Our guest blog comes from Julianne Ponan from Creative Nature, here she talks about what signing waivers before eating and the potential ‘new normal’ for the food allergy customer.
Would you sign your life away just to have a meal in a pub, café or restaurant?
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? It’s not if you have severe allergies like me. Post lockdowns it has become increasingly obvious that people like me are the unwanted customers.
Like anyone else I should be able to enjoy eating out again. However there’s a snag with many venues abdicating responsibility for those of us who have special dietary needs. Some are even getting people like me to sign a waiver saying we eat at our own risk.
One would hope that we have become a more caring nation after this collective trauma, it appears, sadly we are not when it comes to food allergies.
Recently, I saw a sign a well-known restaurant chain which said:
“Allergies, unfortunately we can’t guarantee any of our food is 100% allergen free.”
I’m quite well known in the ‘allergy world’ and I know from stories shared by my social media circle that this experience is now more common.
I’ve even heard of companies expecting people to sign waivers, asking them to accept responsibility for what they eat from a kitchen over which they have no control.
While I accept if you are taking part in extreme and risky activities like bungee jumping you might have to sign such a document, I don’t expect to have to sign one to eat out? Really?
By doing this, someone like me may be signing our life away. If we eat something which triggers an anaphylactic shock because we didn’t know about that hidden ingredient in that meal – we could die and it will be our fault – even if we’ve made it clear that we are allergic to certain ingredients.
This needs to stop! Having allergies should not mean I have to risk my life to eat out, just because a restaurant chain can’t be bothered to keep their kitchen clean!
Is this going to be the ‘new normal’ where restaurants will not take any responsibility for serving people like me?
Prior to the pandemic, things had been slowly improving. Even then there are some business owners who don’t want to serve people like me – we are in the minority, we are a problem – so they will do the bare legal minimum.
However many restaurateurs were happy to help and to understand about my condition and the ingredients which are dangerous for me. I could often organise with the restaurant before my visit to check everything would be ok.
Many restaurants had clear information on their menus about the ingredients within individual dishes.
Sadly, it appears we’re now taking a big step back.
Why might companies be doing this?
I’m no fool, I know many staff have left the hospitality industry, due to the long furloughs and the need to find other jobs and security. Therefore, many restaurants are opening up with fewer customers and fewer staff and they may be finding it very difficult to recruit new people.
They are finding it hard to cope and are either unable, unwilling or don’t feel inclined to be bothered to serve customers who have allergies or intolerances. It’s a problem they can side-step by putting the responsibility on us.
In the long run, as much as I understand the incredible difficulties they face, I think caring really matters right now and as a collective, allergy sufferers, are customers with money to spend.
In the UK, food allergies affect around 1 in 13 children and over two million adults have been diagnosed with food allergies. That’s a decent audience right there for your product or service.
Allergen sufferers will vote with their feet and, if they are like me, they will share their experiences both good – or ill.