Three Tips to Ensure Patrons with Dietary Restrictions Leave Your Restaurant Happy and Healthy
Within the last decade, there has been an increase in the percentage of people with dietary restrictions. There is a temptation to label people who claim dietary restrictions as fad-diet enthusiasts or high-maintenance. While there are people who restrict their diet on the basis of preference rather than strict allergy or intolerance, it is dangerous to belittle a situation which for most is health related. Restaurant providers must train their staff to competently meet the dietary requirements of their patrons, on a basic level to ensure their well-being, but also to grant them the same enjoyable experience that any other patron expects when engaging in the luxury of eating out.
As a general rule, if someone is restricting the types of foods they eat, there is most likely a health-related cause motivating that decision; whether that is to avoid anaphylaxis or acid reflux, should not strictly speaking matter to restaurateurs; restaurants should approach their customers with a heightened sense of care regardless of the perceived severity of their dietary restrictions. Here are a few core principles every establishment should instill in their staff to competently engage with clients who have dietary restrictions.
First of all, staff should assess the needs of the patron without calling undue attention to their situation. People eat out to limit the effort and heighten the enjoyment of their meal. They don’t want to review their medical history within earshot of friends, family, and strangers. If a patron communicates to staff that they have a food allergy or dietary restriction, the staff member should be trained to gather the pertinent information quickly and without drawing too much attention to the situation.
The second principle follows closely on the heels of the first: if a dietary restriction is communicated to any member of staff, ensure that proper protocol is in place to guarantee that the patron receives a meal which meets their requirements. There should be a seamless stream of communication from the patron to the front of the house to the kitchen. A helpful tool would be color or symbol coding food tickets for meals with dietary restrictions so that they are clearly and quickly identifiable.Your staff must be conscious of the gravity of the situation. Even if a miscommunication does not end in a hospitalization (or worse), lesser negative physical reactions to an incorrect meal is enough to permanently discourage a patron from future visits to your establishment.
Lastly, but of great importance, all dietary restricted foods should be prepared on utensils and appliances which are designated for the preparation of restricted-ingredient meals. Obviously, this can’t be exhaustive. There is no limit to the foods for which people can be allergic/sensitive. However, there must be an effort on the part of any establishment claiming to be able to provide for people with dietary restrictions to ensure that the preparation area is safe. Further, restaurant staff should always notify patrons if there is a possibility of cross-contamination.
In the end, it comes down to embracing your humanity. Honor the trust your patrons with dietary restrictions are placing in you and your restaurant. Apply these tips for prosperity and good health. Cheers.