The annual AllergyEats Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs & Food Service Professionals was held in Boston, Massachusetts this year. The conference focuses on allergy-free and allergy-aware food preparation for professionals, including restaurant owners, management, chefs, and servers.
This year's conference focused on several key points in the business.
- Ongoing training is imperative. In-depth, ongoing food allergy training should be required for all staff, and be more comprehensive than just showing a short, basic food allergy video. Train staff continuously – ideally more than once a year. When new team members are hired, immediately educate them about your food allergy protocols.
- Protocols can be customized. There is no “one size fits all” set of accepted food allergy protocols, so restaurants can customize their approach in ways that work best for their staff and guests. The restaurateurs at the AllergyEats event described different ways they accommodate food-allergic diners – from using technology and interactive online menus, to designating separate service lines in the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination, to color-coding food-allergy tickets and plates.
- Becoming allergy-friendly is good for business. The food-allergic guest is the veto vote, dictating which restaurant their entire party will visit. By winning the food-allergic guest’s business, you’ll also attract their friends and family, which can boost your revenue dramatically and increase your profits up to 24% or more!
- Allergy-friendly protocols are vital for all commercial kitchens – not just restaurants’. Just like restaurants, there’s a dichotomy in college dining halls between those that understand and can accommodate food-allergic diners and those that don’t. For colleges, like restaurants and other institutions, there’s a great opportunity to minimize risk as well as increase the student population, thus reaping financial benefits by becoming allergy-friendly.
- The customer should own their food allergies. The primary responsibility for safety lies with food-allergic diners, yet statistics show that nearly half of people with food allergies don’t disclose their allergies when eating at restaurants. That’s not safe for the diner, nor fair for the establishment. One way a restaurant can lessen this risk is to proactively ask guests whether anyone at the table has a food allergy.
- The food allergy community is large, loyal and vocal. When restaurants work hard to accommodate food-allergic diners, these guests (as well as their family and friends) become loyal customers and vocal advocates, recommending the restaurant through word-of-mouth, online chat boards and high ratings on the AllergyEats app and website. Treat food-allergic guests well and you’ll have customers for life.
The annual conference is part of the AllergyEats network of restaurants and certifications. More information can be found at AllergyEats.com.