Food Allergies and Your Restaurant Practices

Food allergies can be problematic for many people (including yours truly).

Some restaurants serve what they serve, and that’s it. And, that isn’t necessarily unfair. You want to serve dishes that are in keeping with your brand concept.

If you’re a pub, pub food should be on the menu. That’s not to say allergies can’t be considered regardless of your brand concept. It just happens to be a hurdle to consider. 

But you will miss out on some sales if you don’t cater to a variety of customers. They may come to your restaurant once or twice with their friends, but if there’s nothing they can eat on the menu, there’s no reason for them to come back.

How does your restaurant handle food allergies? What can you do for customers with food sensitivities? Are you prepared to deal with different situations?

Food Allergies Are A Major Problem

First, it’s important to recognize that food allergies are a major problem, and not a laughing matter.

Per Today’s Dietitian Magazine, 25% of fatalities resulting from food allergy anaphylaxis occurred while dining out. Furthermore, there are roughly 15 million food allergic individuals in the United States alone. 

Protecting your customers is your responsibility, and it’s something to be taken seriously.

Although your customers should make you aware of any allergens they have, and your menus should also mention possible allergens. Because it’s easy to miss this information, particularly when you’re busy, having the information directly on the menu helps many servers and patrons. It may be necessary to take extra precautions so that nothing falls through the cracks.

Understand The Laws Regulating Your Locale

At this point in time, there are only five states with laws regulating food allergens in restaurants – Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Virginia.

New York City and St. Paul, MN also have some requirements. If your restaurant is in one of these states, it’s critically important that you become well-acquainted with these regulations.

Even if your restaurant is outside of these states, it’s worth studying these laws so you can learn about best practices and have a better idea of what may be required of you down the line.

There are advocacy groups lobbying for laws in more states. But until anything fully changes, it’s best for your restaurant to take all of these issues into consideration.

Develop & Implement Policies For Your Restaurant

Ultimately, you may need to develop your own policies to protect your customers, especially if there are no set-in-stone rules or laws in your city or state.

Again, by observing general best practices, and studying the laws in other states, you can become well-acquainted with policies you can implement in your place of business.

But here are several strategies you can use to mitigate issues connected to allergens:

  • Train your servers and kitchen staff on allergies. Preparation methods can make a big difference. Ensure your kitchen staff understands how to avoid food contamination. Also, train your staff on ingredients of all dishes. You can also set aside a specific area of your kitchen when preparing food for those with allergies.
  • Ask your customers to make you aware of allergies. You can have your servers ask. You could also use posters, signs, menus, and other print collateral to remind your guests to notify servers before ordering. Take allergies seriously, and don’t assume guests are trying to be difficult.
  • Have your certified food safety managers take a course in allergen awareness. This step alone can help you avoid unnecessary blunders.

Final Thoughts

It’s important for restaurants to create a safe environment for their customers. Think progressively.

If you can’t prepare allergen-free food in your kitchen, make your guests aware. Although they may not come back, they also won’t leave your restaurant with a severe allergic reaction.

Although they may not come back, they also won’t leave your restaurant with a severe allergic reaction.

If you’re a forward-thinking restauranteur, then begin taking steps to better serve customers with allergies. Post notices in your menus. Encourage customers to make you and your staff aware of allergies. Ready your kitchen for safe preparation. Take proactive measures to ensure a great customer experience. 

Once you’ve put these precautions into place, it’s bon appetite!