During my time with CertiStar®, I’ve learned a lot. Food is at the center of our existence and when food makes people sick, the impact is vast. Think about restaurants who have inadvertently made someone sick. Not only can it be detrimental to the customer, but it can impact the finances of the company and potentially damage their perception. There are so many choices when it comes to dining out that if I have ANY reason at all to NOT go somewhere there are many other choices!
CertiStar® offers solutions that can help restaurants organize their menus to allow for quick searches through their recipes/ingredients for the 170+ foods known to cause an allergic reaction in people. I have spoken with restaurant operators, as well as people with food allergies, who tell me basically the same thing regarding the current conversation around food allergies at the restaurant.
It looks like this…
- The guest is forced to have a conversation with the Server or Cashier.
- The server/cashier then seeks out their front of house (FOH) manager.
- The FOH manager then comes over to the guest to have them repeat the information regarding their food allergy.
- The FOH manager then takes their notes/memories of the conversation to the back of house (BOH) manager and repeats the allergies or intolerances.
- The BOH manager then utilizes their extensive knowledge of the menu to offer some possible options for the guest.
- At this point either the FOH or BOH manager goes back out and has yet another conversation with the guest.
On a busy shift, this back and forth can be extremely disruptive to the entire restaurant plus, something could get lost in translation! While all this conversation is happening, the FOH/BOH staff are focusing on one single guest leaving other guests and service responsibilities neglected. There is also the other members of the food allergic guest’s party being ignored. Most times, the food allergic guest is aware of all this disruption they’ve caused and only through years of practice are they able to pretend like they aren’t embarrassed for receiving all this “high maintenance” attention.
Every 3 minutes a food allergy sends someone to the emergency room. This works out to roughly 200,000 people every year and the problem is growing. Since 2010, there has been a 150% increase in the number of people with food allergies. At this point, we are far beyond this being a “one-off” problem that restaurants need to address occasionally. Most restaurant staff that I’ve spoken to are hearing about food allergies and intolerances multiple times PER SHIFT.
The restaurant operators are dealing with this every day while the people at “corporate” are focused on how to get their guests to come back just one more time per year. People with food allergies are loyal in the extreme and if a restaurant takes care of them, they will return! Go figure since that restaurant kept them ALIVE, they didn’t have to be the butt of their group’s jokes, and were made to feel like they had a choice in what to eat…you know, like a normal person!
I’ve also learned that people with food allergies are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This basically means that anything that you can say about a person with a physical disability can be applied to a person with food allergies. If the restaurant has made reasonable accommodations for people with physical disabilities then shouldn’t they do the same for people with food allergies?
I’ve heard from many people with food allergies who have simply been denied service because the restaurant doesn’t want to “risk” serving them. We understand that serving food-allergic guests can be a challenge and it may seem like doing business as usual and not taking on the risk of serving a food allergic customer will reduce your liability. This is simply not true, and it could actually increase your liability! In fact, the maximum civil penalty for the first violation of ADA Title III is $55-$75,000 and the maximum for any subsequent violation is $150,000.
Times they are a changing! What once worked is no longer relevant. There are 170+ foods that are known to cause an allergic reaction in people and kudos to the restaurants that even look at the Top 8 allergens and how it impacts their menus. But it’s simply not enough – your customers need to know that you care about them. A food allergic customer is just like every other customer and you want them to have an amazing experience so they come back again and again. CertiStar® can help.