AllergyEats, the leading guide to allergy-friendly restaurants nationwide, recently held their 3rd annual AllergyEats Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs & Food Service Professionals, and attendees benefited from the expert speakers’ valuable tips, tools and takeaways.
“Our expert panelists, including allergy-friendly restaurateurs, premiere food allergy trainers, prominent physicians/allergists, and others, spotlighted restaurant best practices in serving food allergic guests, training tips, ingredient substitutions, university dining solutions, and other actionable recommendations,” explained Paul Antico, Founder and CEO of AllergyEats, father of three food-allergic children and passionate food allergy advocate. “Additionally, the speakers discussed the positive results they’ve experienced from being allergy-friendly, such as increased customers, sales, engagement and loyalty.”
Key takeaways from the event included:
- Ongoing training is imperative. In-depth, ongoing food allergy training should be required for all staff, and be more comprehensive than just showing a short, basic food allergy video. Train staff continuously – ideally more than once a year. When new team members are hired, immediately educate them about your food allergy protocols.
- Protocols can be customized. There is no “one size fits all” set of accepted food allergy protocols, so restaurants can customize their approach in ways that work best for their staff and guests. The restaurateurs at the AllergyEats event described different ways they accommodate food-allergic diners – from using technology and interactive online menus, to designating separate service lines in the kitchen to prevent cross-contamination, to color-coding food-allergy tickets and plates.
- Becoming allergy-friendly is good for business. The food-allergic guest is the veto vote, dictating which restaurant their entire party will visit. By winning the food-allergic guest’s business, you’ll also attract their friends and family, which can boost your revenue dramatically and increase your profits up to 24% or more!
- Allergy-friendly protocols are vital for all commercial kitchens – not just restaurants’. Just like restaurants, there’s a dichotomy in college dining halls between those that understand and can accommodate food-allergic diners and those that don’t. For colleges, like restaurants and other institutions, there’s a great opportunity to minimize risk as well as increase the student population, thus reaping financial benefits by becoming allergy-friendly.
- The customer should own their food allergies. The primary responsibility for safety lies with food-allergic diners, yet statistics show that nearly half of people with food allergies don’t disclose their allergies when eating at restaurants. That’s not safe for the diner, nor fair for the establishment. One way a restaurant can lessen this risk is to proactively ask guests whether anyone at the table has a food allergy.
- The food allergy community is large, loyal and vocal. When restaurants work hard to accommodate food-allergic diners, these guests (as well as their family and friends) become loyal customers and vocal advocates, recommending the restaurant through word-of-mouth, online chat boards and high ratings on the AllergyEats app and website. Treat food-allergic guests well and you’ll have customers for life.
These all-star presenters provided valuable information about accommodating food-allergic and gluten intolerant guests, reducing the fear around food allergies, and building customer loyalty and profits. They also shared actionable tips to make restaurants safer for food-allergic and gluten intolerant diners.
“Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, is unpredictable and can progress quickly, without warning. Given millions of Americans live with or manage food allergies, a common cause of anaphylaxis, awareness and access to treatment are critical,” said Roger D. Graham, Jr., President, Mylan Specialty. “Mylan Specialty was proud to sponsor the third annual AllergyEats conference to support their efforts to educate restaurateurs and food service professionals about managing food allergies in dining establishments.”
“We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the conference’s content and presenters, and, after hearing our experts’ tips, attendees were inspired to elevate their food allergy protocols,” said Antico. “Some of the most helpful tips from the conference included proactively asking guests whether they have food allergies, using colored plates or frill picks to visually demonstrate allergy-friendly meals, designating allergy-friendly prep and pantry areas, and stocking commercial kitchens with allergy-friendly products like non-dairy milks, gluten-free breads and pastas and pre-packaged desserts free of the Big 8 allergens.”
“Attendees were pleased to hear a variety of ideas that are easy and inexpensive to implement,” Antico continued. “Becoming allergy-friendly doesn’t need to be complicated or overwhelming, yet the business benefits can be tremendous.”
AllergyEats (www.AllergyEats.com) is a free, peer-based website and app where people find and rate restaurants based solely on their ability to accommodate food allergies. The site, app and related social media forums help families with food allergies reduce the guesswork – and the anxiety – surrounding dining out with food allergies.
AllergyEats lists more than 750,000 restaurants nationwide, which people can rate, and it also offers web links, menus and more. Restaurants are easily searchable by geographic location, so people can find allergy-friendly restaurants around town and around the country.
The organization also offers a variety of opportunities for restaurateurs and food service professionals, including an annual food allergy conference. For more information, please visit www.AllergyEats.com.