How Restaurant Get Food Allergies Right!
Diners constantly ask for more information when dining out. They want to know where their food came from, what the nutritional facts are, and if the food is for those with specific food allergies. This used to daunt restaurateurs. Recently, however, more and more restaurants are stepping up to the plate. Through training food service staff, offering allergen information, and multiple other means, restaurants are addressing food allergies head on. From large corporate chains to mom and pops, all restaurants have the ability to innovate and keep diners with food allergies safe and assured.
Key ways to innovate and accommodate:
Train Food Service Staff: Believe it or not, the idea that a manager is trained and knowledgeable about food allergies gives those affected peace of mind. Training food service staff from cashiers to managers is the first step in keeping diners safe. Education is POWER.
Allergy Friendly Menus: Gluten free menus popped up a few years ago (all over the place) and now it’s common for diners to expect gluten free options. Some restaurateurs go a step further by provide menus with both food allergy and nutritional information. Training food service staff on what menus are available and where the best resources are located is the best way to provide diners with the tools they need to choose safe menu items.
Allergy Alert System: While designated menus and trained staff are awesome tools, the steps you take after being alerted that a diner has food allergies are paramount. A cashier or server must know who to go to and what the proper protocol is when they are made aware of food allergy. Trained food service staff not only know what an allergy is, but they can also proactively and safely serve the diner an allergen free meal. In this way they will create dedicated and repeat customers!
Some restaurants are at the forefront of implementing innovative ways to assist customers with food allergies. Allergy Eats, a guide to allergy friendly restaurants, released an article naming the top 10 allergy friendly restaurant chains of 2017. Among those were large chains Red Robin and In N Out.
In N Out took their compact menu and assessed it for food allergies. They offer an allergen menu that shows which allergens are present in each food item on their website. This page even explains the ingredients in each dish and the oil they use to cook their fries. The specifics make it easy for those dining out to have a chart on hand. Couple that with trained food service professionals who can direct customers to an awesome resource right online, and you have a recipe for success.
Red Robin has done an amazing job of innovating for diners with celiac disease, food sensitivities and food allergies. They provide an interactive allergen menu directly on their website. Diners can select the allergen they would like to avoid from a list, which in turn gives them all of the menu items that come naturally without them. It also allows the diner to see what other menu items they can select by simply modifying an ingredient.
Red Robin also has a specific food service training system in place where the server notifies both management and the kitchen of the food allergy. The kitchen then uses a purple allergen kit to prepare the meal and a purple pick to physically show all those who handle the item that the meal was specially prepared and cannot come in contact with other prepared or raw foods. In addition to the interactive menus and alert systems, Red Robin is asking for feedback online from those guests who utilize this service, so they can hear from the diners themselves.
Portillo’s nutritional and allergen information is housed directly on their website. They even go as far as to mention their fryer information and cross contact disclaimers, so all diners can easily find all information needed to eat safely. They have taken impressive measures to train the food service staff, so they are equipped to help those in need.
Full Disclosure, annually we here at AllerTrain give out awards to the outstanding restaurants in this space. Both Red Robin and Portillo’s were winners this year and well deserved in our opinion.
Diner questions are becoming more and more frequent and with amazing tools out there all restaurants have the ability to step up to the plate. We at AllerTrain are here to help when you are ready!