After traveling over the Christmas period, Shannen told me something interesting that seems to be happening in the UK’s restaurants and cafes. There is an apparent allergen awareness culture starting to appear where it is actively sought if you have any allergies. This is an amazing step forward as it has become a front-of-mind subject matter where those working both Front Of House (FOH) and Back Of House (BOH) are both vigilant in preventing any customer from suffering an allergic reaction.

If you do say you have an allergy the experience can quickly turn into a “not in my backyard journey” where you are asked to sign a waiver saying that the restaurant or cafe holds no responsibility if you experience any difficulties. This happened twice but I must stress that not everyone asked to sign a waiver, so it is not industry-wide practice.

The fear that surrounds serving people with allergens was palpable and it is interesting from my perspective of being a chef and creator of TrustDish the differences between Ireland., the U.K. and the rest of Europe. While I was automatically impressed by the proactive nature of the wait staff in the UK enquiring as to any allergen requirements at the table, the balloon of optimism burst very quickly when the waiver was produced. The lack of understanding coupled with the fear of making a mistake appears to me to be all jumbled up and they have come up with a haphazard answer that isn’t a solution at all.

In Ireland we communicate allergens with numbers on menus and create complicated folders in catering and deli settings, both of which are a start but are not user-friendly or flexible in any way, another step forward would be embracing the U.K. consciousness of the dangers, customers with allergens can face when they consume those foods containing their allergen. This proactive inquiry initiated by Front Of House staff about “anyone with an allergy” is a huge step forward. This allergen-aware culture in hospitality is a good thing but instead of signing waivers can we as an industry not do better?

In Ireland, the increasingly common phrase “may contain nuts” on menus is about as useful as the waiver signed over in the U.K. The responsibility must be 2-fold, the customer must inform the eating establishment of their allergenic requirements, but the food premises must do their very best to accommodate this person if they decide that they can eat there. Getting the customers to sign a waiver is not the answer.

Doing their very best looks like several practical solutions.

  1. Decide before anyone eats on the premises what allergens can you accommodate.
  2. Propper storage of allergens
  3. Cross-contamination prevention procedures
  4. Training for all staff
  5. Implementing a flexible Userfriendly allergen management system.

These are just a few important easily implemented steps a food outlet can systemize into their day-to-day operations

TrustDish gives you all these plus the ability to change your allergen information in seconds in a User-friendly chef-centric way. The TrustDish QR code is scanned by the TrustDish app which is personalized to your allergenic requirements and uses the traffic light system to tell you if you can or cannot have a certain dish. The TrustDish geolocator also puts you on the map for potential new customers, it reduces liability, saves time, and reduces stress on your kitchen staff.

The Front of House and Back Of House allergen awareness culture is most definitely a good thing but we still have a journey to make our industry a reasonably risk-free space for people with allergens.