The common challenge many restaurants face is coming up with suitable dishes for customers with food allergies and intolerances. Here, you'll find 9 practical tips to help you create dishes that are safe and free from allergens for these diners and give them the information they need to make the right choices.
1. Providing accurate information
Making sure diners with food allergies get the right information about ingredients used can help them make more informed decisions about what to order. This can also help you avoid any mishaps or allergic reactions your diners might face.
2. Make your menu easy to understand
For diners with food allergies, make sure you provide information about the ingredients clearly and prominently on your menu. You can also add a printed note at the bottom of your menu or website that reads, "For those with food allergies, please inform your waiter and we'll be happy to help."
3. Keep menu and website up to date
If you have a website that features your menu, make sure to keep it updated with the latest dishes and ingredients used. Do the same for all printed materials (e.g. menus, brochures) in your restaurant too.
4. Create a plan
- Decide who will deal with guests’ questions about nutritional information and make this person the one to handle diners in the restaurant or those who call in advance to ask about the menu.
- Designated someone or a team to be responsible for checking all ingredients used in your menu and take note of possible allergens.
- Make sure your staff are trained to handle an allergic reaction if it happens.
5. Checking ingredients
Make sure your chefs check all ingredients and look out for any allergen information. This should be done regularly as manufacturers may change an ingredient without prior warning.
6. Identify allergens in unexpected places
- Desserts may contain allergy-causing ingredients like nuts so use fruits as an alternative.
- Sauces may contain allergens in their ingredients.
- Dishes covered with pastry can potentially hide ingredients containing allergens during visual inspections.
- Buffet tables can lead to cross-contact with dishes containing allergens.
- Worcestershire sauce often can contain fish like anchovies or sardines.
- Barbecue sauce may contain allergens like pecans.
7. Always start fresh
It's important that you discard a meal completely if a mistake is made at any point during the preparation. Simply removing an allergy-causing ingredient is not a solution (e.g. scraping nuts off the top of an ice-cream or removing cheese from pasta).
8. Avoid cross-contact
Cross-contact happens when you accidentally mix a little of the allergy-causing food with an otherwise safe food during preparation or service. Make sure to have a designated station and equipment set aside when preparing dishes for diners with allergies.
9. Don't panic
If a guest suffers from an allergic reaction, do not panic and call emergency medical services immediately. It's important to train your team about food allergens and how to react to an allergic reaction appropriately.