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Ensuring your menu includes accurate allergen information

Do you ever check the website before you visit a new restaurant that you are planning to visit and wonder, how can I be sure the allergen information displayed is accurate?

I always look at the menu to see if it appeals to me and if there are enough choices, and that’s without having any dietary requirements. For those with allergies and intolerances, there is a necessity to always check the menu for information to see if there are suitable options. Many potential customers with food allergies will be anxious if they visit a restaurant for the first time, and they will likely look for accurate allergen information on your website.

Are you confident that the information on your menus is accurate and provides your customer with clear allergen content?

There have been ongoing issues with supplier product substitution due to the supply chain challenges, and this will affect the ingredient and allergen information. If you rely on printed menus, your current menu may be out of date and the information that your customer is relying on is not correct. Have you identified key allergen information on the menu such as “GF option available” or “contains milk” The tragic incident of Owen Carey, which occurred in Byron Burger was due to the fact that Buttermilk had not been identified as an ingredient in the chicken burger on the menu.

It is vital that recipe and ingredient information is accurate and reviewed regularly and chefs should be very familiar with the menu and should know the ingredients. Regular team meetings and pre-service team briefings provide the opportunity for team members to understand the menus and options available.

A recipe database is recommended to keep track of all recipes used; a manual database is difficult to maintain, and human error is a risk. As mentioned, issues with supplier product substitution make it difficult to maintain accurate information, so a system such as CaterCloud provides real-time updated product ingredient and allergen information. All recipe data is linked to supplier product information and is updated as and when there are any changes; the system is reliable and accurate, and the team are always ready to support their clients with any technical issues. It is important to reach out and use technology to ensure accurate allergen information for your customers.

There has been an increase in the use of QR codes over the past couple of years due to the reduction of social contact. Most people have mobile devices where they can scan QR codes at hospitality venues, providing a wealth of valuable information at your fingertips. A downloadable PDF document is produced which provides menu information and individual recipe information.

QR codes provide accurate and detailed ingredient information which is becoming increasingly essential as the range of allergens is increasing outside the “Top 14.” During Covid, many restaurants introduced QR codes as a way of reducing handling printed menus. This is a brilliant way to share your menu, it is sustainable and much more hygienic. It is important however to ensure that an element of customer service is retained -we still need to have a conversation with our customer.

The FSA have just relaunched their “Speak up for Allergies” campaign which encourages young people to support their friends with allergies and to promote the key role that front of house staff have to provide the relevant allergen information. It is vital that QR codes do not remove the opportunity for communication between customers and staff.

Jacqui McPeake JACS Ltd on behalf of Allergen Accreditation

Published on March 22nd, 2022

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