Food Allergens, Your Restaurant Menu and Your Bottom Line

The day is officially upon us when health, not just weight loss, is a revenue-builder for those in food service. As a Nutritionist, I have to admit that I am absolutely thrilled. Watching people become passionate about the health of their bodies and the foods that support it is just mind-blowing. It’s been a connection that I’ve worked to help people make for years and years. So don’t mind me while I gush at trends making this happen for me. And if you’re reading this and are a restaurant operator, you should be equally thrilled. If you just absorb the information in this article alone, you’ll benefit your bottom-line for the better. An added bonus: you’ll be doing it by helping your customers dine safely. It’s a win-win for all parties involved. Not gonna lie, this is probably going to be installment one of a series regarding current health trends and how to improve your revenue, so if you haven’t, make sure you subscribe to our articles so you don’t miss these money-making gems. Without further adieu, let’s learn how citing food allergens on your restaurant menu can make a huge impact on your restaurant, your diners and your revenue.

food allergens

Placing food allergens on your restaurant menu helps your dining guests feel even safer and more confident about their choices when dining out.

What are Food Allergens and Why are they Trending? 

If you have a basic awareness of food allergens you might know that they are foods that people can have a life-threatening reaction to. We’ve seen it depicted in movies like Mrs. Doubtfire, you know when Robin Williams tries to poison Pierce Brosnan and nearly kills him? Or in “Monster-in-law” where Jane Fonda puts nuts in her future daughter-in-law’s (Jennifer Lopez) food to get back at her for marrying her son? And her lips swell? While they’ve had a funny history in movies, food allergies have been an increasing cause for concern as more and more people are diagnosed each year. When you’re diagnosed with a food allergy, it can be pretty terrifying. You’re sent home with a couple epi-pens and a sheet of paper or a website link that tells you what foods to avoid. Food allergies absolutely alter the habits of one’s daily life. For those of you who are unaware, the there are 8 prevalent food allergens (technically 9 if you include sesame).

Top Food Allergens Include: 

  • Milk
  • Egg
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Peanut
  • Tree-Nut
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

When someone consumes a food that they are allergic to, their body treats it like a foreign invader. The respiratory tissue begins to swell which can constrict the windpipes and cause the sufferer to suffocate. An epi-pen must be administered immediately to counteract the body’s histamine response, and sometimes, it still fails. We aren’t trying to get all dark and dreary on you. But sometimes, food allergies can tend to get a bad wrap — there are people who make light of the condition or who pretend to have food allergies so that they can experience special treatment at restaurants. That’s not who we are talking about here. We’re talking about the 32 million people (and growing) who have been diagnosed with food allergies and who have had to stop eating out all together for fear of their lives.

Awareness

In the last few years, as the functional food trend hit the food industry, the restaurant community began to get a glimpse of how important allergens could be. Functional foods are categorized as foods that perform a positive function within the body. Basically, as those superfoods began to make their way onto restaurant menus, other categories started surfacing as well — plant-based, vegan, and (wait for it) food allergies. Customers began to ask the kitchen and the waitstaff for nutritional transparency so they could make the best decisions for their bodies. Heck, Cooper’s Hawk came out with an entirely gluten-free menu as a result of all the questions that they were getting around allergens. We are living in an age where food’s impact on the body’s health has made it to the way we choose to dine, and it’s only going to continue to grow.

Customer Loyalty

According to a study released in January by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), a Virginia-based nonprofit, insurance claims for anaphylactic food reactions rose 377 percent in the U.S. from 2007 to 2016.

And while we have begun to recognize food allergies more and more within our society, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in the food industry. We have a growing market of consumers without enough restaurants to serve them. Do you know what this means? Well according to a study completed by F.A.R.E, one of the leading non-profit organizations in the food-allergy space, approximately 64% of consumers with food allergies will re-purchase the same brand again and again.

If the average restaurant’s customer retention rate is 30%, that’s an increase of 34%. What does that kind of loyalty mean for your restaurant? Is it worth having allergy-friendly offerings on your restaurant menu?

We think so.

Making Dining Safer for Your Guests

With all of this new information, you might be wondering how you can best apply it to your restaurant in order to reap the best reward for both you and your dining guests. Well, it can be done a few ways. The first of many is simply offering your customers a transparent view of your menu. This means, that if any of the top 8 allergens are found within your menu items, you alert customers of their presence. This process can be done via a nutrition analysis w/ allergen flagging (which is what we do!). Each of your recipes are entered into our database and then analyzed to give you reporting on all of their granular nutrition information (which is helpful for other preferences besides allergens) and then each ingredient is flagged for any of the top 8 allergens. This way, you can easily provide the allergen information to your dining guests, or, use it to begin creating allergen-free versions of your best-selling menu offerings!

Which brings us to the other way you can make dining safe: you can provide allergy-friendly menu options for your dining guests! These can be created by using ingredients that either avoid all of the 8 allergens or at least exempt from some of the allergens. In the food-allergen community, Vegan food has become a safe category for those who suffer from milk, egg, fish or shellfish allergies! Creating dishes around the other allergens can open the door for more diners to feel safe at a dinner out with their family and provide you with an excellent opportunity to build a loyal customer base who will be grateful to be served by you again and again.

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