Advocacy >> Restaurant Advocacy
Restaurateurs! Prepare your staff to accommodate food allergic diners.
It is the mission of Food Allergy Kids of Atlanta to raise awareness about food allergies within Georgia restaurants, food service establishments, and with food allergic individuals in local communities, in efforts to help create a safe & comfortable environment for food allergic families to dine.
We support food service staff and understand the increase of dietary restrictions individuals now manage can pose a challenge when dining out, not only for the food allergic diner, but also for food service staff. Understanding the differences between dietary restrictions is important; however, knowledge retention among wait staff about the severity of food allergies and how to properly accommodate a food allergic guest is critical.
As a restaurateur, you have most likely noticed the increase of food allergies and other dietary restrictions in your establishment. This is because more teens, young adults, and adults are now growing into food allergies (such as shellfish & tree-nuts), and the prevalence among children being diagnosed with food allergies in the U.S. continues to increase.
For food allergic diners who frequent restaurants during peak hours, this practice can pose a challenge for restaurant staff, and it may also increase risks for food allergic individuals. During peak hours, not only are your wait staff, management team, and kitchen staff multi-tasking in a hectic, non-stop, high-pressured atmosphere, they are also under a great amount of stress. As a restaurateur, your staff will continue to be faced with these types of challenges. Therefore, it is imperative to provide your staff with the tools and resources necessary to ensure employees have a clear understanding of their responsibilities in handling food allergic guests.
Staff should be confident in being able to identify an individual who may have food allergies; and have a clear understanding about food allergies, cross contact, and how to accommodate a food allergic diner. In addition, it’s imperative that all staff members are trained annualy on the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and how to enact emergency procedures.
Often times, restaurateurs are presented with the following statements from their guests after being notified of a food allergy:
"As I long as I don't directly consume the product, I'll be okay"
"A little doesn't bother me"
"I have antihistamines (Benadryl) with me, just in case"
Allow the consumer to make his or her own informed decision after explaining policy practices; cross contact concerns, if any; and allowing the guest to review the ingredients list for a particular dish. Having an ingredients book on site can help eliminate concerns about specific ingredients and will also help with time constraints during busy times. Keep in mind that ingredients often change, which will require constant vigilance in the upkeep of an ingredients book.
Restaurateurs may want to consider documenting each encounter with a food allergic diner and keeping kitchen chits after the preparation of a meal. Visit your state restaurant association for more information regarding legality concerns when handling special meals in your state.
Listed below are helpful resources and tips to ensure food allergic diners enjoy a safe and enjoyable meal in your establishment!
The Top 15 - Best Practice Tips for Wait Staff
1. Upon greeting a new table, ask patrons to notify you of any allergies, prior to placing
2. If a diner inquires, or makes a special request, about a particular item in a dish (e.g. “No
nuts,” “No egg,” “Does it contain?” etc.), confirm whether the inquiry is an allergy, or a
3. When notified of an allergy, immediately inform appropriate management team members
and the kitchen chef. Notify fellow wait staff about the food allergic diner and to avoid
“running” food to the table.
4. Request that a management team member handle point of contact throughout the diner's
5. Never assume that a dish is free of an item, without first confirming with the kitchen chef
6. Beverages from the bar should not be overlooked. Many mixers, garnishes, and some
spirits may contain allergens. Always check with the bartender and management team
when a drink order is placed.
7. When placing a meal order, ask management to review the special order prior to
sending it to the kitchen, and immediately discuss the order with the chef. Order the
meal independently from other meals being served for the table.
8. Prior to delivering each dish to the table, the dish should be confirmed with the kitchen
chef and/or manager that it is “ready to go”. This includes salads, soup, appetizers,
main course, etc.
9. To avoid cross contact, always use a new glass when re-filling the food allergic diners
10. During a shift change, notify management, the kitchen chef, and new wait staff of the
allergy and status of the diner's meal. Introduce the customer to their new server and/or
management team member.
11. Wash your hands prior to carrying the dish to the table, and always carry the dish by
placing it in the palm of your hand, or on a tray, and being sure to never touch the rims
of the dish. Do not carry the dish with other meals.
12. Wash all utensils intended for use by the food allergic diner.
13. If the diner states the meal has been prepared incorrectly, leave the dish at the table
and then inform management and the kitchen chef. Follow the same procedures as
listed above when ordering the new meal.
14. Review the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and your restaurant's policy on
how to handle an emergency situation. Act quickly in the event of an emergency and
15. Visit the FAACT Web site for more information on Dining Out.
Did You Know?
Downloadable resources for restaurateurs
Introduce employees to food allergies and explain the risks associated with the preparation allergen-free meals and the dangers of cross contact.
Take Action to Prevent an Allergic Reaction!
Handouts for restaurants - 6 week training for staff