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Nut Allergies...how to best deal with them?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

The issue seems to be coming up more frequently, and I've taken a hard line stance that is pissing many people off, so I thought I'd open the discussion here. My problem is this, we're a small breakfast lunch cafe with a tiny kitchen. We have an extensive use of nuts in many things we prep, bake, or cook. Once you see someone have to pull out the epi pen in the middle of the morning rush, one tends to get gun shy about attempting to accommodate. I worry about the real potential of cross contamination as our works areas are so close. I simply cannot designate one area as a nut free zone. Recently, however, a few people have become absolutely irate when I won't "certify" that say, a waffle is safe, or an omelet. I try to explain, I can promise there will be no nuts in the preparation, but I cannot promise there won't be any stray nut particle. One customer even posted a 1 star Yelp "review" saying he went down the street and they served him with no issue.

 

How do you deal with this and how do you phrase it to the customer to minimize conflict?


Edited by CapeCodChef - 6/13/15 at 4:40pm
post #2 of 7

I have had to deal with this most of my career so I can say to you with confidence what I have told my customers.

 

My statement is this:

 

I first ask if it is an severe allergy or preference. This lets me know where they are coming from. Once they answer.....which is usually saying allergy.....I then say this to them....

 

Thank you for letting me know. My kitchen in a nut zone as I do not have the space to designate a proper allergy free area. I am willing to sanitize a spot if it is more preference however, I will not put your health and life on the line as I cannot guarantee nut free contamination. I know of two places that are nut free (I proceed to give names and directions). I hope you try them out. 

 

This gets them to either admit fully that it is NOT an allergy but a preference or they thank me very much and proceed to go to the places that can accommodate them. I have found that by being up front and positive in my wording as well as giving them options, people don't react as negatively. Although.....you will always have one or two a#*holes who like to just b*#ch about things if you tell them no. I don't pay attention to them regardless of negative Yelp reviews as they are not the majority and I am able to answer the Yelp review positively with the reason as to why I could not accommodate so that people who are reading the review can get a clear picture as so what really is going on. 

 

I am comfortable that I will never be able to "serve them all" and make everyone happy. I have created my product menu and that is that. My customers are loyal to me because I am true to my vision. I will bend a little but I am not a gymnast....lol. I call my gluten free products "gluten-less", my nut free products "nut-less", my egg free products "egg-less" and so on so they know it is not completely guaranteed that there is no contamination. 

 

Hope this helps and others are able to help with their experiences ;)

post #3 of 7

We eventually had a signs made up to avoid the verbal interaction. We just felt to take a verbal approach may leave room for

misunderstanding and liabilities. We found a company online that followed FDA guidelines and made signs for allergy and allergens  We've had them up for a while and I can't for the life of me remember exactly what it states. It basically states that we use tree nuts, peanuts and cumin in the production of some of our products. Pleased be advised that there is a possibility of cross contact. Something like that. This just leaves it up to the customer to make his or her decisions.

Oh, and we stopped packaging alltogether

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for the helpful replies. Just yesterday I tried Fablesable's  advice almost word-for-word and it worked wonderfully. I received a very welcoming response from the customer instead of the past angry reactions. Thanks. I'm not sure I'll go as far as creating signage as per panini's suggestion, but we're printing new menus in a couple of months and I'll be sure to put something on it.

 

Thanks to you both.

post #5 of 7

This discussion reminds me of a Bill Cosby quote (seriously) where he said "I don’t know the key to success but the key to failure is trying to please everyone all the time".

 

The relevance being it's pretty near impossible to cater for nut allergies due to the severity, consequences and sensitivity of that particular allergy. Even if you had large facilities, nut traces become airborne and particles can travel from "nut-free" areas to other areas.

 

In the UK, we say "cannot guarantee nut-free" as a standard disclaimer on menus and most people who genuinely have a nut allergy understand that because they understand the nature of nut particulates.

 

Fablesable touches on the difference between a preference and a genuine allergy. If someone gives you 1/5 on Yelp because you can't guarantee serving them a nut-free item, that person is likely to only have a no nut preference. You're in the majority by not making any assurances against something so severe. Better to stick with that than have an accidental death on your hands.

 

LP.

post #6 of 7

It boggles my mind when people get irate regarding being given an answer that is in the best interest of potentially saving their lives.  

post #7 of 7

@CapeCodChef I feel very happy it worked for you as it always has for myself. By getting new menus with a little disclaimer on the bottom is a great idea as well. I have found it is extremely rare that the one's with a true nut allergy go "nuts" on us because we cannot accommodate.....lol.

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