It has now been a year since every catering business, from restaurants and hotels through to mobile caterers and even motorway service stations, have had to record, track, and communicate effectively to their potential customers which food allergens are present in their food. The 14 foods most likely to cause an allergic reaction include nuts, shellfish, and even eggs.
Twelve months on, many businesses are struggling to find enough choices to give their diners that comply with the new regulations. Diners are expecting to see the “free-from” options now, so it is important to invest some time in making some changes.
National chains of pubs and restaurants have it easier in some respects because many of their meals and ingredients are prepared in bulk and in advance, and the business support that goes with being part of a multi-site organisation can also help.
The gluten-free market is big business, and according to the Food Standards Agency, it’s one that will continue to see double-digit growth. A cursory glance around the shelves of your local supermarket will indicate just how quickly the free-from industry is growing.
Otherwise, free-from ingredients should be treated and stored the same way as regular versions, such as in the commercial fridge if appropriate. Companies like FFD Ltd sell a wide variety of refrigeration equipment, and it is worth investing as much in your equipment as you do in your ingredients.
Once the initial menus are set, it’s not the end of the matter. Menus need regular revision and seasonal updating, among other considerations. Staff training is very important. Because turnover is often high in catering businesses, regular training should be offered to ensure all team members are kept up to date.
Meeting the requirements of the laws shouldn’t be too difficult if a little thought and prior planning goes into the menus. Do not underestimate the power of word-of-mouth; people who are impressed by the menus will tell others.
These allergies and intolerances are not fads, and they will not be going away. The sooner chefs and menu planners realise that and incorporate allergen-free ingredients into their menus, the better it will be for everyone.