Food allergies afflict up to 15 million Americans and one in 13 children, according to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). It’s a life-threatening issue for many and no easy matter for restaurants, either. It’s why AllergyEats, a website created to provide diners a forum to share and review the allergy friendliness of restaurants across the country, recently held its second annual Food Allergy Conference for Restaurants.

The event in Boston had an ambitious title—“What Every Restaurant Should Know About Food Allergies To Ensure Safety & Maximize Customer Engagement, Loyalty, and Revenue”—and a lineup of speakers to match (Ming Tsai, a James Beard Award-winning chef; Michael Moomjian, director, quality assurance & food safety at P.F. Chang's China Bistro; Kevin Harron, founder, president and c.e.o., Burtons Grill; and many more doctors, allergists and experts).

Paul Antico, the founder and c.e.o. of AllergyEats, and the father of three food allergic children, said attendees benefitted not only from the advice about food allergy protocols, but were “also inspired by the business case in support of accommodating food allergic diners that ultimately leads to increased loyalty, revenue and profits.”

Here are some of the other top tips from the event, according to Antico:
Commit. If owners, managers, and chefs commit to being food allergy friendly, their staff will follow suit.  

Train staff about food allergies. Everyone working in food service should be thoroughly trained about food allergies and understand their organization's procedures. This issue should be emphasized as being tremendously important and positioned as, literally, a matter of life and death.

Create a food allergy protocol. Servers should immediately ask all guests if anyone in their party has a food allergy. If yes, they should know exactly what to do: flag the order, communicate to the chef and manager, avoid cross-contamination, etc.

Communicate. Communication is essential to becoming more allergy-friendly. Understand what the trigger foods are for food-allergic guests and then to chefs to ensure the meal is prepared properly by every member of the team who will touch the order. When serving the meal, reiterate to the guests that it's the allergy-friendly meal they ordered.