Most studies indicate that at least 2.5% of the world’s population suffers from food allergies. That’s a lot of people and a lot of potential guests. Therefore, it’s not simply a considerate choice to be a more allergy-safe restaurant it’s also a way to attract and retain more guests.
Making changes to accommodate guests with allergies won’t only affect these guests it will also make it possible for their friends and family to invite them out for lunch and dinner. Food allergies, especially the severe kind, affect more people than just the person who has an allergy. Naturally, their loved ones worry too, and they’ll be more likely to stay home for dinner if a restaurant with allergy-friendly alternatives isn’t available.
The sum of this is that the 2.5% with allergies, as well as their friends and families, are potential guests that would happily book a table at your restaurant if they knew it was safe to do so. In other words, being an allergy-friendly restaurant is good for business!
There is a myriad of different food allergies. And while it’s possible to be allergic to practically all foods, these are the 8 allergens you’ll most often experience your guests asking about:
According to EU allergy rules that came into effect in 2014, restaurants in the EU are obliged to inform guests about allergens in the food they serve. This can be done either by writing the allergens on the menu, printed and online, or by making sure that the staff can answer questions about the most common allergens.
The allergens restaurants must inform guests about are the ones mentioned in the section above.
It’s essential that all waiters know about the ingredients in the food on your menu or that they can gain fast access to a list of allergens.
Remember, that guests with allergies also need to be informed about the risk of cross-contamination i.e., allergens in other ingredients handled on the same surfaces and with the same kitchen utensils.
With clear information about allergens and the risk of cross-contamination, it’s much easier for your guest to relax and make a decision they’ll feel safe about. It will also feel better for you and your staff to know that you’ve been as transparent as possible.
Sometimes this will mean that guests with severe allergies can’t eat at your restaurant, but it’s necessary to avoid dangerous situations. Some allergic reactions can cause very bad symptoms for weeks, and in worst-case scenarios, they can be life-threatening. That’s why being too careful isn’t a thing when it comes to allergies!
Finding good routines to handle allergies and remembering them every single day can be a challenge in a busy restaurant, but there are many ways to make it simpler.
One way is looking through the menu to find dishes where the allergens don’t improve the guests’ experience of the food. In dishes that contain mayonnaise made with egg, a good quick fix is to use vegan mayonnaise instead. By doing this, you unlock more menu options for guests who are allergic to eggs.
Experiment with gluten-free flour in some of your desserts and cakes, many of the recipes that only call for a small amount of flour in the first place will be equally delicious or maybe even better with a gluten-free alternative.
Chances are high that allergy-friendly dishes will be a hit among all guests, and that they won’t even notice the difference.
This was the case for Dominic Teague, executive chef at Indigo restaurant in Covent Garden’s One Aldwych hotel.
In an interview with the British newspaper Evening Standard, Dominic revealed that none of his guests noticed when he removed all gluten and dairy from his lunch and dinner menus. In fact, even his regulars praised the menu.
The only guests who were told were the ones who asked for gluten or dairy-free options, and they were surprised to hear that the entire menu was already safe for them.
Naturally, Dominic’s way of doing it won’t work for all restaurants, and some dishes are best with ingredients that contain allergens, but there’s a lot to win by removing allergens from dishes that are just as tasty without them!
When you’re making efforts to boost your restaurant’s allergy-friendliness, remember to go through the drink menu. If you don’t already have gluten-free beers, ask your suppliers about these — most of the best breweries offer them now. If you’re serving cocktails, have a look at them too, some cocktails such as whisky sour and gin fizz are made with egg whites, while other cocktails contain milk.
For cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate and other hot beverages stock up on lactose-free milk as well as oat milk, almond milk or other good alternatives that also get deliciously foamy when steamed.
Have you upgraded your menu with more allergy-friendly options? Or simply included a list of allergens on your menu? Make sure to spread the word!
Post pictures of your new allergy-friendly menu and dairy-free dishes on your restaurant’s Instagram and Facebook pages, share the good news in your stories and write a text for your website. This is good marketing on many levels.
Firstly, you attract new guests who can finally try your tasty food.
Secondly, you show all potential guests that you’re making responsible and considerate changes to your concept.
And finally, by including terms such as allergy-friendly (in your language) gluten-free, dairy-free and so on in the text on your website and social media platforms, your restaurant is more likely to appear in the search results when hungry guests are looking for an allergy-friendly place to eat!