AllergyEats, a guide to allergy-friendly restaurants nationwide, held the third annual AllergyEats Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs and Food Service Professionals.
"Our expert panelists, including allergy-friendly restaurateurs, food allergy trainers, physicians, and allergists, spotlighted restaurant best practices in serving food-allergic guests," says Paul Antico, Founder and CEO of AllergyEats. Antico is the father of three food-allergic children and a passionate food allergy advocate.
"Additionally, the speakers discussed the positive results they've experienced from being allergy-friendly, such as increased customers, sales, engagement, and loyalty,” he says.
Speakers at the event shared valuable tips, tools, and takeaways, which are summarized below.
- Ongoing training is imperative. In-depth food allergy training should be required for all staff, ideally more than once a year. When new team members are hired, they must be immediately educated about food allergy protocols.
- Restaurants can customize their approach to food allergy procedures in ways that work best for their staff and guests.
The restaurateurs at the AllergyEats event described different ways to accommodate food-allergic including the use of technology and interactive online menus, designating separate service lines in the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination, and 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 the entire party will visit. By winning the food-allergic guest's business, restaurants also attract their friends and family, boosting revenue and increasing profits up to 24 percent.
- Allergy-friendly protocols are vital for all commercial kitchens, not just in restaurants. Just like restaurants, there is a dichotomy in college dining halls between those that understand and accommodate food-allergic diners and those that don't.
For colleges, there is an opportunity to minimize risk as well as increase the student population, reaping financial benefits by becoming allergy-friendly.
- Customers 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. One way a restaurant can lessen this risk is to proactively ask guests whether anyone at the table has a food allergy.
- 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. Food-allergic guests that are treated well become customers for life.
The presenters at the event provided valuable information about accommodating food-allergic and gluten intolerant guests, reducing the fear around food allergies, and building customer loyalty and profits. They also shared tips to make restaurants safer for food-allergic and gluten intolerant diners.
"We've received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the conference's content and presenters, and, after hearing our experts' tips, attendees were inspired to elevate their food allergy protocols," Antico says.
"Some of the most helpful tips from the conference included proactively asking guests whether they have food allergies, using colored plates or frill picks to visually demonstrate allergy-friendly meals, designating allergy-friendly prep and pantry areas, and stocking commercial kitchens with allergy-friendly products like non-dairy milks, gluten-free breads and pastas, and pre-packaged desserts free of the Big Eight allergens."
"Attendees were pleased to hear a variety of ideas that are easy and inexpensive to implement," Antico says. "Becoming allergy-friendly doesn't need to be complicated or overwhelming, yet the business benefits can be tremendous."