More and more U.S. consumers, as many as 15 million (although likely to be more, considering there's a growing belief that research has not kept accurate count), are diagnosed with food allergies. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that while examining the decade from 1997-2007, children diagnosed with food allergies rose 18 percent. In a follow-up study from 2007-2011, that number rose by another 50 percent. And with 90 percent of allergy reactions falling into eight types of popular foods, which are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat, what is the restaurant industry to do?
One of out three people claim to have a food allergy or that they need to adjust their diet for the safety of a family member. With more guests being impacted by allergies — allergies that are directly related to common restaurant menu ingredients — how can restaurant operators and chefs ensure the well-being of their customers?
Food allergy awareness is relatively new for most restaurant regulations. In a November 2015 survey of chain and independent owners, managers, and chefs, even though 80 percent of them stated they received food allergy training, the gaps in knowledge were apparent. More than 40 percent were unable to identify soy and fish among top allergens, while almost half believed that removing an allergen from a plated meal was enough to prevent a reaction. On top of that, over one-fifth of the participants said that a food allergy reaction had occurred at their restaurants in the past year.
As a new market that has emerged in the last 20 years, there is now special recognition for allergy-friendly restaurants. Zero8 in Montreal has a menu entirely free of the eight most common food allergens. At the 2017 NRA Show, they have even have special food allergy awards that will be announced. But which restaurant chains should you look to for inspiration in terms of accommodating to diners with food allergies? In a ranking conducted by dining guide AllergyEats, these were the chains that rose to the top.
Large Restaurant Chains
- Chipotle Mexican Grill
- Mellow Mushroom
- In-N-Out Burger
- Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
Small Restaurant Chains
- Burtons Grill
- Legal Sea Foods
- Flatbread Company
- Rainforest Cafe
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