Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is no stranger to expressing controversial views – in fact, it could be argued that his TV persona depends on him doing so. It should have been no surprise when earlier this year Ramsay responded “vegans” to a Twitter follower who asked if he had any allergies.
Inevitably, a social media storm followed, with one respondent saying:
“it’s a sign of an unimaginative chef to not cook great vegan food!”
Allergens and vegetarians are separate issues, although Ramsay managed to combine the two issues. However, what connect them is that chefs across all sectors of the hospitality sector may be missing out if they don’t take the needs of customers with specific dietary needs into account, as two pieces of recent research show.
A survey by YouGov for hospitality networking group Arena found:
- 1 in 5 of the population believes they have a food allergy or intolerance. Around 75% of these are largely self-diagnosed, but this nevertheless influences their eating out choices;
- 1 in 4 UK households include at least one food allergy/intolerance sufferer;
- 10% of people are actively cutting back on gluten in their diet;
- 13% of people are actively cutting back on dairy in their diet;
- 40% of people with a food allergy or intolerance believe that dishes which meet their requirements are not well signposted when eating out;
- 20% of people with a food allergy or intolerance believe their requirements are simply not properly catered for by restaurants and pubs.
Findings from the NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey earlier this year, in response to questions commissioned by the Vegetarian Society, found:
- Three in 10 people (29%) say they have reduced the amount of meat they eat in the past 12 months;
- One in 10 ten say they are considering reducing their meat intake or cutting meat out completely;
- 44% of people either do not eat meat, have reduced the amount of meat they eat or are considering reducing the amount of meat they eat;
- More than a third of women (34%) and nearly a quarter (23%) of men had reduced their meat intake in the last year;
- Older people (65 to 79 year olds) are twice as likely to have reduced their meat consumption as 18 to 24 year olds – with older people typically having more disposable income, that’s a significant statistic for the foodservice industry;
Allergens – a reminder
Under the Food Information Regulations 2013, it is no longer enough to write ‘may contain nuts’ or a similar disclaimer. You need to be able to give customers detailed information about 14 different potential allergens that may be in the dishes served. Along with nuts, the list ranges from everyday staples such as fish, eggs, milk and cereals, to more exotic fare such as lupin – which, as a flour rather than a flower, is used as an ingredient in some baked goods and pasta produced abroad.
The issue hit home a few months ago when the highest profile allergens-related prosecution in the UK to date saw restaurateur Mohammed Khalique Zaman sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for manslaughter, after a customer’s request for peanut-free chicken tikka masala was ignored. While that prosecution relates to an incident that took place before the current allergen regulations came into force in December 2014, it certainly sent a strong message to our industry.
Another reminder of the issue came at the end of August when the press reported that a customer in a Manchester bar suffered a near-fatal reaction to a cocktail which contained raw egg – which is on the list of allergens that must be reported.
After a period in which the approach from local authorities was mainly to work with operators to raise awareness of the change in the rules, there now seems to be a harder line setting in. Reports from operators suggest that EHOs are now asking specifically about allergens procedures on every visit. With the issue now high on the list of priorities, it may in only be a matter of time before there are more prosecutions.
Work with Lynx Purchasing
What is worth remembering, is that customers with special dietary requirements will make the decision about where to eat for their families and friends, as well as themselves. With the peak party bookings season about to get underway, chefs should be reviewing their menus and suppliers to make sure they aren’t ruling themselves out.
Whether you’re adapting staple menu items, or trying out new dishes, catering to special dietary needs can mean working with new ingredients. Lynx Purchasing can help identify suppliers and get the best prices.
The newly redesigned Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, which is endorsed by the Craft Guild of Chefs, enables chefs, caterers and restaurant managers to monitor margins in busy kitchens or when negotiating with suppliers, using a smartphone or tablet. To download the FREE App, go to:
For Android: Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App on Google Play
Lynx Purchasing is a team of experienced purchasing specialists who help hospitality and catering businesses buy more effectively and operate more profitably by making significant savings. We work with more than 2200 businesses across the full spectrum of the hospitality and catering sector, with customers including hotels, restaurants, pubs, cafés, and care homes.