The days of undisclosed ingredients will soon be over.
Restaurants are increasingly accepting the fact that many of their guests have allergies and need to know exactly what they’re eating. For many, it could be a matter of life and death.
An estimated 15 million Americans live with food allergies or intolerances, according to Allergy Eats, a website to help the food-allergic find restaurants.
For restaurants, it will be about disclosure of ingredients, but also better training for staff.
These signs appear in all Vitality Bowls restaurants. (Photo courtesy of Vitality Bowls)
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc., for example, makes food-allergy-conscious guests feel welcome by encouraging customization. Team members are trained to follow a set of step-by-step guidelines once notified of a food allergy, including using a special allergen kit that includes specific tools to handle those orders safely.
As a result, Red Robin in 2017 is among the top 10 allergy friendly restaurant chains listed by Allergy Eats.
Likewise, the DineSafe app helps guests with allergies find safe spots to eat. Restaurants can use the app to post nutritional information along with potential allergens, and guests can search for meals that fit their dietary preferences.
A growing number of guests are showing up in dining rooms armed with gluten sensors and other high-tech ways to test for potential hazards.
And some restaurants are opting to keep epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens, on hand in case of severe allergic reactions.
Some in the food world see a future where consumers will be able to map their microbiome, or their gut bacteria, in a way that will help them choose foods to meet specific health needs — and avoid ingredients with potential negative effect.
The world of allergy awareness will only become more complex. But restaurants that meet the needs of food-allergy-conscious customers will win the devotion of a very loyal audience.