Offering options for allergy sufferers can help to boost a restaurant's business and its reputation.

Offering options for allergy sufferers can help to boost a restaurant's business and its reputation.

Allergies seem to be a more widespread problem in the UK than ever before, but restaurants which take them into consideration may see that it is good for business. This has been shown with the Bell and Bear in Rowley Regis, which launched a gluten-free menu six months ago and it's certainly seen the benefits, reports Eat Out magazine.

The decision to create a separate menu for those suffering from celiac disease, which means they are intolerant to gluten, came in response to a demand from customers. Stephanie Cox, licensee of the pub, said: "By having a separate menu, it is there for customers to read themselves so they don't have to ask. The customers don't have to feel embarrassed about ordering something 'different' or waiting to find out what they are able to eat."

Creating a different menu is not the only way to approach the issue of allergies, as items suitable for those with special dietary requirements can easily be incorporated onto the standard menu. Simply being aware that allergies are widespread can help and making sure that there are options for each category can help. Then they simply need to be labelled clearly so they are easily identified by those perusing the menu.

Waiting staff also need to be properly trained so that they can answer any questions with relation to food and allergies with confidence. Since some allergies can be life threatening it is not good for customers when staff um and ah about whether or not something is safe for them to eat. Kitchen staff must also ensure that items on the menu marked gluten-free or in a category relating to any other allergy do not come into contact with that food.

Customers appreciate this professional attitude towards allergies, which offers them peace of mind in their choices. As allergy sufferers can be part of a larger group, catering for them can help to boost sales, as the Bell and Bear has found, with a number of new customers each week coming just to sample the gluten-free menu. Customer feedback has also been positive, with innovative items added to the gluten-free offerings and separate areas and fryers used to cook the food.

Steven Pike, director of the Mystery Dining Company, said: "Part of the benefit conferred by responding to allergy requirements, if done in the right way, is that you demonstrate an awareness and willingness to support different dietary needs. This may not always be reflected in sales of the actual menu items themselves but can sometimes transfer to the general menu."
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