The Value of Allergy Free Menu Knowledge.

Gone are the days where people order items straight off your menu. Customers chopping and changing your perfectly designed menu items as though they’re stood at a deli counter is becoming the norm. The most noticeable element of this cultural change is the rise of allergies. Now, some in the industry may scoff at allergies, especially when they pertain to some everyday items like garlic, however we are here to serve and to serve is to accommodate our guests and their needs, no matter what our opinion of those needs may be.

Not Knowing is Embarrassing

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First and foremost, your servers should be required to know what items can be made available to suit the most common of allergies such as gluten, dairy, and nut. With such allergies being so common place nowadays (barely a shift goes by where I don’t have to help a guest who has an allergy or intolerance) knowing substitutions and which dishes suit such dietary restrictions should be as common place as the food itself. Not knowing is embarrassing as well as time consuming for your busy employees who then have to go and ask the kitchen staff or someone else to find an answer. Having to do this also gives the guest the impression that they’re being difficult, and can lead some to feel guilty; not an emotion you want to evoke in your guests in your restaurant.

Cross Contamination

This is a topic that is often not fully considered by those in the Front of House of a restaurant. Cross contamination is a real thing and your waitstaff should know to alert your customers of this. If you make pizzas in your restaurant it’s highly likely you’ll be throwing flour around your kitchen; customers with Celiac disease or a gluten allergy need to be made aware of this. Two of the most common areas of cross contamination in the kitchen are the fryer and flat top, where items heavy in gluten often share cooking space with others.

Diets and Their Variety

Diets are no longer just for loosing weight and there are even diets created to help people find out if they have any allergies. The rise of the diet means we have even more peoples dietary restrictions for us to cater for and whilst some of them may be easy, such as no starch, others are more complicated and can be similar to allergies. Being able to accommodate such optional dietary restrictions will again showcase your restaurants professionalism, make your guests feel at ease and welcomed, as well as increase the chance that they’ll return to your location for the same high standard of service.

Your back of house staff are, currently, probably better versed in what items will fit certain dietary requirements because they make those dishes every day. When training your front of house staff on allergy knowledge you should consider involving your back of house staff too. Not only will this cement their education but both sides of the house can learn from each other. It can be a unique team building experience focused around your menu rather than the usual social occasion. You should install allergy related modifier buttons into your POS to improve communication between the floor and the kitchen. Increasing your staff’s allergy related menu knowledge will improve the customer experience ensuring better service from your employees. Doing all of this will increase the depth of your employees general menu knowledge; and that can’t be a bad thing!

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Benjamin Michael Beddow

Benjamin Michael Beddow

Food and Beverage Professional

As a food and beverage professional for over ten years, Ben has spent most of his time behind the bar, giving him a broad and in-depth knowledge of all things drinkable and drink related. Now, as a traveling freelance writer exploring the gastronomy, drinks, and food service industry of the world, Ben has taken his knowledge and experiences to the world wide web to share with others. The love for the trade never dies and Ben can still be found running around restaurants and slinging drinks in ski resorts in the USA during the winter season.

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