According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) the "Big 8" are responsible for 90 percent of allergic reactions each year for an estimated 32 million Americans. Accommodating allergies in a restaurant can be complicated, but with some proper planning, education, and teamwork, you can avoid an emergency. Here are tips to safely accommodate guests with allergies.
The best way to minimize the risk for your guests is to create a plan for handling allergies that both back and front-of-house staff members to follow. Be sure to cover:
- How-to address the reservation during the lineup
- How-to communicate the allergy across departments
- How-to answer any questions a guest regarding the menu
- Who is responsible for checking the ingredients
- How-to avoid cross-contamination,
- How-to notify the kitchen of the allergy
- How-to mark the ticket in the kitchen
Proper communication among employees will ensure that all staff members are aware of the allergy and will help to ensure the safety of the guest.
A manager should be the point person during the duration of the reservation. In addition to preparing the staff before the shift, the manager should be able to answer all food allergy questions from guests and guide them in making their menu selections.
Information about an allergy should be noted in the reservation notes if a guest notifies the host about a food allergy while making the reservation. The host should also relay that information to the manager on duty.
If the guest didn't alert the restaurant about the allergy before the reservation, the server must relay this information to the manager. Servers should listen carefully to requests and answer any questions thoroughly. It is also important to remember that allergies are not food preferences, but medical conditions.
Guests depend on the back-of-the-house staff. The kitchen staff should pay extra attention to tickets that are flagged for allergies and make sure to communicate with the front-of-house team when they run the order to the table.
In addition to verbally identifying to the kitchen team about the table with the allergy, the ticket should be visibly marked. Marking the ticket will remind the back-of-the-house staff about the allergy is helpful when the kitchen gets busy during the night.
Training will ensure that everyone on your team is on the same page when it comes to ingredients, food allergy procedures, and steps of communication. In addition to learning the ingredients and food allergy procedures, all front and back-of-house employees should train on how to handle emergencies brought on by allergic reactions.
Dishes that contain the "Big 8" ingredients should be flagged on menus to assist guests with allergies. This addition to the menu can cut back on the time that is needed to ask about menu alterations.
Additional information about food allergies: