It’s that time of year! The time for Festival festivities to take over EPCOT and I absolutely love it (plus there’s so much non-food stuff here to do!)
The good news is that there have been some wonderful changes for food allergies and those of us with food restrictions. The not-so-good news is that it is still riskier than a regular restaurant by nature (they bus over food and operate in small kitchens)
Since this post was originally published in the Spring for the release of the Flower and Garden Festival, there have been new updates for the Food and Wine Festival, and again with the Festival of the Holidays.
Let’s talk about some changes this year in 2022, plus how to eat as safely as you can, and then you can go in prepared!
Do the EPCOT festivals have Gluten Free options?
Yes! They have Gluten Free options (or in Disney Speak, Gluten Friendly as they aren’t technically Free-From), at all of their festivals. These are clearly labeled with a “GF” in the Festival guide books.
*note this is my personal experience, so always confirm in person with qualified disney staff.
***As Always, please speak to a qualified restaurant employee when ordering food. In order to see the most accurate ingredients and risk assessment, you will need to confirm allergy safety in real-time. This is my personal experience, I am not employed or endorsed by companies or brands mentioned.***
Tips for Eating at EPCOT with Food Allergies
-Avoid booths that have your severe allergens if any – as the booths are small and cross contact risk is higher than if it was a permanent restaurant.
-Create a bucket list of items ahead of time.
-When ordering, state your allergen(s) and they should automatically call a chef to confirm. If not, ask for them to call a chef to confirm.
-Consider ordering when lines are shorter- typically mid afternoon after lunch but before dinner (or right when the booths open at 11).
-Cast Members (disney staff) should follow most of the guidelines below.
-Enjoy your food options, but don’t feel pressured if something makes you uncomfortable. There’s lots of amazing items at EPCOT to enjoy (see the list of EPCOT food allergy/gluten free options here!)
What to Expect when eating at Festivals in 2022
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to eat at the Festivals with food restrictions. Between the updates to the Flower and Garden Festival in the Spring and the Food and Wine Festival in the Fall (both of which are shared in detail below),
things are very streamlined. Opening day of Festival of the Holidays was not as streamlined as the previous Food and Wine Festival. I’ll be keeping notes on the procedures to share with you!
Here’s the new Procedures for Disney Owned booths.
****This is different for Third party booths. See below! (third party are France, Japan, Italy, China, Mexico)
- Declare your allergen ( I say, Hi <insert name> I have allergies, can you help me?
- Cast Member Cashier will Call a Chef (NOTE: even for gluten friendly labeled items and Plant Based Items, because they are ‘friendly’ and not labeled for allergies)
- Cast Member Cashier will hand phone to Culinary/Booth Staff if they are able to accommodate/modify the allergen. For already Labeled Gluten Friendly or Plant Based they won’t hand over the phone.
- Cast Member Cashier should note “Allergy” on receipt
- Inside the booth, the Culinary team/Chefs should do a Glove change/allergy prep
- Your Food is served to you with an Allergy stick (if modified). If it is not modified/changed (if it is already labeled gluten free or plant based) it will not be served with an allergy stick.
- If you see cross contact (Employees not changing gloves, picking up another item that has your allergens), refuse the food and ask for a glove change.
There you will, Declare/Share your allergens. Look at ingredient sheets or allergy list (changes depending on the booth). You can also ask to speak to someone, like a Chef or Manager (this may require an additional wait). Then you can order depending on your comfort level.
Learn more about Third Party ‘independent contractors” at Disney World here.
Updated Allergen Procedures for Food and Wine Festival 2022
*can confirm these changes remain for the Festival of the Holidays in November-December 2022
Quick note, this is my personal experience as I don’t work for Disney, so this will likely get tweaked as the festival progresses. I’ll update here and on social media.
We know have Allergy Sticks at the booths, so when you get something modified it should come with an allergy stick. If it doesn’t need to be modified, it will not come with a stick.
Another new option is having “allergy” on your receipt. This is to make sure that as you walk from the register to the person handing out the food, you get the right allergy order.
And Lastly, since more people feel comfortable and there is an ‘exact’ process for food restrictions, there is no awkwardness asking to see if something is good for your allergies.
Changes that happened with the 2022 Spring Flower and Garden Festival
First up, let’s talk about cross contact. Previously everything had a huge cross contact risk because we knew nothing about how things went in the kitchens. Chefs even stated it was a gamble.
Good news! They’ve changed procedures in the kitchen. Cross contact will always be a reality, but they have procedures in place, including dedicated stations for things like cold veggies, proteins, baked goods etc.
AND the chef was proud to share that the team is trained, familiar, and the same people working it consistently to reduce any confusion.
The chefs were clear that they want to make the festival more inclusive, which we can see by the amount of labeled GF items available this year!
Next up! Info for the top 10 allergens.
Previously you could ask for top 8, but the other two it would require the chef to read the item and it would take longer. Now they have that info for all top 10 (gluten/wheat, dairy, soy, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanut and treenut. Plus sesame and corn) they are also being very clear about what item has a cross contact risk, not just slapping a label on in a generic sense like they used to.
Lastly, the cast members working the festival are highly trained to constantly get their info from the Chef.
It’s been in the works for a few festivals now, but to see them call the chef without hesitation (as we still don’t have allergy books at the booths except japan) is amazing. It takes the stress and anxietyy out of asking, especially when there’s a long line.
But the real question… will my kids with severe allergies eat at the festival? Normally we don’t let them, but I think there’s a few small items this year that have a very low risk of cross contact (like the corn on the cob at trowel and trellis, and the soft serve at refreshment port and dole whip) that we will consider. ALWAYS listen to YOUR comfort level 🥰🥳😘
How it used to be at Festivals when managing Food Allergies and Dietary Needs before 2022
It used to be that the Chef’s, Managers and staff would tell you that because of the shared kitchens, they didn’t recommend anything.
Then in 2020 they started using a ‘call’ in system to talk to the Chefs. It was new, and a work in progress, and some Cast Members were so confused they would hand me the phone so I would talk to the Chef.
Things have improved, and now we can talk to the Chef’s and they are able to make some modifications!