Food Allergen Consumers look for Confident Venues
Customers are more likely to return to and recommend restaurants that provide clear allergen information and have staff who are helpful towards allergen sufferers, according to new study published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
The report stated: “Inadequate written information limited confident food choice and meant that there had to be greater engagement with staff which was not generally desired.”
It also revealed that a direct conversation with the chef remained one of the “most reliable sources” of allergen information for customers.
Staff who were “knowledgeable and confident around allergens and how particular ingredients might be excluded from particular dishes” were key in gaining the confidence of customers than those who “seemed unsure, disinterested or unaware”.
The study also found evidence that staff who were “proactive … by asking early on in the service encounter if anyone had any food allergies or intolerances, gave confidence in the venue’s ability to manage allergens”.
Over 2 million people in the UK have a food allergy along with an estimated 600,000 with coeliac disease.
The report also presents “strong evidence” that EU legislation intrdocued in 2014, which changed the way food businesses had to provide allergen information to consumers, has had “a positive impact and that good allergen information is good for business”.
Food allergic and intolerant customers were keen to return to venues that had served them well in the past.
With the study focusing on consumer preferences when eating out, both before and after the implementation of the legislation, it concluded: “There was considerable evidence that food allergic and intolerant customers were keen to return to venues that had served them well in the past.”
The research found that after the legislation:
- 70% of food allergic and intolerant consumers feel more confident in asking staff for allergen information.
- 56% of food allergic and intolerant consumers value staff more as a source of information.
- 44% of food allergic and intolerant consumers are more ‘adventurous’ about eating out.
- 67% feel allergen information on food business websites is dependable.
- 63% say talking to the chef about their allergen needs can be relied on.
- 35% report an improvement in allergen information in the menu.
The report, titled ‘The preferences of those with food allergies and/or intolerances when eating out’ (2.75 MB), can be accessed on the FSA’s website.