For those in the hospitality industry, serving customers with food allergies can sometimes be a stressful situation. With varying degrees of food intolerance, allergies, and in some cases the very real risk of anaphylactic shock, restaurateurs can sometimes feel like they have their customer’s life in their hands.
But don’t worry. With the increasing number of food allergies, managers and owners are finding ways to embrace and cater to these sensitivities.
In fact, half of this Zesty Pear duo is allergic to nuts and seafood and we’ve actually found that restaurants are leveraging this sensitive topic to build stronger, more loyal relationships with their customers.
Want to know their secrets? Here are our top ways to keep your allergic customers coming back.
Chat It Up
Conversation with your guests is always important (duh!). But when a customer has food allergies, clear and concise communication can make all the difference.
This starts with your servers. Ensure your staff are trained on dealing with allergies and are aware of all the ingredients in each dish you serve. Having your staff indicate an allergy through your point of sale is a great way to clearly alert the kitchen staff of the condition, make sure everyone is on the same page, and streamline your restaurant’s communication.
Some places take communication to the next level- providing a positive, lasting impact with their guests. When a manager comes to our table to confirm the allergy, we always appreciate it. When they bring a list of alternative dishes with a smile - we will definitely come back.
Recently, an enthusiastic manager came to our table and offered a creative and unique alternative to the dessert we ordered. Not only did it make us feel special and well taken care of, it guaranteed a second visit from us.
For a person with a food allergy, the worst thing that can happen (other than having your date stab you with an EpiPen mid-dinner), is feeling like you can’t eat anything at the ‘it’ spot in town.
When creating your menu, make sure it’s transparent. Clearly indicate which items have ingredients that might bring on an allergic reaction to one of your patrons. Consider adding ingredient information to your online menu, so potential customers can do their research and ensure that they will be able to order something that meets their dietary restrictions.
And if you need one more reason to provide ingredient info to you customers upfront: paramedics rushing through your front door is definitely not good for your bottom line.
Your food is amazing. The vision is great, the ingredients are fresh, and the flavors are bold.
When providing alternative options to your customers don’t sacrifice the quality of your menu that you’ve worked hard to create. Bring those same skills out to play.
Create a few options without nuts, gluten, seafood and other common allergens. If they’re not on your menu, keep them in your back pocket and bring them out with passion the next time a patron discloses a food allergy.
If somehow a mistake has been made in communication by you, your staff, or the guest and an item has been served that contains an ingredient that they’re allergic to, take the chance to build a relationship. Own it.
We can still name a restaurant that did this for us over two years ago. They came back to the table with a flavorful alternative to a caprese salad that contained pine nuts and our appreciation for their efforts became a topic of conversation to all of our fellow foodies.
A mishap could become a wicked referral.
With these in mind, the next time a patron discloses a food allergy, don’t mutter ‘oh nuts’ under your breath. Embrace it! Trust us, it will keep them coming back.
About the Author
Sarah and Scott (aka The Zesty Pear) are newly-weds who love exploring hot spots across North America and discovering the latest and greatest in food and drink. Their favourite moments occur when they are enjoying a new dish or sipping on drinks while laughing away with friends and family. In their eyes, the simple things are the special things.Follow on Twitter More Content by Zesty Pear