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Allergy friendly or annoying?

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Getting the balance right when it comes to providing allergy friendly food.

Training front of house staff on allergy information and ensuring kitchen staff are meticulous in avoiding cross contamination is paramount for operators - more than ever after recent events in the industry. Communication is of course key between front and back of house when it comes to allergies, if one member of staff isn’t on top form, it could get serious for the guest and your business.

One thing that is overlooked however, is the guest experience that often comes with having an allergy or intolerance. One thing that certainly stands out for these guests can be feeling singled out as well as a nuisance - not an experience worth shouting about.

As part of their allergy policy, some high street chains insist that a manager deals with your order if you have allergies, presumably as with other responsibilities, they are more trusted to give correct information, accurately take orders and deliver it directly to the kitchen. But shouldn't doing such things be part of standard training and practice for all staff?

It's great that these operators take allergies seriously but from a guest point of view this can be rather embarrassing and annoying. Often when half the table have already ordered with a regular team member, as soon as you mention you have allergies, the team member explains that the manager must take your order instead and that this will guarantee no cross contamination. You and your table don't only have to wait for the manager to appear, the rest of your table has to repeat their order, the manager then explains again the reasons they are here to assist you - talk about standing out.

So, perhaps some policies need to change? Guests with allergies don't want to be reminded that they're different when they just want a relaxed meal with friends. If trust was put into all employees to deal with allergy policies correctly then orders could be taken with everyone else's which would make the difference. It feels like more trust also needs to be put into guests - if a guest has severe allergies and would like reassurance from their server as well as the manager then great. Operators must understand that guests know what they want and need and that they trust that all of your team know how to do the rest.

Guests will often call a restaurant or check out their menu online before visiting - venues are mostly chosen purely on the basis that they cater to the one guest with allergies - it's worth bearing this in mind. The rest of the table could choose to dine elsewhere next time, but if you market yourself as allergy friendly, perhaps the focus should be on these guests - focus in the right way, ensuring they have a great time rather than giving them special attention that really doesn't feel special at all.

For help refining and assessing your allergy policies, get in touch today.

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