Food allergies involve the body’s immune system and are a reaction to a specific food or ingredient. Symptoms can range from mild or severe and can involve the skin, gut, breathing or the body’s circulation system.
Reactions vary and symptoms can be delayed. Symptoms may take several hours, or even several days to appear. Multiple symptoms can occur and vary from migraines to bloating, diarrhea, lethargy and a general feeling of poor health. Reactions can occur after ingesting small amounts of a culprit food but are usually triggered by larger amounts.
Guests with a food intolerance may be able to eat small amounts of the offending food without trouble. They may also be able to prevent a reaction. For example, those with a lactose intolerance, may be able to drink lactose-free milk or take lactase enzyme pills (Lactaid) to aid digestion.
What to Do About It
Empower Your Staff
Your front-of-house staff has the most direct contact with patrons. They need to understand whenever a guest makes the slightest mention of a food allergy or intolerance, that information must be taken very seriously.
Avoid All Risks
Whether an intolerance or an allergy, there’s no need to take any chances. If a guest says they have a food intolerance, they should be dissuaded from ordering anything that might possibly contain that ingredient.
Open the Line of Communication
Do you have steps or a protocol in place to help your waiters communicate allergy and intolerance information to your chefs? A guest not wanting onions on their salad is quite different from a guest being allergic to them.
In the next installment of Food Allergy 101, we’ll take a look at ways to avoid contamination and cross-contact in your kitchens. Knowing how to keep ingredients and menu items separate can help you avoid negative experiences down the road.