There are 15 million food allergic people in the US, which means approximately 321,000 people in Arizona.

There are several changes that can be made in a restaurant to keep these customers safe without having much of an impact on how service runs. Frequently, the customer with the food allergies is the one deciding on where the group goes out to eat, and their experience affects the whole group’s.

When an allergic guest feels welcome, comfortable and safe in your restaurant, you’ve created a guest who will be loyal and more generously tip your servers. They’ll also sing your praises from the rooftops – a safe spot is hard to find!

Salad Station Lineup!
Make sure all items in the rear lines are produce. Any common allergen items (cheese, croutons or bread, nuts) are the last items in the line and don’t have to ‘pass over’ any other items, helping to prevent cross-contamination. Better yet, have longer containers for each item, like the picture!

Fryer Splits!
If you have more than one fryer, make one vegetarian. This keeps shellfish and fish allergy customers safe when they order things like French fries or fried pickles. If you have more than two at your disposal, and your menu supports it, consider having a seafood-only fryer. In an ideal world, there are fryers dedicated to vegetarian, gluten-free, meat and seafood.

Know the Basics!
Have staff KNOW the (allergen) contents of any gratis food, such as bread or chips and salsa, and what oil is in the fryers. When bread arrives on the table, the servers should know, at the very least, if it is safe for peanut and tree-nut allergic customers. Unsafe is completely acceptable and having the knowledge is certainly better than being unsure. Servers who confidently know the answers to these questions create a welcome and comfortable feeling for your food allergic customers.

Go Purple!
If you color code the kitchen, add purple. Purple is the color for food allergies. If you have purple cutting boards, knives and designated clean pans, you’ll keep cross-contamination to a minimum and keep your customers safer. It’s also easier to keep track of which orders are for food allergy customers as they move through the lines.

Encourage Conversation!
If a customer asks, always let them speak with the chef, kitchen manager, or anyone who’s knowledgeable about the contents of the menu. Many times, there are ingredients that aren’t obvious, and having a more detailed conversation eliminates some fear, creating an environment in which the customer not only feels safe but is safe.

CertiStar, Inc. is on a mission to protect and improve the safety and dining experience of men, women, and children vulnerable to food allergens. With our patent-pending MenuStar™ Software, we can help identify food allergy threats for your customers and reduce potential liabilities.

Read our article in Arizona Restaurant News.