from the other online resources.

Here is why we trust our data.

  1. All but one person on our team has a critical dietary restriction (CDR) and several of us are managing more than one. Learn more about our team here. We have years of experience asking very detailed questions from restaurants and have personal experience managing celiac disease, plant-based diets, and food allergies including gluten, egg, peanut, tree nut, fish, wheat, sesame, and sweet potato. We understand the questions you are asking restaurants.
  2. We spend hours researching each restaurant before we publish information for that restaurant. Our team members that research restaurants were pros at this before joining Picknic. They were already doing it for themselves or their family members. Now they spend even more time per restaurant in their research with Picknic.
  3. When we take in menu data from restaurants, it goes through numerous proprietary safety checks to ensure no errors are made converting the menu data into the Picknic format.
  4. When we work with partner restaurants to build their menu on Picknic, we spend hours reviewing and auditing the information with the restaurant.

Finally, our internal motto is to not publish anything that we wouldn’t give to a family member who needed it for their dietary restriction. In other words, we want to treat you like family.

You should still confirm details with the restaurant. Because we are human, we we cannot guarantee our information is 100% accurate at all times. Still, you won’t find more accurate information than Picknic anywhere.

What is a Critical Dietary Restriction (CDR)?2020-11-28T19:28:46+00:00

A Critical Dietary Restriction (CDR) is a dietary restriction that is critical to one’s short-term and long-term health. CDRs include food allergies, food intolerances, celiac disease, alpha-gal syndrome, and a handful of other syndromes and autoimmune conditions. This is different from a general Dietary Restriction (DR), which may include calorie restriction for weight loss, food avoidance for religious or ethical reasons, or “cutting back” on something such as gluten or sugar.

Those of us with CDRs read labels, call manufacturers, and use apps to find foods that are safe for us. We are constantly on the watch for threats to our health and even our lives that may be hidden in our food. For restaurants to serve us safely, the standard is the same: be sure our meal is free of the food(s) we are restricted from eating.

Though there is more public awareness for food allergies, Picknic uses “critical dietary restriction” or “CDR” in our content when the information is relevant to all CDRs.

What if I can’t find restaurants that meet my needs?2020-12-01T14:36:32+00:00

If you are having trouble finding restaurants that meet your needs on Picknic, here are three steps we recommend to find restaurants that do:

  1. Create a free account or sign up for our mailing list. We are constantly adding new restaurants to Picknic and can notify you when we add new restaurants in your area.
  2. Request a free list of recommended restaurants. You enter your dietary restrictions and zip code, and we send you a list of the restaurants in our data that we recommend for you.
  3. Let Picknic create a personalized destination guide for you. Our team will do the research for you and produce a detailed report of restaurant options for you in the location you choose.
How do my dietary settings work?2020-12-01T14:28:18+00:00

Your dietary settings include the diets you follow (e.g. vegetarian, vegan), the foods you must avoid (e.g. gluten, dairy), and whether or not you are comfortable with cross-contact for each diet or dietary restriction.

These settings are used to:

  • Identify which restaurants are “Picknic Picks” for you.
  • Identify the menu items that are a match (or potential match) for you.
    • These are called “Menu Matches” in Picknic. The count of your Menu Matches at a restaurant is displayed on the restaurant tile and in the map pin for that restaurant.
    • When viewing a menu, the default is to only show you Menu Matches so you can focus on menu items that are a match for you instead of those that are not.

Dietary settings are saved for future use and other devices if you are a logged-in user.

What do Allergy-Friendly ratings mean?2020-10-26T16:14:57+00:00

Our allergy-friendly ratings indicate how confident we are that a restaurant can safely and hospitably serve guests with critical dietary restrictions (CDRs) such as food allergies and celiac disease. Ratings are based on publicly available data as well as our direct assessment of the restaurant.

The rating levels are:

No Rating Available

    • Restaurants with no rating have not been assessed yet.

Not Allergy-Friendly

    • These restaurants haven’t demonstrated that they have the training, process, and other resources to consistently serve guests with CDRs. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a safe meal there, but your experience will be hard to predict. For example, there may be a single staff member that is knowledgeable and sensitive to CDRs because they have a friend or family member with a CDR. However, because there is no systemic training for other staff, your experience will be entirely dependent on the availability of that one staff member.

Somewhat Allergy-Friendly

    • These restaurants have some degree of training, process, or other resources to serve guests with CDRs. You can think of them as “aware,” but not necessarily friendly. They may have an allergen menu or items marked GF, and they may have some training regarding CDRs, but you should plan on doing some extra work at these establishments to get a safe meal. For example, a restaurant may list their fries as gluten-free, but servers may not be aware of the risks of gluten cross-contact in their fryer. Eating there will require more effort to identify what can be eaten and vigilance to ensure that the risks are understood by the restaurant and proper process is followed.

Very Allergy-Friendly

    • These restaurants are truly friendly to those with CDRs. They have demonstrated a blend of training, process, and other resources to safely and hospitably serve most guests with food allergies or celiac disease. These restaurants are typically prepared to discuss your CDRs, help you select a meal that works for you, and deliver it safely. For example, the restaurant may have an allergen menu and a manager available to discuss what you can eat there. They may have a documented process for avoiding cross-contact such as changing gloves. They may have dedicated space and utensils to avoid cross-contact. This doesn’t alleviate the need for vigilance on your part, but your experience is much more likely to be positive at restaurants with a Very Allergy-Friendly rating.
What does Certified Allergy-Friendly mean?2020-10-26T16:08:58+00:00

Restaurants that are Certified Allergy-Friendly have consulted with Picknic to provide safety and hospitality to guests with CDRs such as food allergies and celiac disease. The three pillars of allergy-friendly certification are:

  1. Training – All employees have training regarding CDRs that is appropriate for their work responsibilities. At least one staff member will be equipped and available at all times to answer questions and oversee delivery of meals for guests with CDRs.
  2. Process – The restaurant has a process for receiving, preparing, and delivering orders for guests with CDRs to avoid ingredient mistakes and cross-contact.
  3. Menu – The restaurant has a menu that lists presence of (at least) the top 8 allergens and gluten to make selection of a safe meal easier whether in the restaurant or in advance.
What is a Menu Match?2020-11-28T19:32:08+00:00

A menu match is a menu item that matches the dietary restrictions you have entered in Picknic. The match is based on the published ingredient information and does not include information regarding possible cross-contact in fryers and other shared cooking environments. (Though this feature is coming in December!)

For example, if you have selected “Gluten-Free”, “Vegetarian”, and “Dairy-Free” as filters, only restaurants that have menu items that don’t contain (or can be modified to not contain) gluten, meat, and dairy ingredients will display in the search results. Each item that meets these criteria will be counted as a menu match on the restaurant tile and the map pin for that restaurant. This helps you narrow your search to locations where you have the most options for your dietary needs.

What are Picknic Picks?2020-11-28T19:46:02+00:00

Picknic Picks are restaurants that Picknic recommends for specific dietary restrictions (DRs).

Once you have selected your DR(s) in the Dietary Restriction Filter, you the Picknic Picks filter is automatically applied to show only restaurants that Picknic recommends for your DR(s).

If you select multiple DRs, the Picknic Picks filter will show restaurants that are recommended for every DR selected. For example, if you select dairy allergy and peanut allergy as DRs, the Picknic Picks filter will show restaurants that Picknic recommends for both diary-free and peanut-free.

A restaurant may be recommended as a Picknic Pick for multiple reasons, including the following:

  • They are free of specific food items. For example, if the restaurant doesn’t have peanuts in any food item, they would be a Picknic Pick for peanut-free.
  • They are dedicated to a specific dietary restriction. For example, a gluten-free bakery would be a Picknic Pick for gluten-free.
  • The blend of their Allergy-Friendly Rating and the number of Menu Matches for a dietary restriction. For example, an italian restaurant that is a Picknic Pick for egg-free should have egg-free noodles that can be cooked in egg-free water and sauces and sides that are egg-free as well.

Regarding Picknic Picks for Gluten-Free / Celiac:

These are designated with celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance in mind. Picknic Picks for gluten-free will have  gluten-free options, typically with gluten-free substitutes like gluten-free bread or pasta, and the ability to avoid cross-contact. For example, a burger restaurant with gluten-free bun options, a gluten-free fryer and grill, and a “Very Allergy-Friendly” rating would be a Picknic Pick for gluten-free.

What does “Delivery-Friendly” mean?2020-11-12T16:05:25+00:00

Restaurants that are delivery friendly can provide a delivery experience that is friendly for people with critical dietary restrictions. This is based on the restaurant’s ordering systems, employee training, in-house operations, and the allergen/ingredient information that the restaurant makes available online.

Ideally a restaurant will allow guests to enter comments and dietary restrictions through their online ordering system or 3rd part (e.g. DoorDash, Grubhub, etc.)

What do the icons on the menu mean?2020-12-01T14:21:26+00:00

Picknic’s menus address the ingredients and the cross-contact risk for a menu item. We only list information we receive directly from the restaurant, and we audit and review all information from our partner restaurants. See more about how we get our data here.

Ingredient Ratings

Ingredients match your needs (without modification).

Circle icons to indicate that ingredients match someones food allergies and dietary restrictions such as gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, etc.

    • Menu items with a circle icon (of any color) contain only ingredients that match the relevant category on the menu (e.g. dairy-free, vegetarian). Ingredients are the items that are intentionally included in a recipe. For example, beef is an ingredient in the recipe for a hamburger. Cheese is an ingredient in the recipe for a cheeseburger.
    • In some cases, a modification may be required so that the ingredients match your needs. These will be indicated with an underline (“__”) as explained below.
    • Picknic only displays items as modifiable if the restaurant has explicitly indicated that the item can be modified. For example, removing the cheese from a cheeseburger may make it dairy-free, but Picknic doesn’t list this an an option unless the restaurant has explicitly said so.

Ingredients do not match your needs.

    • Menu items with this icon contain ingredients that do not match the category (e.g. Gluten-Free, Vegetarian) of the menu. For example, an item that contains dairy will have this icon in the “Dairy-Free” column. In these cases, the restaurant hasn’t indicated a modification to remove those ingredients from the item.

Cross-contact ratings.

Low Risk

Green items have a low risk of cross-contact which is important for those with food allergies and celiac disease.

    • Menu items with this icon can be prepared using best practices to avoid cross-contact.
    • For example, frying gluten-free fries in a gluten-free fryer is a best practice for avoiding cross-contact.
    • Though no restaurant can guarantee the absence of cross-contact, menu items with this icon will have a low risk of cross-contact.
    • In some cases modifications will be required so that your meal is prepared with best practices to avoid cross-contact. These will be indicated with an underline (“_”) as explained below.

Medium/Unknown Risk

Orange items have an unknown risk of cross-contact which is important for those with food allergies and celiac disease.

    • Menu items with this icon have an unknown or indeterminate risk of cross-contact.
    • In some cases this is because the cooking process is unknown to us (typically with restaurants that have not partnered with us).
    • In other cases, we know the cooking process, but it is impossible to determine the risk of cross-contact.
    • For example, if a dairy-free item such as fish is baked in an oven that is also used to bake mac and cheese, there is a possibility of the mac and cheese dripping onto the fish. There may or may not be dairy cross-contact on the fish depending on whether the items are cooked at the same time and whether the mac and cheese is baked above the fish.
    • Another common example is when ingredients for an item are pulled from a shared line. If lettuce has been pulled with the same gloved hands that have been used to pull croutons, there may or may not be gluten cross-contact on the lettuce.
    • In all of these cases, we try to include notes so that you can decide for yourself if you are comfortable with the cross-contact risk.

High Risk

Red items have a high risk of cross-contact which is important for those with food allergies and celiac disease.

    • Menu items with this icon have a known source of cross-contact during preparation of cooking.
    • For example, french fries that are fried in the same fryer as chicken fingers (containing wheat) will have cross-contact with gluten/wheat. They will also have cross-contact with meat, which will be displayed in the vegetarian and vegan categories.

Other Details

Item requires modifications (underlined).

Item may require modifications to meet your food allergy or gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based needs.

    • Menu items with an underlined icon need to be modified to meet the ingredient and cross-contact status that is displayed.
    • Ingredient modifications include removing or substituting ingredients. Picknic only lists items as modifiable when the restaurant has explicitly said so. When possible, these modifications are explained in the notes for the item. For example, hamburger might be egg-free when made without mayonnaise.
    • Cross-contact modifications include any alteration to the cooking process to apply best practices for avoiding cross-contact. These modifications are only listed if the restaurant has indicated that they are willing to make them.
    • Cross-contact modifications may include grilling on foil, getting new ingredients from unopened stores instead of from the standard prep line, cooking in a clean pan, etc.

Information not available.

Circle icons to indicate that ingredients match someones food allergies and dietary restrictions such as gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, etc.

    • Menu items that are blank (i.e. have no icon) have no information available for the corresponding menu category (e.g. Peanut-Free, Tree Nut-Free). In some cases, the status of an item may be inferred by the item name (e.g. a “Fish Sandwich” is typically not “Fish-Free”), but Picknic only lists information explicitly indicated by the restaurant.
    • In some rare cases, if we find a discrepancy on a restaurant’s allergen menu (e.g. an item listed as gluten-free that is also listed as containing wheat ), we will leave the field(s) in question blank.
What if I’m allergic to something other than the top 8 food allergens?2020-12-01T14:24:06+00:00

First of all, we want you to know that it is important to us that you find restaurants and menu items that are safe for you. We have plans to list allergens beyond the top 8, so be sure to request that we add your allergens.

Until then, use the Allergy-Friendly ratings to find restaurants that will best understand your needs and commit to delivering you a safe and satisfying meal. Restaurants that are “Very Allergy-Friendly” or “Certified Allergy-Friendly” will be your best bet. The profile information for restaurants will still help you know how to order smoothly and safely at the restaurant you select.

I have celiac disease or severe gluten intolerance. How do I use Picknic?2020-11-28T20:00:16+00:00

If you have celiac disease or a severe gluten intolerance, you are probably skeptical of anything labeled “gluten-free.” We are too. Some of our founding team members have celiac disease, so we understand the confusion and inconsistency of gluten-free (or “gluten-friendly” – as if anyone is trying to befriend gluten) labeling. Though many people with a “lifestyle” gluten-free diet use Picknic, we go beyond that.

Here are the key features for you and how to use them:

  1. The gluten-free column on our menus. The information in this column is based on the ingredients of the item according to the restaurant and the relative risk of cross-contact. We currently only display cross-contact information on the menus for our partner restaurants, but we try to address cross-contact with Gluten-Free/Celiac tips in the restaurant profile for all restaurants.
  2. Gluten-Free/Celiac Tips. For most restaurants we have added a section of information to help you better understand your options at this restaurant. Here you can learn if you can eat the fried foods, if they have gluten-free buns for your hamburger, and more. Use this in conjunction with the menu to understand your options.
  3. Picknic Picks. A Picknic Pick is a restaurant that we have recommended for a specific dietary restriction. When we list a restaurant as a Picknic Pick for gluten-free, that means the restaurant is a good option for someone who has to eat completely gluten-free (i.e. celiac disease or gluten intolerance). See the FAQs for Picknic Picks for more information.

As always, if you have suggestions for improvements or new features, we want to hear them. Please share them here.

Where do you get your data?2020-11-12T16:00:11+00:00

We receive data from multiple sources.

For restaurants that haven’t partnered with us, we get data from public sources and from our own surveys of those restaurants. Our team searches far and wide for the information they want to know for their own dietary restrictions, and document it in Picknic for you. For information that is publicly available, we include links to the source so you can access it yourself.

For restaurants that have partnered with us, we get data directly from the restaurant. This is typically done in person or via phone or video conference and includes a thorough review of their menu and operations. This ensures that we are displaying the most up to date and accurate information possible.

What are credits?2020-09-30T19:22:18+00:00

We understand that not everyone is ready to upgrade to a premium (unlimited) Picknic account. We created credits to allow users with a basic account to access the premium content they choose.

You get 20 credits when you first sign up for a free Picknic account. Credits can be spent to “unlock” premium content such as restaurant profiles and dietary restriction menus.

At the end of each month all credits and unlocked content expire and you begin the first day of the next month with 10 credits with which to unlock new content.