This has to be one of the most frustrating things that a restaurant patron can hear. It's an empty phrase that has more to do with risk and liability than ensuring that the patron actually has a good dining experience.
In our opinion, the worst offender of this is Milestones Grill and Bar. This isn't a restaurant that we as a couple have ever chosen to go to on our own, save for a friend's birthday party. While we went expecting that Milestones would be akin to other restaurants like Earls or Moxie's, we were disappointed to find out that there was actually very little that the wife could eat. It wasn't that the menu was completely seafood-saturated; it was that the waitstaff would tell us that a lot of their food came from outside sources and so they could not guarantee that it did not come into contact with seafood before arriving on-site.
Typically, the wife (and husband) appreciate it when the waitstaff looks into her allergy and takes the concern seriously; however, this was borderline excessive in that no other alternatives were presented. It's as if you go into a store, tell them of your intolerance to lactose, and instead of being referred to almond or soy milk as a substitution, the staff mention that they can't guarantee anything and don't say anything further. The likely conclusion is that if you didn't know about those other products, you'd leave the store, right?
That illustration aside, it was a birthday party and we were hungry so we stayed. The appetizer that the group shared was Milestones' Famous Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip, except that the wife was told that the warm red tortilla chips could have been in contact with seafood so she shouldn't partake in it. (Side note from the wife: How fun is it to watch everyone else get to eat while you sip your water?) The other frustration was that the wife asked if there was any other option that she could have, such as bread or pita chips; however, the response given was that those items also came from outside vendors and so there were no guarantees (and thus, nothing was offered).
We're not ones to criticize how a restaurant runs itself - believe us, we sometimes have enough things to figure out in our own kitchen - but we were a little flummoxed that nothing else was presented as an option. We were paying customers and since it was an allergy that prohibited one of us from eating rather than say, food pickiness, we would have thought that the restaurant could have accommodated us.
Despite this, we did manage to have dinner, and though ingredients had to be taken out because they couldn't "guarantee anything", we were thankful to at least have some food in us by the end of the evening even if our entrées didn't really stand out. Our suggestion is that if ingredients have to be omitted that either a substitute ingredient be presented or a discount be taken off of the meal - something to acknowledge that you didn't receive everything you're paying for (we much prefer the substitute ingredient; it's not as if we're out to score cheap meals this way).
Another thing we noticed on their menu that doesn't have to do with us specifically is Milestones' Gluten-Free Favourites. While most of our friends suffer from a gluten intolerance/sensitivity as opposed to having celiac disease, we do know that cross-contamination is a serious concern for those with the disease. What's the point in offering a gluten-free menu when the staff does not prepare those items separately? It would be no different from offering a chicken stir-fry but using the same wok that the shrimp stir-fry was prepared in just before that. Anyways, we acknowledge that this particular allergy is not our fight (Vincci offers a better soapbox on this topic) but it's still frustrating when those in the restaurant industry do not realize that allergies can be a life-or-death matter.
Seafood-free friendliness: Well, if you only stick to what's prepared in-house, Milestones might be okay; it was just too bad that the staff could not "guarantee anything" with so many of their ingredients. We left with the feeling that we probably won't ever go back to this chain restaurant (their limited menu was another factor for us - it was hard enough finding seafood-free food but also food we wanted to eat). There are other places where we can enjoy our "life milestones" and have a better dinner out.