Imagine a customer has an allergic reaction to a meal prepared by your chef. Perhaps they have trouble breathing, faint, or begin to vomit. The episode turns your whole restaurant into a scene of chaos as customers look on and the staff tries to help the customer.
This is a situation no restaurant owner or manager wants to face. Foremost, of course, is your concern for your customer’s well-being. Still, an episode like this can also hurt your business – disruption in service, a hit to your restaurant’s reputation, and a possible lawsuit. And more lawsuits can mean higher Restaurant Insurance costs.
Approximately 15 million people in the U.S. are affected by food allergies, resulting in about 30,000 emergency room visits and 150-200 deaths every year. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Nearly half of fatal food allergy reactions over a 13-year period were caused by food from a restaurant or other food service establishment.”
According to the FDA’s 2017 Food Code, a person in charge must “demonstrate knowledge of the major food allergens regulated by the FDA, as well as the symptoms of a food allergy reaction. The Food Code also specifies that retail and foodservice managers be made aware of the seriousness of food allergies, including the potential for reactions, anaphylaxis, and death; to know the 8 (soon to be 9) major food allergens, to understand food allergen ingredients and labeling; and how to avoid cross-contact during food preparation and service.
“In addition to a manager being aware of food allergy safety, the Food Code requires that the person in charge ensure employees are properly trained in food safety, including food allergy awareness as it pertains to their jobs.”
5 Tips to Minimize the Risk of an Allergic Reaction in Your Restaurant
Proper training is the first step to minimizing the risk of experiencing the scene described above. Yet, the CDC reports “fewer than half of members of the restaurant staffs surveyed in 278 restaurants had received training on food allergies.” In fact, one survey discovered that “some managers and staff incorrectly believed someone with a food allergy could safely eat a small amount of that allergen.”
Both back and front-of-house staff should be trained on the following:
- The ingredients used to prepare each menu item
- The most common food allergens
- The most common symptoms
- How to prevent cross-contamination
- What to do if a customer does have an allergic reaction
Keep Them Separated
When possible, restaurants should use separate equipment and prep areas for cooking meals for customers with food allergies. If that isn’t possible, the area should be thoroughly wiped down and equipment washed before preparing food for someone with allergies.
Here are tips from Total Food Service:
- Change aprons, wash hands, and sanitize prep surfaces.
- Use a piece of foil on the grill to act as a barrier between the food and grill.
- Use separate fryers and utensils, plates, glassware, etc., that are washed, sanitized, and stored separately.
Provide Ingredient Lists
Make a list of ingredients or recipes for all menu items available to customers.
Have a Plan
Have a plan in place to serve customers with food allergies. Culinary Agents, Inc. advises that the plan should include the following:
- How to address the reservation during the lineup
- How to communicate the allergy across departments
- How to answer any questions a guest regarding the menu
- Who is responsible for checking the ingredients
- How to avoid cross-contamination,
- How to notify the kitchen of the allergy
- How to mark the ticket in the kitchen
Protect Your Restaurant With the Right Insurance!
Unfortunately, sometimes – despite your best efforts – a customer has an allergic reaction to something prepared in your restaurant. That’s where the right insurance can help. Not only do the agents at American Insuring Group specialize in restaurant insurance to ensure you have the right coverage, as independent agents, they check with multiple insurance companies to ensure you pay the lowest price for that coverage.
Call American Insuring Group to start saving today at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848, or connect with us online.