From peanuts to soy to eggs, there is a plethora of common food allergies out there, posing a challenge to restaurant patrons as well as the entire food and beverage industry. Fifteen million Americans have food allergies, many of which struggle to find restaurants that accommodate their needs. Meanwhile, restaurants and bars have much to fear about patrons suffering from allergic reactions, as many reactions can be serious or even deadly. With such a large number of people affected by food allergies to many common ingredients, it can be an overwhelming task for a restaurant to try and head off disaster before it strikes. Fortunately, there are several ways restaurant and bar owners can help avoid the risk of having a patron suffer an allergic reaction, as well as any legal fallout that could result.
List the Ingredients of the Menu
The majority of foods that trigger allergies can be broken down into several basic categories: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts—like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, etc.—soy, wheat and other grains containing gluten, fish, and shellfish. While that may be a bit of a large list, the benefit is restaurants can make a note of dishes containing these foods so patrons with specific allergies know which dishes to avoid.
Promote Open Communication
Prevent an incident by opening up a dialogue between patrons and servers. Post signage where patrons can clearly see them encouraging those with food allergies or concerns to speak with their server. That way, patrons can request ingredient substitutions on menu items before ordering or servers can suggest safe options for them. Consider teaching your waiters and waitresses about food allergies and sensitivities so they can respond to patrons’ questions in a sensitive, knowledgeable manner. Keep in mind, most people with allergies and sensitivities are tired of constantly explaining their dietary restrictions to servers when they dine out. A little preparation in advance goes a long way.
Offer Multiple Menus
These days, so many people have special dietary needs or food allergies that it makes sense for restaurants to offer multiple menus. Accommodate patrons with dietary restrictions by offering gluten- or shellfish-free fare, or even vegetarian and vegan options. Expanding your restaurant’s selection will not only provide options for those with food allergies, it will also draw new crowds of customers to your restaurant. Patrons with food allergies have a tough time finding places they can eat, and they will appreciate a restaurant that fully accommodates their needs.
Plan for Special Orders
From washing hands to making sure surfaces have been properly sanitized, workers need a set routine for when special orders come through to the kitchen. Ensure your employees follow a set protocol for keeping special orders separate from contaminants so when such an order comes in, the kitchen is prepared.
Plan for an Emergency
In the event of an emergency, make sure your staff has a clear-cut plan on what to do. Train your employees on recognizing and responding to the signs of anaphylaxis. In some states, restaurants are allowed to keep EpiPens on hand to administer in case of allergic reactions. Educate your staff on allergic reactions and create an emergency procedure. Make sure you practice drills and run through the procedure every so often to make sure everyone has it down. Review the procedure and emergency signage frequently so everyone is comfortable with it.
Consult with a Restaurant Professional
All in all, being prepared is the best line of defense. Having excellent coverage for your restaurant gives you total peace of mind. At Restaurant Programs of America, we are a full-service insurance agency that solely focuses on the restaurant industry. We have provided the best property and casualty insurance for the restaurant industry for more than 40 years. Let us put our experience, focus, and integrity to work for your business. To request a quote, please contact us by calling (866) 324-1099.