ORLANDO, FL – Recently a server was arrested for serving a guest food he was highly allergic to, sending him into anaphylactic shock that resulted in a coma. Now is the time for real awareness and change! The exploding rise in food allergies is not showing signs of slowing or going away anytime soon. Yet many restaurants are still resistant or clouded by the myth that there are no real solutions which are not costly or overwhelming to implement. Not so. Addressing this challenge head on is not only the right thing, but it’s inevitable to the survival of restaurants as the trend continues.
Quoting a member of the Board of Directors of FAACT, Chef Keith Norman, “An Allergen guest is not an inconvenience or interruption of service, but rather a humbling opportunity to change a life.”
Working at Disney as a server for years, DineSafe’s Nick Caturanosays,” I have personally seen the genius of Disney as they’ve stayed ahead of the food allergy trend, embraced challenges, creating amazing experiences for families, guests and friends which has made Disney not only a theme park destination but a place to go where food allergy families can enjoy dining out together safely.” Nick continues: “Those chances for caring, connecting and problem solving are not only a real catalyst for embracing hospitality, but building an extremely loyal customer base (http://www.foodallergy.org/file/welcoming-guests-faan.pdf). Imagine that, increased revenue for doing the right thing at a time when some restaurant earnings are showing weakness on wall street.”
“Not a matter of if, but when,” says Executive Chef James Slattery of Big Fin Seafood in Orlando when talking on possible food allergy legislation. “If the food industry which understands its business, gets out ahead and creates the process and standards for dealing with allergens, legislators will work with structures in place, building on them. If not, they will have to regulate, from scratch, an industry they really don’t know and that will probably not be good.” When questioned about his serious approach to food allergies, Chef James simply responds, “It’s a matter of life and death for many of our guests, I don’t want anyone getting sick or even worse! ”
Head of Development at DineSafe, David Richard states, “We have consulted with many chefs, servers and restaurant owners and have addressed their needs and concerns in the continual development of our service. We are constantly streamlining and simplifying the experience, providing such tools as worksheets, resources and menu importers which can absorb and input an entire menu in seconds.”
What To Do:
1. Take it seriously and embrace the opportunity. Yes, some guests claiming they have food allergies are really just preferences, but as we’ve seen in the sad case in Quebec, a decision to ignore an allergen request can be devastating. Restaurants must treat every request with genuine concern, always assume it’s real. That culture will reflect from the top down.
2. #KnowWhatsInYourFood It’s not complicated, we know, we have done it. With our worksheet, go through your menu, stockroom and coolers. Fortunately allergen disclosure for the top 8 allergens is now standard, The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004. If two or three hour commitment is too much or want to make extra sure, trust a company like MenuTrinfo to do the work for you.
3. Educate yourself and staff, train, adapt, repeat. Groups like AllerTrain.com provide training resources online inexpensively. Discuss regularly in pre-meals, create a process that ensures fluid communication with all staff, from check in to food running. Take the guess work out of what needs to be done.
4. Cross contamination. A big one. Have a separate prep area and process, fry in a separate clean pan. Yes,it can be done. Sometimes there are no perfect solution, but care and honesty with guests as they themselves deal with the challenges, they live with, goes a long way to building bridges and creating solutions.
5. DineSafe App was created as a tool for not only guests but for staff as well. Managers, chefs, servers, hosts will have accurate realtime information. Changes and updates take seconds. From the app or office computer.
6. We agree with snacksafely.com that it should be standard to stock epinephrine auto-injectors in house in case of emergency. We also firmly believe in shared responsibility. We all forget some of the most important of things sometimes, but guests should always do their best to have their own EPI’s on them at all times.
DineSafe is available on the Apple App Store and on Google Play. Learn more at http://www.dinesafeapp.com.