This very interesting article from the BBC investigates what restaurants can and must do to ensure the safety of their customers from allergies. After the tragic death of Owen Carey, there has been a spike of interest into how we should inform and look after our customers.
The importance of protecting people within the food industry cannot be overstated as lives are at risk for those with severe allergies and it is our responsibility to make sure we are doing the most that we can. However independent restaurants have less capabilities to provide ‘interactive allergen menus’ such as Zizi’s and Carluccio’s, but it is just as important that we stay informed!
There is a large difference between how chain and independent restaurants operate in regard to allergens information.
Within a chain restaurant with a large kitchen, recipes can be perfectly weighed, measured and standardised to create the exact same formula each time, then recipe packs can be written up guaranteeing the correct information.
In comparison, the nature of independent restaurants relies on recipes made from the initiative of chefs using what’s around them. Rather than having exactly standardised menus our selections are constantly changing and evolving which gives a more individual experience but does open us up to more risks with allergies.
For example, at Hopleys Café we have a constantly growing daily specials board, based on what is fresh, new and exciting which is always super popular with our customers.
However, as this is updated daily it gives little time for formal menus and allergies to be written up day to day thus, we rely on the knowledge of our staff which we must be able to guarantee can provide the correct information to the customer.
Although, one benefit of being a smaller independent restaurant is that customers, staff and chefs can work closely together and communicate easily the needs of each individual customer, which would be much more difficult in a large chain environment. At our Cafes this often allows us to be able to make unique meals adapted specifically for a customer’s unique dietary requirements.
Luckily our homemade cakes are made using our same secret recipes each time thus we know exactly which are gluten free, dairy free etc!
Plus we always make a special effort to ensure we always have a totally vegan option on rotation. This allows us to cover every dietary basis so everyone has an option to eat as well as knowing exactly which cake is safe for who, as we wouldn’t want anyone missing out!