Last month, the Journal of Foodservice Business Research published a study indicating that restaurant managerial staffers have a lot to learn when it comes to food allergies--even those who have gone through training.

Researchers at Auburn University surveyed 110 U.S. restaurant managerial employees--owners, managers and chefs--from both independent and chain establishments. The overall goal was to find out how aware and prepared these staff members are in terms of serving customers with food allergies.

While the study showed that 80 percent of participants indicated they had received training about food allergies--and 70 percent had provided training to their staff members within the past year--there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Results revealed the following:

  • About 22 percent said that food allergy reactions had occurred in their restaurant within the past year.
  • Survey participants said there are three ways they accommodate customers with food allergies: modify recipes upon request, display food allergens on menu, and post food allergen details on their website.
  • More than 40 percent of the restaurant staffers were not able to identify soy and fish among the most common food allergens.
  • 50 percent were not able to identify arachis oil as peanut oil.
  • About 40 percent believed that simply removing a food allergen from a plated meal could prevent the onset of an allergic reaction. They also believed that food allergies could be cured by modern medicine.
  • More than 50 percent believed that a food allergy and a food intolerance were the same thing.
  • Chefs knew more about food allergies than owners and managers.

Authors of the Journal of Foodservice Business Research article indicated that “restaurateurs are evidently underestimating the severity of food allergies,”

Not only that, survey participants acknowledged running into a few barriers that hinder food allergen training for restaurant employees--lack of commitment, lack of interest in attending such training, conflicting schedules and employee turnover.

Sign up for Food Safety Magazine’s bi-weekly emails!