How to Write a Restaurant Allergen Statement in 2021
Making a diner sick is every restaurant's worst nightmare—especially if it's due to an allergic reaction to an ingredient that's slipped into the dish by mistake. An estimated 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, so restaurants should take careful steps to protect their customers from consuming allergens for the sake of their patron's health and for their reputations (no one wants to risk a bad review!)
There are various kitchen procedures chefs must address to create an allergy management plan for their restaurant, the most crucial step is developing an allergy statement for the menu. Flagging possible allergens in your menu descriptions is a great way to keep customers informed and ensure they enjoy a delicious meal without any dangerous and unwanted repercussions.
In this article, you will learn:
- Why restaurants should take food allergies seriously
- How to write a restaurant allergy statement
- Ways restaurants can help diners with allergies feel safer
- How MarketMan's Allergan features can help your restaurant avoid allergic reactions
Why Restaurants Should Take Food Allergies Seriously
Paying careful attention to diner's allergies is essential. While allergic reactions to food can damage a restaurant's credibility and reputation, they can also result in legal action against the restaurant and even criminal convictions. Still, it's important to note that all involved—the customer and the restaurant staff—can be held liable for a reaction, depending on the state. Preventing an allergic reaction comes down to communication and cooperation between both parties.
The customer is responsible for communicating their allergy to the restaurant staff. The staff is responsible for ensuring the customer is safe by either confirming the allergen is not prepared in the requested dish or recommending dishes that are 100% free of the allergen. They can also refuse service if they aren't sure if the food will be safe for the customer.
According to the CDC, people can be allergic to almost any food, but eight foods or food groups account for the most severe allergic reactions in the US:
- crustacean shellfish
- tree nuts (including coconut)
Allergic reactions to food can range from mild symptoms like itchy, burning skin to more severe issues like difficulty breathing and death. Food allergies are a growing public health issue, and allergic reactions at restaurants are more common than one might think. A survey of people with food allergies found that one in three had a reaction in a restaurant.
How to Write a Restaurant Allergy Statement
Verbal communication can fail, so it's wise to provide written allergen information, too. Customers will feel more in control over their food choices, and you'll also better protect your restaurant legally. Here's where preparing an allergy statement comes in handy.
An allergy statement alerts customers of allergens present in the kitchen. Usually, these statements identify some or all of the eight allergens mentioned earlier and recognized by law, including wheat/gluten, milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and tree nuts.
Suppose you use any of the above eight allergens in your kitchen. In that case, it's a good idea to include a statement on every menu to inform customers of the possibility of allergic reactions. For example, if you're running a patisserie, your bakery items may contain wheat, eggs, milk, tree nuts. So your allergy statement may read: "Allergy statement: Menu items may contain or come into contact with WHEAT, EGGS, TREE NUTS, and MILK. For more information, please speak with a manager."
In addition to your allergen statements, you should also provide customers with an ingredient list for each menu item upon request. Diners can use these lists to check specific dishes and confirm for themselves whether it's free of the allergen(s) they're concerned about. If you're using prepared products from a third-party supplier, like frozen fries or chicken tenders, be sure to read their allergen and ingredient statements to relay that information to customers.
Some restaurants include symbols or icons to indicate which menu items are dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, etc. Others simply write "contains wheat and nuts" in the text next to the menu description so customers can determine which dishes they can safely eat. To save on reprinting costs for all your menus, you could print a few menus focusing on ingredient and allergen info and note all of the allergen-free items on the menu. Then, if a customer comes in with allergies, you can provide them with a detailed menu showing their options.
What Else Can Restaurants Do to Help Diners with Food Allergies Feel Safer?
The CDC recommends restaurants focus on specific steps to prevent and reduce food allergy reactions in their restaurant, such as the following:
- Train staff on food allergies. Staff should receive training on food allergies and gain fundamental knowledge about allergens. The CDC found that staff with less experience in the restaurant had less knowledge about allergies, so make sure the training you provide is extensive.
- Use separate areas and equipment to prepare and cook meals for diners with food allergies when you can. The CDC found that many restaurants did not prepare allergen-free food on different surfaces or equipment. If a separate cooking or prep area is not available, the person cooking should thoroughly wipe down surfaces and wash equipment before preparing food for customers with allergies.
- Have a strategy and protocol for serving customers with food allergies. The CDC discovered that restaurant staff knew more about food allergies if they worked in restaurants with a plan for serving customers with food allergies.
MarketMan's Allergen Features for Restaurants
Keeping track of allergens within your restaurant is easy with MarketMan's Cookbook. Cookbook is a restaurant management feature that stores all of your recipes and allows you to reference them with the software's responsive search system anytime. Multiple users can share recipes across devices, so both kitchen staff and servers can have access.
The Cookbook includes comprehensive allergen information for each dish, which ties dynamically to menu items. Each item is broken down into ingredients that MarketMan proactively tracks. So, whenever your chef adds new menu items using common allergens, the information will automatically populate on your menu. Servers can also use this allergen information to keep customers safe when they're ordering. Altogether, the Cookbook keeps both your customers and kitchen staff protected and informed potential food allergens.
Request a demo of MarketMan to start managing your recipes while efficiently providing allergen information to your customers.