Seafood Allergy Safety Tips From A 40+ Year Restaurant Industry Veteran

By: Cy Sadaka

7 Minute Read

Nov 06, 2018

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seafood allergies

Did you know that roughly 6.6 million Americans have seafood allergies?

Seafood is delicious, but seafood allergies definitely are not.

Chances are you have or will have a guest dining with a food allergy at your restaurant. Though an allergy's effect will differ from person to person, it's important that the way your restaurant approaches and accommodates seafood allergies does not.

The Difficulties of Dining Out With Seafood Allergies

It can be particularly stressful for someone with a common food allergy to either find allergy-friendly restaurants or allergen-free options when dining out, especially when surrounded by friends or family who do not have any limitations to what or where they can eat.

If you or someone you know has a seafood allergy, will you (or they) be able to enjoy a nice hive-free meal at a seafood restaurant? Yes, though there are some precautions you should take.

The same should be said for restaurants: with the proper systems in place, if you are a seafood concept or have sea-fare on your menu, you should not hesitate to accommodate guests who may be allergic.

Expert Tips For Accommodating Seafood Allergies In Your Restaurant

Cy Sadaka, a famed restauranteur with over 40 years of industry experience under his belt, is the owner of King Crab House – Chicago’s oldest crab house – which has been in business for over three decades. Located in historic Lincoln Park, his restaurant is one of many seafood restaurants that prides themselves on providing safe options for those with seafood allergies.

Whether you're a diner with a seafood allergy, or a restaurant hoping to improve how you accommodate diners with allergies, here are some expert tips from Cy that ensure both guest and restaurant staff have a safe, satisfying experience.

1. Know The Symptoms

Depending on the person’s level of sensitivity to seafood, it is not entirely impossible for them to go to a seafood restaurant and enjoy a meal. Keep in mind the level of allergy sensitivity varies amongst individuals, so some may be susceptible to an allergic reaction to food by smell alone and others by consumption.

The more common symptoms of a seafood allergy include:

  • Coughing, difficulty breathing, wheezing, and itchy throat or mouth
  • Sudden nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
  • Itchiness, hives, and skin redness
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Loss of consciousness

Before going to a seafood restaurant with someone who has seafood allergies, make sure you are aware of the person’s sensitivity level and symptoms. Being aware of this is vital, as it will ensure their safety and comfort.

If your restaurant is a seafood concept or has sea-fare on the menu, train your staff in recognizing the most common signs of an allergic reaction to seafood.

Typsy, an online hospitality skills training website, is a great resource for restaurant staff to learn new skills, including how to properly accommodate guests dining with food allergies.Your staff can learn at their own pace on their own time, and you can rest assured that your staff is equipped with the right skills needed to make every dining experience a memorable one.

Below is an example of a food allergy safety course available to Typsy users.

2. Prepare In Advance

When dining with seafood allergies, it's important to do your research before visiting a restaurant. You'll want to know what type of food they serve, if there are allergen-free options for you, and if there are any dishes that may present a cross-contamination problem.

As a restaurant owner or operator, it's easy to make your menu more accommodating to those with food allergies. Simply create an icon system for your menu, where different icons signify whether a dish is a safe option for those dining with dietary restrictions. For example, V could represent vegetarian friendly, VV could represent vegan friendly, SF could represent 'has seafood present', and D could represent 'dairy present'.

Boston-based Flour Bakery uses a similar icon system on their menu to highlight which options are best for those with common dietary restrictions or food allergies.

Flour Bakery Online Menu

Flour goes above and beyond by also including a link to their full ingredient list for every dish on their menu. Guests who have special considerations when dining out can research to their heart's content and rest assured that their dining experience will be delightful and safe.

Another option is to include allergy information for every dish and drink directly in your restaurant's POS system. For example, within Toast's point-of-sale solution, restaurant management can write a short description for every item on their menu; Many restaurants use this feature to highlight whether individual dishes are a safe option for diners with special dietary considerations.

Toast point of sale system

toast point of sale system

This feature enables front of house staff to quickly and easily tell guests whether an item they're interested in is an allergen-free, safe option.

3. Inform Your Waiter

It's important to inform your waiter as soon as you're sat about whether anyone in your party is dining with allergies – seafood and otherwise – so they can help you navigate the menu safely and successfully.

In order to prevent any unintended cross-contamination in the kitchen, ask the waiter if they know what kind of oil is used in cooking the dish and whether the staff uses the same utensils to create multiple dishes.

As a server or bartender, when greeting your guests, be diligent about asking whether anyone in the party has food allergies or sensitivities; this gives you ample time to alert the kitchen and put your restaurant's allergy response plan in action.

4. Explore Seafood-Free Options

It may surprise you to know that most seafood restaurants do not exclusively carry seafood.

For example, King Crab House carries seafood-allergy safe options on their dinner menu under a section titled Landlubbers. This section features dishes like Chicken Kabob and Filet Mignon, along with other allergy-safe options like chicken wings, sandwiches, and salads.

No luck finding a safe option on the menu? Try calling ahead to see if a special dish can be prepared. Though it may seem daunting to ask, remember you're dealing with the hospitality industry: delighting guests through revitalized hospitality and memorable dining experiences is what we do.

If your restaurant is a seafood concept, it's worth your while to include non-seafood items on your menu for those guests who may have seafood allergies and for those who may not be big seafood fans but found themselves at your restaurant nonetheless.

Navigating A Sea[Food] of Allergies

Allergy friendly restaurants are the epitome of hospitality.

Accommodating diners with food allergies in your restaurant is not only easy to do, it's a smart business decision. Aligning your restaurant's brand with inclusivity will do wonders for your reputation and your restaurant's bottom line.

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