When it comes to protecting your customers from bad allergic reactions, waitstaff training is a must. Most people with serious food allergies are alert and cautious when ordering, but what happens when they’re misinformed? Many servers—especially younger, less experienced workers—often don’t realize that a mistake in correctly reporting ingredients can lead to death. Here are some tips for everyone in your operation who prepares, handles, serves—and sells—food:
- Don’t add surprises. There have been incidents where peanut butter was added to chili to thicken it—and nuts ground up for texture in cheesecake—and customers died as a result. Clearly list all high-allergen ingredients on your menu. These tend to include: eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts (including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, hickory nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts) and wheat.
- Train servers to describe menu items and ingredients upon request. Stress the importance of saying, “I’m not sure, let me check” instead of assuming ingredients haven’t changed. Assign an “allergen” specialist and make sure one is on each shift so that servers and customers have someone to answer questions. If no one knows, encourage the customer to order something else.
- Train chefs and kitchen prep workers to be constantly diligent. There are many stories about ingredients changing in products (barbeque sauce, salad dressing, etc.) and food preparers unknowingly serving them. Diligently check your products and communicate that importance to your team and your suppliers.
- Stress “no shortcuts” policies. Some food prep workers just don’t get it, but a tiny amount of an allergen can lead to a serious reaction or even death. It’s not okay to scrape off nuts, sour cream, etc. and then serve the item.
- Invest in food allergen training products, and then implement them effectively.
Get More Restaurant Management Tips
The restaurant management section of our blog is dedicated to helping you meet your leadership goals. Check it out!