Did you know that 15 million Americans have food allergies? How about that one in 13 children is allergic to at least one food? These statistics are shocking to many people, as food allergies have become a recent “epidemic.” From 1997 to 2011 food allergies among children have increased by 50 percent.
According to Aaron Allen & Associates, close to five percent of the population has food allergies, and these consumers keep coming back to a restaurant that takes allergies seriously. This could lead to a 15-25% increase in business.
Restaurants everywhere are starting to realize that allergy accommodation is having an ever-growing impact on customer satisfaction and potential business growth. According to RestaurantBusinessOnline.com, there are nearly six million children in the U.S. with food allergies, many of whom are not eating out as a result. Assurance of an allergen-safe environment could mean more money in operators’ pockets. In fact, 25 percent of consumers say they look for a restaurant that offers diet or allergy sensitive menu items.
“Not only is being allergy-friendly good for a restaurant’s guests, it’s also a very smart business decision. When restaurants accommodate food-allergic guests, they experience increased customers, sales, loyalty and profits. In fact, restaurants that cater to the food allergy community can increase their profits significantly — by as much as 25% or more,” said Paul Antico, Founder and CEO of Allergyeats.com
How to gain share in this market
The most obvious way to take advantage of this market opportunity is to provide allergen-free menu items. However, if your employees don’t know how to properly handle and deliver safe foods, those efforts will be wasted. Even a trace amount of an allergy-causing food is enough to trigger an allergic reaction in some people.
There are several critical points of training that need to be achieved to ensure your business’s success in this market. Understanding the health implications of food allergies, celiac disease and intolerances is the first point of training. Making sure your employees understand the “Big Eight” (the most common foods responsible for 90 percent of allergies), what cross-contamination is, and some of the other basic principles of food allergy safety can make a huge difference. You can’t expect your employees to know what to do, if they have never been taught.
Second, you should create a sound allergy policy and ensure customer awareness of your policy. By doing this, you will not only be protecting your company and employees, but you will also be protecting your customers. If the customer is aware of your policies it can help them make smarter choices at your restaurant.
Extra training is an expense though, and some business owners are hesitant to deal with the inconsistencies and time it will take to train all of their employees. This is where MenuTrinfo and DiscoverLink can help. Through a new collaboration, we’ve combined the power of DiscoverLink Talent with MenuTrinfo’s AllerTrain and AllerTrain Lite. This combined offering will consistently teach your staff how to handle allergens and will speed the process up by using an e-learning approach.
Discoverlink Talent is a learning management system (LMS) that allows you to track compliance, accelerate competency and help reduce training expenses. It enables training courses to be instantly deployed to employees across an organization.
AllerTrain is an online food allergen and gluten-free training course that teaches foodservice professionals the proper protocol for preparing food to avoid cross-contact and to better serve diners with special dietary needs. AllerTrain Lite is a condensed version of AllerTrain that is for hourly front- and back-of-house team members.
“AllerTrain is an excellent tool to make the world of allergens a little more understandable to teach people how to handle food and deal with customers,” Jennifer Zerby, Personal Touch Food Service, said.
Get free promotion as an allergy-friendly restaurant
The AllerTrain courses are endorsed by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a non-profit organization working on behalf the 15 million Americans with food allergies. FARE created a resource called SafeFARE.org, where allergic diners can search for allergy-friendly restaurants. Restaurants that train their employees with AllerTrain or AllerTrain Lite can add their business to the SafeFARE database—instantly increasing their potential customer pool.
FARE is also a partner with AllergyEats.com, a peer-reviewed directory of restaurants-rated by people with food allergies, for people with food allergies. Restaurants listed in the SafeFARE database can include a link to their AllergyEats profiles so users can read more about their commitment to serving diners with food allergies. Restaurants linking to their AllergyEats profile from their SafeFARE listing also will receive a special “SafeFARE listed” icon on their AllergyEats profile.
The highest rated small chains on AllergyEats’ Most Allergy Friendly Restaurant Chains list are:
- Maggiano’s Little Italy
- Burtons Grill
- Legal Sea Foods
- Joe’s American Bar & Grill
- Not Your Average Joe’s
The top large chains on its Most Allergy Friendly Restaurant Chains list are:
- Chipotle Mexican Grill
- F. Chang’s China Bistro
- Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
- Outback Steakhouse
- Mellow Mushroom
This market comprises not only the 15 million Americans with food allergies, but their friends and family too.
“Allergen affected consumers is a large demographic. And these customers are very loyal due to the critical need to entrust restaurants they choose with their safety. When they find a restaurant they can trust, they’ll visit again and again, and they’ll bring friends and family along,” said Betsy Craig, Chief Executive Officer of MenuTrinfo.
Gaining a foothold in this market has never been easier. With such an underserved market, allergic and food-sensitive customers will become loyal to your chain if you can appeal to their needs. But that requires your staff to be properly trained, which is now easily accomplished thanks to the powerful combination of DiscoverLink Talent and AllerTrain/AllerTrain Lite.