Know thy customer is a golden rule in business.
When it comes to diners with dietary restrictions there are a lot of misinformed assumptions about food allergy & gluten free customers. These are 6 truths about these guests foodservice should know.
1. They want to eat out.
They really do want to eat out. It sucks having to plan your food every time you leave the house; whether you are visiting family or just going to the park. It’s hard not being invited anywhere or having almost zero spontaneity when you’re out and about.
Being able to have (at the very least) an aware conversation with staff helps to make eating out more possible.
2. Most are realistic.
The majority of food allergy diners are realistic. They know that it is just not possible for everyone in foodservice to accommodate their dietary restriction. However, when restaurants provide them with informed answers to their food allergy questions guests can make important ordering decisions and opens the door to choices.
Not everyone can accommodate (they get it) but everyone can communicate.
3. They don’t want to sue you.
Food allergy guests are not looking for a quick payday, they just want to eat. Guests will often overlook mistakes if they are genuine and without malice or incompetence. More often than not, if employees show even just a little interest in wanting to get it right, food allergy folks will bend over backward to try and help them understand.
4. They want to trust you.
First and foremost, even before discussing possible menu choices, a food allergy guest wants to trust that staff in foodservice know what they are talking about and that they will do what they say they are going to do. There is a total loss of control when trying to eat out. Food allergy customers cannot oversee the whole prep and service process before they arrive or even while they are onsite, so they need to believe what staff tells them and need to have faith that everyone is doing things right. That all takes an ENORMOUS amount of trust.
Staff that are well-trained exude competence and confidence which all lead to better trust.
5. Dining anxiety, it’s a thing.
What is really going on when a food allergy guest interrogates staff is, anxiety. It is because their trust has been tested often and they have been disappointed far too many times in the past. It doesn’t matter how much research a food allergy guest does before arriving they are still a huge jumble of nerves when they walk into a place for the first time (or even the second or third).
The best way for foodservice to reduce that anxiety is by having all staff being prepared and aware all the time. When they see staff “get it” they can begin to relax.
6. Food Allergy is a ‘Language’.
Food allergy is a ‘language’. Unfortunately, it is not a language that everyone in foodservice speaks. Given that food allergies are on the rise, someone with some type of food allergy is going to show up at the door. If staff can’t speak their language, they will not be able to properly communicate with the guest or even with coworkers. That’s when things get wonky and mistakes are made.
Even if a business cannot accommodate they can learn how to communicate with the food allergy public to provide knowledgable information that leads to informed and safer ordering decisions (on both sides of the table).