While not as serious as food allergies, food intolerances can affect as much as 17% of the population, and this number is growing. This means you and your staff must be sure you know exactly what goes into every dish you put out, so your customers can make informed menu choices.
INTOLERANT VS. ALLERGIC – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Food intolerance affects the digestive system while allergies are linked to the immune system. If a customer eats food she or he is allergic to, the result can be extremely serious, involving a trip to the hospital or worse. For customers who are intolerant, eating too much of the wrong food can result in headaches, bloating or stomach pain. Intolerances can’t be diagnosed with allergy tests, so people often keep a food diary in order to figure out what doesn’t agree with them.
SO,WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU?
You and your staff should always be aware of the type of foods that customers may need to avoid. The most common ones are:
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt
- Wheat products that contain gluten
- Peanuts (nut allergies are one of the most serious allergies and can cause a life-threatening reaction in a matter of seconds).
MAKE IT CLEAR
Many canteens find it too difficult to deal with special requests and menu changes, especially during busy periods. If this is the case for you, make it a policy by adding a clear but friendly note on the menu.
BEING PREPARED FOR FOOD INTOLERANCES
Customers with food intolerances are not going away any time soon. This means that if you cater to their requests, they will be more likely to return to your canteen. And while you may not be able to cater to every requirement, there are simple ways in which you can address food-sensitive customers
INFORM YOUR STAFF
For both food intolerances and allergies, it is up to customers to communicate their concerns and ask if your dishes contain ingredients that may cause bad reactions. However, it is also important that your staff understand the risks of allergies and food intolerances and know the exact ingredients in each dish. By making sure that you and your staff are informed about intolerances and trained in safe food preparation, you’ll be able to create a canteen that caters to everyone.
WRITE AN INTOLERANCE AND ALLERGY STATEMENT FOR EVERY DISH AS PART OF YOUR MENU PLAN
- This will help you and your staff answer any questions or queries your customers may have.
- List the ingredients used in every recipe in the order of their quantity from the highest to the lowest.
- Copy the ingredient list of every processed ingredient (check any allergen statements on the packaging and make sure you include this on your recipe).
- Highlight any potential allergens or intolerance on your menu board or on the dish itself.
- Make sure your serving staff read and understand the ingredients so they can inform customers with food concerns.
The easiest way to accommodate intolerances is to add one or two clearly marked menu-options for dishes that are gluten-free, dairy-free and meat-free. Ask your customers for their feedback to find out what they prefer and how to improve your menu to suit them.