Michelin starred chef, John Wood, has worked in the hospitality industry for over 37 years, and is passionate about helping businesses to make the necessary changes in their approach to allergens to prevent allergic reactions and anaphylaxis, whilst showing how these changes can be implemented without disruption to staff, customers and profit…
Having worked in the industry for over 37 years, both as a chef and a consultant, I fully appreciate that the pressure allergen management imposes on operations is difficult and time consuming, particularly with staffing pressures and increasingly tough trading conditions.
Legislation surrounding allergens was introduced in 2014, with clear guidance from the FSA about the management of allergens for the F&B industry. Yet, despite this legislation, I have personally witnessed an astounding number of both UK and International companies of all sizes that have no strict process to trace the allergens from the basic ingredient all the way the way through to their bulk recipes and their final dishes.
I have heard terrifying comments such as “my chef deals with that”, “yes I think we are ok with allergens”. I was even told by one chef in a large group of over 30 sites “it is only a small amount of gluten”.
There have been far too many unnecessary tragic deaths and severe allergic reactions in recent years and it is within our power to make the small changes to ensure that allergen related incidents are drastically reduced. Without making these changes, we may find that eating out becomes too much of a risk for consumers. In fact, these concerns are already having an impact. Recent research from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) cited that nearly two-thirds (64%) of people aged 16 to 24 who suffer from food allergies have avoided eating out in the past six months. These results are attributed to allergen sufferers’ lack of faith in restaurant menus, and in many cases this lack of faith is entirely warranted.
Making the change – keeping staff informed
More than ever before, hospitality businesses are struggling to get staff, both in terms of quantity and quality, resulting in a large turnover of people working in the industry. A growing number of hospitality staff are temporary, transient and use English as a second language. This makes it extremely difficult to keep staff up to date and fully informed. The only way to maintain/ train/ adjust your allergen details and provide staff with live, accurate information is to use a robust piece of supplier linked technology. Relying on individuals to manage something as serious as allergens is a gamble every day that many operations take. Many hospitality businesses count on the chef to continually and manually update allergens on menu items and to keep them up to date by reading packaging and having the knowledge of many hidden allergens. As recent tragedies have demonstrated, chefs are only human, and mistakes will happen.
Remove the risk of human error
Many businesses, from small single site operations to global, multi-site corporations, rely on a chef physically going into the storerooms at each location reading the back of packs and manually ticking an Excel allergen sheet manually. There is no process in place for unexpected changes; if a supplier substitutes a product or if a supplier is changed, the product could have a different allergen profile which would need to be updated and then pulled through into all the dishes containing that product.
Time and time again, we see the same products presented on one menu yet with different allergens for each listing.
A manual approach is neither accurate, nor robust and is at constant risk of human error.
Using allergen software to manage allergens in an accurate, simple and effective way
Technology reduces the risk of allergies and anaphylaxis, cuts down admin time and offers customers reassurance and it is the most reliant, consistent and accurate way to keep allergens controlled.
Having a system that is accessible to everyone in the company, provides complete transparency for staff, as well as confidence for management that both their teams and customers are fully informed. Allergen information needs to flow automatically from beginning to end, from supplier to customer, in order to ensure that no critical information is being lost along the way.
Kitchen CUT provides accurate allergen software by allowing suppliers to upload product price and allergen data through a Supplier Gateway. Allergen information for each and every product is gathered from the
supplier directly and then pulled through automatically into every sub-recipe, recipe and menu.
Everything is tracked accurately and automatically updated, providing complete control and visibility over the products and allergen data being supplied.
Communicating with your customers
Having robust controls in place back of house is a great starting point, but in order to ensure safety for food allergy sufferers, it’s imperative that that allergen information is communicated to customers.
The technology available from Kitchen CUT allows the creation of easy to view allergen tables and embeddable menus on restaurant websites, so that customers can browse and filter to see which dishes they can eat based on their preferences/allergies. Giving customers this information to view in advance of visiting
gives them comfort that a restaurant is diligent in their management of allergens. Knowing that allergen software is being used builds confidence that the information is live and up to date and not an out-dated print out from a few weeks ago.
I am passionate about supporting this industry – while I don’t want the creativity of chefs to be restricted due to huge amounts of administration, this needs to be rigorously managed and by using allergen software, they can be creative – safe in the knowledge that any dishes have a transparent allergen profile. The recent tragedies are terrifying. I wish the industry would wake up and take this issue far more seriously.
If you need help, please feel free to contact us at Kitchen CUT and let us advise you on how to get allergen control of your business.