Diet-friendly restaurants cater to more than just those who are watching their waistline. For the estimated 12 million Americans who suffer from food allergies, a diet-friendly restaurant is one where guests can dine in the confidence that they will not suffer a dangerous reaction to their meal. While guests can scan a menu in hopes of finding a safe food choice, the ultimate responsibility for food safety lies with restaurant managers and their staff members. By following a few simple tips, however, managers can rest assured that those with allergies can dine safely in their establishment.
Restaurant Managers need to take the time to research common food allergies and the signs and symptoms that may indicate a reaction. For each of these common allergies, be sure that you have a suitable menu option available. Take the time to consult with chefs and health specialists to ensure that the options you provide are appropriate.
It is also the responsibility of managers to document the findings of their research. Both front and back-of the house staff members need to be given specific instructions on precisely what to do when dealing with a guest that has an allergy. These procedures should also include instructions on how to handle any emergency situation. If a staff member has a question, the manager should be available to answer it. It is better to take the time to answer a question, even if this involves additional research, than to risk exposing a guest to a possible life-threatening situation.
People living with food allergies frequently find restaurants by browsing menus on the Internet. Because of this, it is good practice to keep your website updated with the latest menus and indications of which dishes may be inappropriate for those with common food allergies. This practice eases the burden on staff members when serving customers with allergies, and shows guests that you operate a concerned, trustworthy restaurant.
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Generally, if a guest has a food allergy he or she will say so. Take this opportunity to ask about the allergy and the types of food that tend to be acceptable. Managers may wish to speak to diners directly or to consult with chefs or nutritionists. In either case, this can be a good way to show that you care and are willing to put in the effort to ensure their safety.
Staff members who are not absolutely sure about a dish’s ingredients should always find out when an allergy is in question. While you may worry that taking the time to ask a question may be frustrating for a guest, your honesty will likely be appreciated. Take the time to return to the kitchen to ask the right person. If there are menu options that you are sure would be appropriate, try recommending them as an alternative.
The issue of food allergies requires attention to more than just what the guest actually orders. One of the biggest problems for accommodating allergic guests is the issue of cross contamination. It is vitally important to ensure that allergens are kept away from prepared food. If a kitchen typically uses ingredients that can cause allergic reactions, such as nuts, the preparation space must be thoroughly cleaned before working with food for allergic guests. This includes not only keeping surface areas and utensils clean, but also ensuring that the food is kept clear of any splashes or spills from allergy-provoking dishes.
It is also important to inform the guest of any preparation methods that may use allergens. For example, while a dish on the menu may not explicitly list the use of peanuts, a crust containing crushed nuts or a sauce containing even the smallest amount of peanut butter could absolutely cause a reaction for someone with a nut allergy.
While this may seem like a lot of work for staff members, it is nonetheless essential. All staff members must be continuously informed of any cooking techniques that use common allergens as ingredients. For cooks, this means that any time a food order is prepared for someone with an allergy, each and every ingredient label must be checked. This way, even if a manufacturer changes ingredients without alerting purchasers, cooks can be certain that their dishes are safe.
These tips are intended to serve as a starting point for managers and staff members working in the foodservice industry. For detailed information and comprehensive procedures for dealing with foodservice operations planning, further education on the subject is wise for any foodservice professional. Higher education can be worth the cost if it helps you run a safe, diet-friendly restaurant where guests can focus more on enjoying their meals than on worrying about an allergy.