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Is menu-labelling a ticking time-bomb for your restaurant?

In the wake of the recent manslaughter verdict Hospitality operators should turn to technology to better protect guests

Following the recent case where a restaurant owner was found guilty of manslaughter after his customer suffered a severe allergic reaction, how can restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels do their utmost to ensure the safety of their guests?  How can you better communicate allergen information or comply with nutritional menu labelling it in a quick and cost-effective manner?

Guest-facing self-service tech might hold the answer for you.

The deadline is set.  By May 2017, US restaurants that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations offering similar menu items will be required to provide calorie and other nutritional information on their menus.  Similarly, in the UK since 2015, food businesses have had to make information on 14 allergens available to consumers.  Sounds simple.  But inaccurate labelling, inadequate staff training and poor communication about serious allergens could, in no uncertain terms, affect the health and sometimes, lives of your customers.

This point was sadly highlighted last month when restaurant owner, Mohammed Zaman, was found guilty of manslaughter after switching almond powder for a cheaper ground nut mix which contained peanuts that went on to cause Paul Wilson a severe anaphylactic shock.  Paul had specified ‘no nuts’ on his order – an instruction which was written on the lid of his takeaway.

Following the manslaughter verdict, The Food Standards Agency (FSA) urged foodservice operators to check processes and procedures around allergen compliance and highlighted its support for the new food safety guide from the British Hospitality Association (BHA).

Major challenges of allergen and nutritional labeling include accuracy and the costs involved of printing and reprinting traditional menus following changes to dishes or ingredients, especially if you serve seasonal meals.  A mobile ordering solution could put this important information straight into the hands of your guests.  When menu descriptions and allergen warnings are all handled centrally, changes and updates can be made quickly and easily to ensure guests have the latest information when they’re ordering.  These updates can be quickly applied across your estate without the headache of a mass reprint of menus or ad hoc staff training.

Frankie and Benny’s, for example, has a mobile app that lets their guests create their own menu by inputting their preferences.  The app then filters the menu and only shows them what’s suitable.

If a guest has a severe allergy to a particular ingredient, some of the more sophisticated mobile ordering apps have the ability to configure preferences so no item with that ingredient is even presented to that guest for them to order.  By going mobile you can also reduce the risk of wait-staff error such as forgetting or not knowing an allergen is present in an order.  It also saves your staff having to have encyclopedic knowledge of all the dishes the 14 key allergens might be present in or even how many calories dishes contain.

It is vitally important Hospitality operators have systems in place to keep their customers safe and with the ever evolving use of guest facing technology, it makes sense operators are looking to get smart with their processes by turning to mobile to front-end their capabilities.  Centralised menu management and mobile ordering encourages customers and operators alike to take responsibility for nutritional and allergen communication and, importantly, could help reduce major incidences of food-related allergic reactions.

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