Businesses that have invested, trained their staff, and gone the extra mile to offer food allergen customer excellence, should now celebrate the fact, and make it known to the hypersensitive customer community.
Advanced food allergen knowledge and operating techniques automatically encourages heightened food safety, and it is these attributes which endorses the business as an extremely food safe venue. Therefore, accommodating the needs of hypersensitive customers certainly makes sense from a business point of view.
For those customers with an interest in food safety integrity, businesses that gain added allergen credentials promotes a safe place to eat and drink for all customers whether they’re hypersensitive to food and drink or not. This can result in positive word of mouth to other allergy sufferers which helps to target these groups and promote your offering to them further.
When marketing your services to the increasing percentage of hypersensitive customers, it is worth being explicit about what you can offer. This is especially true for ‘free from’ foods or specialist diet meals that you offer. For example, if you offer a gluten-free experience across your menu base then you need to stick to this and make it very clear that your food modelling is designed for exactly that purpose. Similarly, if you have deliberately excluded certain allergens out of your menu, build your marketing model for hypersensitive customers around that.
This ensures that when customers do approach your website or your business, they can immediately see what type of food service operation you are. This also saves time and effort for the customer and the business when discussing aspects of allergens or food hypersensitivity, which you may not be ready for.
This is important when browsing the ‘free from’ isles in many supermarkets. Some customers may assume that all products are free from allergens, which is not the case. It’s quite common for customers to mislead themselves that seeing one free from label, means that it’s free from all allergens. Therefore, being explicit in what you offer is essential to protect your business and the consumer.
Another way to add credibility to your business is by adding QR codes to your online menus so customers can find out ahead of time what ingredients the recipes contain, with all allergens clearly communicated. Our menu management system CaterCloud offers this feature for our clients to utilise, to ensure their customers feel confident and knowledgeable about whether the food is safe for them to consume, without having to ask a member of staff.
There is a burgeoning market for hypersensitive customers, but it’s not just those who are intolerant, allergic or have coeliac disease. In addition to providing an inclusive environment for those customers, their friends and family will equally be confident in the choice of the restaurant or food service provider without worrying about an incident occurring.
We do see a constant flow of information from hypersensitive customers on social media, most of which tends to be where they’ve had a bad experience, but on occasion, people can be very vocal about having a great experience. These customers who share their positive experience may have substantial networks which can benefit your business hugely.
It wouldn’t be that difficult to find groups and societies who have an interest in allergens and intolerances, and it could be in your interest to perhaps target these groups when you have promotions coming up.
Above all else, the hypersensitive customer has been searching high and low for that excellent customer experience. They are used to food operators not being able to cater for their needs all the time which means that if you are sensitive about their needs and have an open discussion around what your processes are and whether you can cater to them, this will garner respect and help you attain food allergen customer excellence!
The Allergen Accreditation scheme is open to all catering and hospitality businesses, which could be very beneficial for you!
It is the industry best practice standard and is available at three stages, Bronze, Silver and Gold. Each stage can be managed separately and will get you on to the accreditation ladder. Why is this so important? It gives a clear message to all customers that your business is a safe place to eat and drink, and it endorses your systems, procedures, and promotes your verified food allergen customer excellence credentials.
For an informal discussion drop us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Julian Edwards FIH FCSI CFSP, CEO of Allergen Accreditation.
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