If you are a restaurant manager, owner, or employee, you have probably heard about the importance of catering to your customers who have food allergies by now. You may be asking yourself, why is this important? Nearly 15 million people in the United States alone suffer from a food allergy and, ultimately, these consumers who dine out are looking for food allergy friendly restaurants.
So, what is a food allergy? A food allergy is a serious medical condition that results when the immune system mistakenly targets a harmless food protein — an allergen — as a threat and attacks it.
There are over 160 different kinds of foods that can cause a food allergy, however, the top eight types of food that cause food allergies include peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. These eight types of foods are responsible for 90 percent of food allergies. More alarmingly, every three minutes a food allergy reaction sends someone to the ER resulting in nearly 200,000 visits per year.
One type of food allergy is caused by gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, malt, and rye. Gluten allergies actually affect more than 18 million Americans. So, why does this matter? In our January webinar, our presenter Julianne LaPorte, the president of CanIEatHere.com and a sufferer from gluten allergies, told us why.
“Remember, the average party at a restaurant is 3 to 4 people. So, if your restaurant does not have a menu that caters to consumers with food allergies, that party will be forced to dine out somewhere else, thus, impacting your bottom line.“
Restaurants that cater to consumers with food allergies see a 9-10% boost in their bottom line revenue. Also, gluten-free and allergy-friendly menu items always carry an up charge of at least $1-$3 dollars. Consumers with these allergies are willing to pay more for gluten-free pizza crust or buns so that they too can enjoy their favorite meals. Gluten-free food sales have skyrocketed to $4.2 billion dollars, and it is estimated that 20 percent of people are seeking gluten-free options when they dine out.
Having an allergy-free menu is only the first step in catering to the consumers. As a restaurant establishment, you must also have a trained staff. The staff must know how to follow proper food handling procedures when serving these consumers. These include having a separate area to store and prepare allergen-free foods. By having a proper risk management plan in place, the restaurant will help staff keep customers and deal with emergencies, thus reducing liability.
Learn more about food allergies in our recorded webinar. http://cc.readytalk.com/play?id=80or5s