Why not being afraid of allergens will increase your turnover


Why not being afraid of allergens will increase your turnover

Why not being afraid of allergens will increase your turnover

Recent headline news regarding the severity of allergens is understandably having a knock-on effect throughout the hospitality industry. Guests are seeing this through the food ordering process where it is becoming more and more difficult. Historically the onus of providing allergy friendly food has been on the operator but now it’s attempting to switch gears.

Many operators now feel that to cover themselves, their only option is to provide an allergy folder – an overwhelming never-ending spreadsheet essentially. The folder works so that team members don’t have to store copious amounts of information in their head, but more importantly, by asking the guest to make their own choice by providing them with all of the information, the responsibility is put back on the guest.

For guests with severe allergies, this likely fills them with extra confidence with ordering as they can see what’s in the dish in black and white. Saying that, it can make for a rather stressful guest experience, leaving the guest frantically scanning through the folder and cross checking. The folder also risks the guest feeling a little left out whilst the rest of the table chat amongst themselves and wait to order. Not only that but when your team make dish recommendations to other members of the party but can’t tell you whether your chips are gluten free, you wish you’d stayed at home.


When it comes to taking allergen orders, something that many operators have in practice is that a Manager takes the order. Again, this can make the guest feel assured that there are certain procedures in page but also alienate the guest. In an ideal world, all team members would be trained to deal with such guests, making for a far slicker guest experience.

A good way to combat the alienation of guests is to ask a party whether they have any allergens when they call to book or first enter your venue, that way a manager can be alerted and be the server for the whole visit. With no switching between servers or orders taken twice (which is often the case), it will be appreciated that the team do their utmost to keep the guest experience as similar as possible for those with allergies.

Food trust and quality

HGEM’s Head of Client Success, Jason Horn believes that there is a direct link between procurement and the experience that your front of house team provides. Operators should work closely with their suppliers and encourage them to be more responsible with the quality that they provide. Allergens and specific food based diets are on the rise, yet many suppliers make it difficult to simplify menus by bulking out products with items such as gluten.

If good quality was guaranteed, more items would be allergy friendly meaning that teams would have less knowledge to obtain and easily get to know your menu – with less need to whip out the folder!

Many operators now provide gluten free sausages as standard with even regular eaters wanting more meat and less bulk - today’s health conscious consumer wants quality over quantity, and they are willing to pay for it. According to our latest survey, nearly half of guests (44%) actively seek healthy/plant-based options when eating out. 88% of guests now cite health as being important or very important to their daily lifestyle.

Another dish that should be standard are chips. They are sometimes coated in flour, making for cheaper or easier production but a side salad won’t always cut it. Even when chips are gluten free, they often come with a disclaimer because they are cooked in the same fryer as other items.

There’s a small fish & chip shop in Lydney, Gloucester where all food is gluten and dairy free as standard, cutting out the risk of cross contamination entirely by providing great quality food and a good experience for all consumers. When working with good allergy free ingredients and not including bulking agents and emulsifiers, you don’t skimp on quality.

It’s not just the simple dishes that need to be improved of course, more exciting and indulgent items need to be created for guests with allergens. Take Christmas drinks for example. There isn’t always an alternative for seasonal items such as ginger-bread lattes. Selling seasonal and more indulgent items for guests with allergies could be a lucrative move for your business.

It’s always about People and Trust, people buy from people they trust.


If a server doesn’t know which sides are or aren’t gluten free, they won’t offer them. The same goes for recommendations. A team member might be confident in recommending their favourite dish but when recommending their favourite allergen dish, they may well come unstuck.

If, however your team knows that there are processes and procedures backing them up right from procurement, with less choice but more quality, they will have more confidence in what is in your products, allowing for an easier repour with your guests. By making recommendations and upselling, teams leave guests feeling truly catered to which in effect will increase your bottom line.

What else can be done?

Whilst providing allergy friendly food as standard isn’t always possible, the operators who have it right are those that provide entirely separate menus that they know inside out. With a supporting and concise allergen folder to address additional allergens to what’s on the menu, but with team members taking charge of this and cross references themselves, this takes the pressure and stress off of the guest and reassures them that they are in capable hands.

When it comes to back of house, things like having two fryers so that you can always guarantee gluten free chips would be great. Rather than having a small section in kitchens for allergy friendly prep, why not have a small section for food that contains allergens with much less risk of cross contamination.

If things changed at supplier level, simplifying things for both the guest and your team, you can provide the guest experience that all guests deserve. By thinking more outside the box and creating the same variety for all types of guests, you allow more opportunity for recommendations and upselling, making guests feel that you care and increasing your bottom line.

HGEM’s mystery visits allow you to measure, monitor and improve your guest experience. We can assess how your team deal with allergens as well as their upselling efforts. We can also help you to see which dishes on your allergen menu are favourites. For more information get in touch today on 01225 470999 or email enquiries@hgem.com.

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