Eating out as a free from customer has always been a minefield, restaurants sometimes are unsure of guidelines, many do not know the difference between a dairy or an egg allergy or even think an intolerance is ‘mild’ and not too much to be concerned about.
Below are 6 areas to be aware of when serving the Free From customer, of course there are more but these will help you on your way to ensuring a positive and safe experience when serving the food allergy, coeliac and intolerant customer
- Positive Communication: When I ask about allergy information the first response is “Of course we cannot guarantee a 100% free from your allergen” As a trainer I am aware 100% allergy free cannot always be guaranteed, however find a way of communicating what you can do do rather than what you can’t is a more positive response. Explain to the customer about your procedures and processes, this will help the the customer make an informed decision over their meal. It will also give them confidence in your knowledge on cross contact – which is what all free from customers want to hear.
- Serving Dishes: The food allergy, coeliac and intolerant customer needs to be aware what you are serving your food on, especially if a porous product, like a chopping board, slate etc. Small particles of allergen can get caught in cuts and then be passed on to the free from customer, no matter how the item is cleaned. Fries served in baskets (as per the image) can also be high risk of cross contamination if used to serve products which contain gluten as again the allergen can get into the nooks and can be a serious risk for the severely allergic and coeliac customer Remember allergens are not destroyed by heat and allergens need to be removed!
- Sauces and Accompaniments: Inform the Free From customer of dressings and sauces if not clearly mentioned on the menu. Offer to serve dressings separately as some dressings can contain allergens. Example; Caesar dressings contains milk and fish, and French dressing contains mustard.
- Are Eggs dairy ? Do your staff know the difference between egg and dairy as allergens? Many people mistakenly think that because traditionally eggs are sold in the dairy section that they are included within dairy allergies. Dairy is any milk product that comes from a mammal, ie: cow, goat, sheep. If the customer has a lactose allergy they may still be able to eat dairy that has been processed, ie Parmesan cheese. or strong cheeses, and some buffalo cheese. However, someone with a true dairy (Milk) allergy will not tolerate any milk products. So remember Mayonnaise does not contain dairy unless milk or cream has been added, so always check your labelling.
- Are intolerance’s less important than allergies? Do you know the difference between an allergy and an intolerance? Always insure staff have allergy training so that there is no confusion over some of the common misconceptions about allergens. I was recently asked by a waiter if I had an allergy or intolerance as he explained they took extra care with people with allergies. Staff should be trained not to differentiate between allergies, intolerances or coeliac disease as symptoms can be severe for all.
- Communication: Be tolerant, some people due to poor understanding and training perceive the Free From customer as ‘difficult’, when the reality is they just want to know if they can eat a safe meal without the fear of repercussions. Parents of children with allergies, will be very cautious and it may feel like being interrogated but they want reassurances of your procedures, they are not trying to trip you up.
If you would like to find out how you can increase your options for the food allergy, coeliac disease or intolerance’s customer in this growing market call us today for a FREE 15 minute consultation – No obligation Call 07732637292