If you have spent any time in the foodservice industry, then chances are you have had at least one interaction with a food allergic diner. Food allergies are on the rise in America, which means restaurants are needing to accommodate more and more special dietary requests. This can have a huge impact on your bottom dollar. Here are the top 5 ways food allergies are impacting your restaurant:

food allergies are impacting your restaurant

  1. Lawsuits Diners expect a safe experience when they choose to spend their time and money eating away from their homes. Lawsuits over the improper handling of special dietary needs have made big news over the past few years. PF Chang’s is still dealing with a lawsuit from 2014 from a guest who claimed the restaurant was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act since their gluten-free dishes cost more than the gluten-containing variety. Another lawsuit was recently filed against the grocery store chain, Publix, after a child with a tree nut allergy passed away after consuming a cookie from their bakery. Panera Bread is dealing with legal action brought against them due to alleged bullying of a former employee who has food allergies. Without the proper knowledge and training, it’s all too easy to make a simple mistake that could leave someone in a life-threatening condition. 
  2. Diner loyalty – An estimated 15 million Americans have a food allergy, which constitutes about 4% of the population. While seemingly small, those with food allergies can have a major impact on the success of a restaurant. When a group of people is selecting a dining destination, chances are that the person with the special dietary needs will have the final say in where they end up going. If an establishment can prove themselves as a safe place for food allergies and intolerances, that will show in the gained customer loyalty and repeat business.
  3. Time of Service – When a diner requests a special substitution to accommodate their food allergy or intolerance, the next steps can be time-consuming for the back-of-the-house. All ingredient labels must be read to ensure all traces of the allergen are absent from the dish. But what about allergen aliases, meaning the less common names for particular foods? All aliases must be properly researched to ensure there aren’t any hidden allergens in the ingredients of the dish. Next, the kitchen staff must ensure that the dish is being prepared properly and not risking any cross-contact. For example, someone with a shellfish allergy cannot be served fries that share the same frying oil as breaded shrimp. Without a solid understanding of what to look for on a food package and how allergens can be transferred during cooking, a simple substitution could turn into a very long process that could end up backing up the kitchen for the rest of the night.
  4. Restaurant Staff Confidence – When a guest asks their waiter if a dish contains an ingredient they’re allergic to or requests to speak with a chef about their food allergy, that person is putting his or her life in the hands of that one restaurant employee. Without proper training, it’s hard for a staff member to answer allergy questions accurately and confidently. Teaching your staff how to handle food allergies and intolerances will give them yet another tool to ensure a safe and pleasant dining experience for all guests.
  5. Employee Accountability – Accidents can happen in a kitchen, no matter the level of food allergy expertise of the staff. However, ongoing training is critical to keep staff members current and knowledgeable on all aspects of food allergies and other special dietary needs. Holding staff members accountable for their understanding of the severity of food allergies and intolerances can be the key to safely serving diner after diner.

Want to make sure you can meet the demand of food allergic diners safely and efficiently? AllerTrain courses and AllerSTAR posters can be your solution.