Ten Easy Ways to Accommodate Customers with Allergies
There's nothing more frustrating for customers than going to a restaurant and being unable to eat because of an allergy. Until recent years, few restaurants accommodated people with allergies. If you were allergic to nuts or had Celiac disease, you rarely went out to eat. In the past few years, restaurants have begun to understand the valuable market of people with allergies. It's a much larger community than you might think.
In your ice cream shop, you can easily help those with allergies. Here are ten easy ways to accommodate customers with allergies.
1. Be Transparent with Your Ingredients
Common allergens can hide in food. Some ice cream may have nuts, toppings may have gluten, or sauces may have dairy. These little things may not matter for most people but, for some of your customers, it's life or death. If you serve hard ice cream from a dipping cabinet, list all the ingredients on the same labels as the flavors. You can do this by securing the labels to the glass with a suction cup, listing the flavor on one side, and the ingredients on the other.
Some customers have a hard time asking to see ingredients lists. Keep them somewhere they can easily access. If you have a large array of toppings and syrups, print all their ingredients lists and keep them in a binder on your counter. Your customers should be able to understand exactly what they're eating.
2. Use Separate Serving Tools
One common way cross-contamination happens is by using the same tools for different allergens. If you use an ice cream scoop in peanut butter ice cream, it will still have traces of peanut butter even after rinsing. Have clearly-labeled scoops and other utensils dedicated to nut-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free products. This takes away the possibility of cross-contamination. Your customers will love your attention to detail.
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3. Be Creative
Create menu items that are made to be without allergens. If you do this well, more people than just those with allergies will want these dishes. This shows your customers your compassion and anticipation of their needs.
4. Have Appropriate Signage
Signage is an integral part of keeping your customers safe. Post signs detailing exactly the precautions you take against cross-contamination. Make sure your customers know what specific dishes have gluten, dairy, nuts, and other common allergens. This way, your customer doesn't have to ask about your safety measures, they already know them.
5. Be Willing to Remake Things
Accidents happen, mistakes are made, sometimes food is contaminated. If you're striving to accommodate customers with allergies, be willing to remake dishes. This may mean wasting some food, but that's better than causing your customers anaphylactic shock.
To keep your food extra safe, wear these convenient, food-safe gloves while preparing food.
6. Color Code Your Dishes
An easy way to avoid confusion among your staff is to color-code your dishes. If something is ordered specifically to be gluten-free, you could serve it in a yellow bowl (like this one!) or mark it with a sticker. This way, your staff will know what to avoid even if they weren't told the dish needs to be gluten-free. The same goes for dishes with other common allergens. Your customers will appreciate your attention to detail.
7. Educate Your Staff
Common allergens hide in unsuspecting places -- barley malt syrup and powder coffee creamer have gluten, macarons are made with almond flour, most fried foods are cooked in peanut oil, and most ice cream is made with eggs. Train every staff member on which products have common allergens. Print guides to keep in the kitchen so they know exactly what to serve or not serve to customers with allergies. Each member of your staff should be comfortable serving those with allergies.
8. Have Specific Protocol
Alongside educating your staff about where allergens hide, you should have a specific protocol for accommodating customers with allergies. Your staff should know exactly how to sterilize items before they serve food without allergens. They should also know what to do in case of contamination. If you have these safeguards in place, your customers can stay safe, and you can have peace of mind.
9. Appoint an Expert
Having appropriate training and signage is a great way to keep your staff from contaminating food accidentally. Another precaution you can take is to appoint a member of your staff to be the in-house expert each shift. They can supervise the making of non-allergen dishes so nothing gets lost in the shuffle.
10. Reassure Your Customer
It's nerve-wracking to go out to eat with food allergies. Your customers need to feel like they won't get sick from what they eat at your establishment. Your signage and attention to detail are integral to their feeling of safety but simple reassurance makes a big difference. When a customer orders something without allergens, verbally assure them that it won't be contaminated. This will go a long way.
Accommodating customers with allergies is incredibly important. It's also more simple than you think. If you follow these ten easy ways to accommodate customers with allergies, your restaurant is sure to be safe from contamination.
Tell us in the comments how you've accommodated customers with allergies. We love hearing from you!
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