Posts Tagged ‘food allergies’

Understanding the Gluten-Free Diner

January 16, 2013

People who are born with a food allergy or intolerance or develop one later in life often approach dining out with a certain amount of trepidation. This fear is well justified considering that accidental consumption of the offending substance can cause serious illness and even death. Gluten allergies, in particular, can be especially difficult to manage.  As a restaurateur, it’s important to understand the needs of your gluten-free customers and to provide thorough training to your employees to avoid mishaps.

Wheat Allergies, Gluten Sensitivities and Celiac Disease – What’s the Difference?

Allergies and intolerances come in many different forms, and one of the first things to realize about gluten is that gluten intolerance and wheat allergies don’t always go hand in hand. In fact, many diners who are allergic to wheat can actually eat several other types of high-gluten grains, such as barley and rye, without problems.

Celiac disease is a lifelong autoimmune disorder that damages and inflames the lining of the small intestine. Diners with this condition must avoid gluten at all costs or suffer severe health repercussions.  These individuals are highly sensitive to even the tiniest amount of gluten, and along with avoiding likely suspects such as beer, pizza, and bread, they are susceptible to gluten cross-contamination from places like cutting boards and fryers.

Although gluten intolerance or sensitivity is not the same thing as Celiac disease, the symptoms are similar and individuals with gluten sensitivity often have to follow the same type of diet. Unlike Celiac patients, however, those with gluten intolerance can sometimes consume gluten – depending on their level of sensitivity.

Keeping the Monkey Wrench Out of the Gears by Training Employees about Gluten Allergies

While it’s important to train employees to take gluten allergies seriously in order to avoid mishaps with customers, it’s also important to be able to accommodate gluten-free diners easily without throwing a wrench in the gears of your operation. Restaurants serve hundreds of plates a day, and the only way to ensure that a gluten-free request does not disrupt the flow is to train employees well about how to handle the request. Many restaurants do this by creating a ‘gluten-free’ station to avoid cross-contamination and by designating one employee to be in charge of cooking the gluten-free food to ensure quality.

Creating Foods that Gluten-Free Diners Love

Most people with gluten allergies have given up breads, pastas, and fried foods as a lost cause long ago – and usually, not by choice. As a result, restaurants have a unique opportunity to treat gluten-free customers by providing them with the opportunity to eat gluten-free variants of these types of food.

For example, a little experimenting with a mix of white and brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch can yield crispy, crunchy, and delicious fried chicken that you can’t even tell is gluten-free.

Thanks to the rising awareness of gluten allergies, there are tons of delicious, gluten-free recipes out there. A little experimentation and a commitment to meeting the needs of your gluten-free customers can make all the difference in how often this demographic of diner frequents your establishment.

Accommodating Restaurant Guests with Food Allergies

August 9, 2012

It is reported that there are currently 15 million people in the United States with food allergies. When these people choose to dine out, they trust much of their health and safety to the eating establishment that they choose. The consequences of serving the wrong thing to an allergic patron can be devastating, causing anything from minor swelling to anaphylactic shock and even death.

Restaurant management can help avoid this by taking certain measures to ensure that patrons are aware of allergens on the menu and food preparers are aware of the patron’s allergies.

Communicate Carefully

In order to keep from serving something dangerous to an allergic patron, the kitchen staff must know of the allergy. Servers should encourage patrons to notify them of any members of the party that have a food allergy. Post a sign for guests to see as they walk in the restaurant, or display the request prominently on the menu asking guests to please let their server know if they have a food allergy before ordering.

Many guests with allergies neglect to do this if they are not asked because they rely upon the menu to tell them what each item contains. However, it is much safer for the server to know about the allergy up front, since often the allergen may not be listed in the menu descriptions.

Also, servers should be trained to remember which menu items contain common allergens like eggs, shellfish, or nuts. Waitstaff should always be up to date on the menu anyway, but it can be especially helpful if they can tell a guest which items contain peanuts or peanut products as they order, or point out which salad dressings contain dairy.

Naturally, it would be nearly impossible for every server to remember every ingredient of every dish on the menu, so servers should still notify the kitchen of the allergy so that the chef can make sure that the guest’s dish does not contain anything that could cause an allergic reaction.

Servers can also learn to recognize when it is appropriate to ask a patron if they have a food allergy. A guest who asks many questions about a certain ingredient in different dishes may have an allergy that the kitchen staff should know about. Encourage waitstaff to be tactful in asking for this kind of information, perhaps asking it as a general query to the whole table rather than an irritated response to a guest with a lot of questions.

Assembling Options

Managers may also consider putting together an allergy menu as a way to prevent allergic reactions, and to accurately offer allergic guests many pleasing options. This menu would contain all menu items with each and every ingredient listed beside them including all spices, cooking oils, and garnishes.

For items that contain pre-made ingredients, the labels for them should be photocopied and included in the list next to the menu item. Common allergens could be highlighted for quick identification. Servers should take the allergic guest’s order, consult the allergy menu and the chef, and hopefully present the guest with options that are both safe and delicious.

Becoming Allergy Conscious

July 5, 2011

Over 18 million people are known to have a food allergy, and about 3 million have been diagnosed with a type of gluten intolerance known as Celiac disease.  Seeing these numbers, it may be wise for restaurants and restaurateurs to look into how to accommodate these guests.


If a restaurant is to become sensitive to the needs of all these customers, it has to make the commitment to do so.  It may not take very much money to become a sensitive partner with those with gluten intolerances and allergies, but it will take hard work on the part of members of the restaurant’s staff.


One way to start becoming more allergy conscious is to list the ingredients used in the food being prepared.  This is not an overly hard thing to do, and it can result in a customer feeling more at ease about what he or his family member is eating.


It also helps to show customers with special dietary needs that they are important.  Having a chef come out and discuss dishes with them or simply developing a gluten-free menu are other ways some restaurants have helped customers with special dietary needs feel wanted and special.


It is also important that there is no cross-contamination, particularly when dealing with Celiac disease.  Separate cooking utensils, pans, etc. must be used for dishes than contain gluten than for dishes that are gluten-free.


This course of action also puts responsibility into the hands of the employees.  Proper training is key.  The staff must be able to properly relay which orders are gluten-free, for example, and the cooking staff must prepare these meals in the correct manner to avoid problems.


It does take time and effort to develop a more allergy sensitive restaurant, but customers with special dietary needs will appreciate the time and care you take.  That, of course, can lead to customer loyalty which in turn can lead to more restaurant revenue.