According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) “It’s #easytoASK about allergens”.
But how easy is it? And who should be asking?
The #easytoASK campaign
The FSA is, in their own words, ‘encouraging food businesses to make it easier for their customers to ask for allergen information when taking orders or reservations.’
Their #easytoASK campaign, launched in September 2018, encouraged young people to ask food businesses about allergens when eating out, to help them make safe choices. It followed research showing that only 14% of respondents aged 16-14 felt extremely confident asking for allergen information when dining out, while 14% reported feeling not at all confident.
The campaign, aimed at young people (aged 16-24), their peer groups and food businesses had clear objectives;
- raising awareness among young people (16-24) of their rights, when it comes to the provision of allergen information when eating out
- giving young people the confidence to ask food businesses for the information they need when eating out or ordering food online/over the phone
- making young people comfortable about telling their social circle about their condition so friends can understand their needs and support them
- reminding food businesses of the need to provide accurate allergen information, to ensure compliance and the safe provision of food; and
It was delivered in partnership with allergy charities Allergy UK and the Anaphylaxis Campaign through a variety of formats (case studies, adverts, sponsored posts, videos) and media (websites, social media, news outlets).
Who should be asking?
More recently, following several high-profile cases of food allergy-related deaths (see our news page), some restaurants have implemented new customer service procedures to improve safety. At UK chains Leon, Wahaca and Byron, staff now ask all customers if they have a food allergy or intolerance before taking their order.
This is a more proactive approach than leaving all the emphasis on customers to ask and it helps to initiate the conversation that makes allergen management and eating safely a partnership between food business and consumer. However, it should not become a box-ticking exercise or a way to shift responsibility onto frontline staff and away from management.
And, critically, asking is just the first step. Whoever initiates the dialogue, the most important thing is that customers with a food allergy or intolerance have an easy, reliable way to find out what’s in the food on their plate and that all staff provide consistently accurate information.
That’s where Menu Guide comes in. Why have a lengthy, impenetrable printed guide when you can use your (legally required) allergen matrix as a customer service and marketing tool? Let us help you easily create and share an interactive, user-friendly menu that customers can see 24/7 and staff can have on tablets when advising on safe food choices.
Use your allergen menus as a marketing tool. Try Menu Guide free for a month and see the difference it makes.