Our Guest Blog comes from Ruth Holroyd.
Ruth is an author and blogger. She writes about allergies, anaphylaxis, asthma, eczema and topical steroid withdrawal on her award winning blog www.whatallergy.com. She won the Free From Food Awards Hero Award 2021 and has written two book. ‘Anaphylaxis: The Essential Guide: An Action Plan For Living With Life-Threatening Allergies’ which focuses on anxiety and fear and how to live with the daily challenge of living with a life limiting condition. Her poetry collection for people with eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and topical steroid withdrawal, called The Shape of Skin. Both are available on Amazon.
How using an Equal Eats dietary allergen card can help staff engagement with allergic diners
If you run a restaurant or catering business, you’ll know how important it is to train your staff on the value of effective communication and a good understanding of food allergies. In a busy kitchen and restaurant, relaying the right message becomes even harder. It’s the cause of most things that can go wrong or get forgotten when dealing with allergen orders.
Having robust allergen processes in place is key, but communication varies from customer to customer. It’s fluid, it’s changeable depending on how nervous and anxious someone is about eating out and trusting restaurants to keep them safe.
Communication is the key
Communication is always king and it’s so often where things get missed. Waiting staff not understanding or not making enough notes of allergens, Chinese whispers and misunderstanding between front of house, wait staff and kitchen staff, stock changes not being shared… and on and on. All mistakes that can avoided with better communication processes.
How Allergen Dietary Cards can help with engagement
As an allergic diner myself, I’ve just started using the new Equal Eats allergen dietary card when I order meals when eating out and I’ve had such a good response. Obviously, it’s only a part of my process, I’ll normally phone ahead, speak to staff, check the allergen menu online beforehand, etc… but having this handy little card to hand over has actually made the world of difference.
- Relay allergens to kitchen – Staff take the card to the kitchen with them to show the chef and kitchen staff.
- Durable – It’s made of sturdy plastic so can also be wiped clean if it gets food on it.
- Clarify allergens – It helps ensure there hasn’t been any confusion, mishearing, or assumptions… You’d be surprised how many staff hear something other than what’s been said because they’re expecting one allergen more than another. For instance, many people report being brought gluten free or vegan menus after mention a nut allergy. Sometimes that’s all that’s available but it feels like the server hasn’t fully understood.
- Conversation point – I leave my Equal Eats allergen card out on the table because I’ve also had staff spot it, lean in closer to take a closer look and ask me about it. It also means staff can check. On one recent visit the waitress was going back and forth from the kitchen to our table. It probably would have been easier if she borrowed the card but she didn’t do that. It meant some of her checks could be done without disturbing our conversation until she was ready with the recommendations from the chef of what was suitable.
- Engaging with staff – One waitress recently shared that she also had a fish allergy so understood how hard it can be eating out. She probably wouldn’t have done that if the Equal Eats card had not been on the table; she spotted it as she was walking past our table, she wasn’t our server!
- Aide memoire – Makes sure you don’t forget to mention an allergy if you have more than one. This is particularly helpful for teens or people who might be too shy or overwhelmed to list all their serious allergies. We all get the eye roll and it can make allergic diners very embarrassed to speak up. Many people will assess a meal and then mention the allergies they have that are most likely to be in that meal, omitting other allergens they deem not to be relevant. This is dangerous but a lot of people do this. Having these cards made means all the allergens are listed all of the time.
- Peace of mind – This definitely applies to the allergic diner, but staff can also get nervous that they haven’t checked everything enough. It’s a responsibility on both sides so having these cards available is such a good idea.
It could be a really good idea for restaurants to have their own similar system where allergic diners or the staff can tick allergens off on a list so they have a record, both for sorting out and preparing the safe meal and for transparency in their records, should something go wrong.
Verbal communication is great, but you can’t beat written communication for clarification and confirmation. It also helps improve seamless inclusivity for allergic diners, helping them have an enjoyable and stress free transaction and eating out experience. Eating out can be very stressful for both the person with the allergy and the staff catering for them.
These simple little Equal Eats cards can help bridge that gap of communication; so simple but so helpful.
To speak to Equal Eats and find out how your restaurant or business can get involved, contact Kyle Dine on https://equaleats.com/pages/contact-us and visit https://equaleats.uk/