Does Your Restaurant Have an Online Food Allergens Policy?
If you are involved in the restaurant / non-prepacked food industry, you should already know the importance of having a Food Allergens policy and strategy. In the UK the Foods Standards Agency provides information and guidance on best practices. Ultimately, failure to follow and adhere to the best practices and law could, in the worst of cases, lead to a fatality, ultimately that is punishable by imprisonment for those found negligent of their duties.
Further advice and guidance from the UK Food Standards Agency can be found here. I want to highlight a few aspects that relate specifically to your online presence, as this area can be over-looked. Given that well over 50% of all online orders in the UK are now on a mobile device it’s more important than ever that your message gets across on the small screens. Here we highlight three areas that may have missed your attention or could be improved upon.
In the UK, the Foods Standards Agency defines a number of requirements and these include:
Knowing your allergenic ingredients
Most people are aware that nuts can create an allergenic reaction, but did you know that eating celery could be life threatening for some people?
Educate everyone involved in your business, ensure that those staff that prepare food and serve customers are fully trained, follow documented procedures and have the correct and up-to-date information on-hand to advise your customers.
If you advertise your food menu online or allow your customers to order through your web site or a mobile app, make sure you have updated these systems too so that you have a section dedicated to allergens.
Encouraging engagement and dialogue
Ensure that your business encourages customers to engage with your staff and visa-versa. Not only that, encourage all staff to engage with one another, after all, recipes and ingredients can change so your food prep staff need to understand the impact of any changes and communicate that back to the business in a documented process.
Update your signage and menus to prompt the conversation and make it clear that they must speak with a member of staff if they have an allergy. Display reminders on your web site and mobile apps to prompt that conversation. For example your app provider could place a banner like this that slides across the screen.
I recommend you actively encourage all communication to be verbal (or direct – person to person) to ensure the messages is clearly communicated and understood. If a customer doesn’t know how to discuss food allergies with you they may just add a note on their online order, this may not be communicated properly and it’s possible the online order note could potentially be overlooked!
Any allergenic ingredients MUST be declared
You are required to provide allergy ingredients information for all unpackaged foods. Once again, this information must be displayed where consumer would expect to find allergen information (folders, on menu board, at till or on the menu card.)
Update your online website and mobile apps to include allergy ingredients WITHIN your online menus. You can use charts, tables or a Contains statement, for example: Chicken Tikka Masala – Contains: milk, almonds (nuts).
In conclusion: all restaurants should strive to be as informed as possible when it comes to food allergies, and communication is the key. That’s the only way all the customers will be satisfied – the main objective for every good restaurant.