(Continued from page 1)

3. Expand training on food handling procedures to ensure safe delivery of meals to diners with food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities.

A bill recently introduced by the Maryland legislature would make it mandatory for every restaurant in the state to have a trained staff member on premise and available to provide guidance as to possible food allergens used as ingredients in menu items. If successful, the bill could be a tipping point for similar laws nationwide, making allergy training a requirement.

Even if allergy training does not become state law across the country, in this new environment operators should train a full range of staff including managers, chefs, line cooks and servers about the importance of topics such as cross contamination, food preparation and the policies needed to protect both diners and the business. A number of prepackaged programs exist, or operators can design their own training. By expanding the knowledge level of the full staff, they can work together to deliver safe products to allergic diners. The back-of-house staff should know how to prepare safe products and the front-house staff should fully understand what is and isn’t safe for diners with special concerns.

A great example comes from Bill Moore, director of safety and security at Eat’n Park Hospitality Group, which runs restaurants and foodservice outlets at colleges and universities; hospitals and senior care centers, corporate dining and a professional sports arena. Moore started to research and work on a company-wide food allergy program for Eat’n Park in 2005 after he saw an increase in diners with special dietary needs. Modeling his company's allergy program after a program at Disney, he has participated in and led extensive allergy training for his organization. Today the allergy program is the number one compliment received through the customer service line.

As more and more laws are signed, more regulations rolled out and more lawsuits won, operators can fall into fear or dread. But companies like Eat’n Park have done it right by flipping the fear and seizing the opportunity to attract and increase loyalty among customers by providing a safe, option-filled dining experience.

Betsy Craig is the c.e.o. and founder of MenuTrinfo, which provides nutritionals for restaurant kitchens.