Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Compelling Argument for Restaurants to Accommodate Food Allergies

060521peanutsImage by Dan4th via FlickrThere’s money in food allergies. Oh, I’m not talking about doctors and medications, or even the allergy safety kits and epi-pen holders that my friend Elizabeth Goldenberg sells at her awesome Onespot Allergy website. I’m talking about restaurants – specifically, restaurants that accommodate food allergies.

Consider this press release by Allergy Eats. Paul Antico, founder of Allergy Eats says that the veto-vote, the vote by the member of a group or family going out to eat, will have more and more weight. If one family member can’t find anything to eat at the restaurant around the corner, or that restaurant is not willing to accommodate the food-allergic, then the family will choose to go elsewhere. Those restaurants that work with customers, and make sure they are eating foods that are safe, will get a larger share of the eating-out dollars.

In my experience this is absolutely true. In my hometown we’ve got the drill down. We have our favorite restaurants – the ones where we know that there are meals my son can eat (or even order for take-out) and exactly how to order them so that no butter accidentally gets put on the steak, or that no onion rings are put on the plate with the ribs. And we go back to those restaurants again and again.

We also know which restaurants to avoid.

We know where the food is made from fresh ingredients (and therefore much more likely to be able to be adapted) and where the food comes packaged.

When Applebee’s decided not to cater to the food-allergic earlier this year, they risked alienating 25% of their market. Given that Applebee’s is a family-oriented restaurant, and given that one in four children has food allergies, it follows that one in four families will not be able to eat there.

Restaurant owners have a choice: Accommodate food allergies, or lose market share. What do you think?


Allergy Mum said...

I completely agree. We only go to restaurants that we feel can safely accommodate your son and all his allergies, and who are happy to do so. It is not a long list of places, but we are very loyal to the ones that take the time to ensure that our meals are safe. Going out to eat makes us feel "normal", and is a much needed break from homemade cooking some days.
Allergy Mum -

Izzy said...

We don't go out anymore, it's just not safe. I get sick every time we do and I have trouble trusting people now and businesses. We are grain-free among other things we are avoiding so it's really difficult to find a restaurant that will be grain-free.

Colette said...

Allergy Mum. I really do think there is a market for allergen-free restaurants.

Izzy, I think it's so sad that you can't go out to eat anymore -- and of course that makes any kind of travel really hard. The question is -- would you go out to eat if you knew the restaurant would take care of you?

EMR said...

Yes they have to be sensitive towards the need of the customer.If there is an option of allergy safe food customers are sure to run there.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. I have 5 food allergies myself and although I have a few restaurants that I feel comfortable preparing my plate I rarely eat out because you can't control what the parties at other tables order! Several times, most recently two days ago I have gone out to eat only to have a reaction to the person behind me eating some sort of shellfish etc... I think an allergen-free restaurant [free of the 8 most common and easily adaptable to others] would be amazing, and a good investment!