The Basics of Food Allergies

Food allergies are on the rise, and all food service staff and owners should be concerned and prepared to serve those with special dietary needs.  Below, we break down some of the basics on the proper response and how to serve these loyal diners.  Training with the AllerTrain Suite of Courses  and ongoing training as in AllerSTAR are a few of the basics  for serving success for these customers.  Additional tools, such as food allergy posters in English or Spanish and AllerCards, can be found in the AllerTrain Store.

Emergency 1st Response?

Always begin by asking a guest who appears to be having an allergic reaction if he or she has medication to treat a food allergic reaction. Encourage that diner to self administer if they have their medication

Call 911

Do not move the guest from the area where they are having the reaction, but help to make them as comfortable as possible.

Managing the Situation

Have a staff member wait for emergency help to arrive.

Do not leave the guest alone who is having an allergic reaction.  Be close at hand to assist wherever possible.

Remain calm and in command of the situation.

Educate Your Staff

Have a training program be your standard for all employees to handle food allergies and those diners with special dietary needs

One size does not fit all.  Have the appropriate level of accredited training based on staff:

  • Job tasks
  • Education level
  • Needs

Manager level training such, AllerTrain can be take HERE

Food handler/worker training, AllerTrain Lite can be take HERE

The Right Tools For the Job

Food allergy-friendly small wares in your commercial kitchen should be easy to identify, clean, ready-to-use, and available to your staff.

The color purple is the industry’s chosen color to identify food allergen tools for the back and front of the house.

In some cases you will need to use barrier products like foil or parchment paper to create a safe zone to prep or cook allergen safe food in.

Have a Plan in Place

Each and every location that serves food to the public needs to have a clear policy.

The minute any guest declares they have an allergy, you are on notice so have the steps spelled out for the successful service.

Understand exactly what the diner is telling you and make sure you are clear on what they can and can not have.  Communication is key.

Recipes and Choices

Written recipes can be the difference between life and death for those with food allergies.  They make transparency possible.

Today, there are a huge variety of items and products you can add to your menu and establishment that are already allergen-free and safe.  Consider all diners when making up your menu choices.

For most special requests are not to be “picky.” They are a medical necessity.  Always assume that is the case.

Read Ingredient Labels

Nothing is harder than doing all the right stuff only to discover too late the ingredients in a product have changed and harmed someone.

Always double check the label of each product to be used on a special dietary needs diner’s meal.

When not sure what an ingredient is, look it up, ask or decide on the side of caution.  Better to steer a diner to a different menu choice than ever to take a chance.

Flow of Food Accuracy

Know your flow of food from loading dock to table top every step of the way.

Be mindful of the following steps:

  • Ordering
  • Receiving
  • Prepping
  • Cooking
  • Plating
  • Delivering
  • Satisfaction Check with Diner

Follow Up with Diners

Assure their special dietary needs were met and handled successfully.

Ask the guest to share with others about their success so your efforts can be rewarded with additional business.

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