Eating out with allergies – how easy is it?

Liz Allan from Liz Allan Consulting, who runs training courses about food allergies, is our guest blogger this week, discussing how easy it is to eat out when you have a food allergy and who is catering for people with food allergies well.   So if you are looking at supplying the restaurant trade it will make interesting reading.

Food allergies are adverse reactions to an otherwise harmless food or its components (normally a protein), whilst food intolerance is the inability to digest a certain food.

Coeliac disease is an auto-immune disease triggered by the cereal protein gluten which damages the lining of the small intestine. Short-term issues are those such as weight loss and bloating. Long term, malabsorption of nutrients can cause malnutrition, osteoporosis, etc.

There have been a number of large companies starting to realise the value of allergy-friendly foods. It is a growing market, already estimated to be over £340M.

The ability to be able to buy allergy-friendly products from your local supermarket has become easier over the past few years. There are a few larger restaurant chains starting to offer specifically gluten free and/or lactose free menus (for example Carluccio’s have a gluten free menu and TGI Friday have gluten free and lactose free menu).

Coeliac disease sufferers now even have the ability to dine at Pizza Hut for gluten free pizza (although their salad bar leaves much to be desired still – cross contamination risks are rife there!) and even send out for a Domino’s gluten free, lactose free pizza.

Considering all of this, allergy friendly food it is still not classed as “mainstream” and there are a number of food establishments who would probably prefer not to offer it due to the fear of cross-contamination. But if they thought about the benefits of putting a little work into what is in simple terms an extension of their current food hygiene process, they might change their minds!

Here’s something that might give you food for thought (‘scuse the pun!):-

For every food allergy sufferer going out to eat with friends, they are the decision makers who choose where to eat.

Friends of the allergy sufferer know that the allergic person will have carried out research to ensure every detail about where is safe to eat has been covered, checked and double checked.

If you’re looking at a big party of say, 10-15 people who are celebrating a birthday, each person will probably spend a minimum of £40 each.

These people possibly wouldn’t be dining at the chosen restaurant, but due to the fact that their friend is able to eat there they will be happy that he/she is catered for with care and can eat there safely.

Just think about having a few of those every week?

Simple changes are needed:-

• Ensure ALL staff understand food allergy and intolerance
• Make sure you have reviewed your supply chain
• Adapt your menu to incorporate allergy friendly dishes
• Put in place procedures to mitigate cross contamination
• Staff should understand the needs of the allergy customer

And best of all is that the word of mouth from the party of 10-people is invaluable marketing for the organisation, especially if they also know someone with a food allergy or intolerance themselves.

I would love to be able to pop out to the shop for a sandwich etc and not have to think about taking food with me “Just in case”

Hopefully, these few hints and tips above might make a few of you think positively about allergy-friendly food so that maybe one day, that sandwich at the corner shop might be something that I can eat!

Liz Allan
Liz Allan Consulting

Tel: 07879 060488
email: [email protected]