With the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization reporting that 15 million Americans have known food allergies, pizza restaurant owners/operators must remain vigilant about serving patrons safely.
We previously wrote an article about ensuring your staff is prepared to serve patrons with food allergies safely. In this article, we’ll expand specifically on allergen-friendly protocols for back-of-house operations that you can implement cost effectively to provide an extra layer of protection for these patrons.
- Take advantage of professional resources: Online training like ServSafe and AllerTrain™ by MenuTrinfo, LLC are time-efficient ways to present valuable and comprehensive food allergen information to kitchen staff. Sending team members to off-site seminars and conferences is also an option, but it could mean a substantial commitment of time and money.
- Reinforce learnings: Set aside a specified time every day or week to walk kitchen staff through the dishes being served and the ingredients they contain, pointing out which may be an “allergy alert” and the substitutes available. Keeping allergen-friendly practices top of mind will encourage your team to apply what they learned in training.
- Create a front-to-back communications plan: While a server may be aware of a patron’s request for allergen-free food preparation, without proper handling it can get lost in translation somewhere between the front and the back of the house. Have a simple walk-back system, meaning a server physically delivers a ticket to a designated kitchen team member and clearly explains the foods or ingredients to be avoided.
- Implement a color-coded cue: Busy nights may tempt some workers to shortcut the walk-back system, regardless of how much you emphasize its criticality. As a fail-safe, create order tickets that are brightly colored and possibly sized differently than those you normally use. The visual “heads up” alerts everyone to the special handling required, and to double-check that the appropriate actions are taken before the food reaches the patron.
- Serve up patron peace of mind: A first-time or even a long-time patron with food allergies may get a little anxious when dining out. On top of training waitstaff to be sensitive to their needs and concerns, serve the food with some type of visual differentiator that servers can explain as an allergen-free indicator — a colored plate, a food spear or other marker, etc.
- Provide a personal touch: Have a chef or kitchen manager personally deliver the meal to the table, reiterating which substitutes were made to address food allergies. She or he can also do a mid-meal check-in to ensure the patron is safely enjoying their food.
- Keep alternatives on-hand: Regularly stock substitutes for foods and/or ingredients that could present challenges — think egg-free pasta, soy milk and nut-free oils.
- Clean workspaces: Insist kitchen workers maintain a workspace protocol that includes sanitizing dishes, utensils, work surfaces and other areas that come in contact with food, including hands and gloves. Make it clear that if there is ever any doubt as to whether a tool or dish is compromised, do not use or serve it.
Implementing back-of-house allergen-free protocols is much more than just smart business practice from a liability standpoint; patrons with food allergies will appreciate your diligence and reward your efforts by making your operation a regular destination when they dine out.
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