Food Allergy Risk Communication in Restaurants
Accommodating customers with food allergies has become a challenge for the restaurant industry as the number of individuals with food allergies increases in the U.S. In order to identify restaurant managers’ risk perceptions and operational issues related to communications about food allergy risks, 16 managers from various full-service restaurants were interviewed. All interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, coded, and reviewed by different researchers to ensure the accuracy of data coding and theme identification. Most participants (n = 10) were aware of the severity of food allergy reactions and the importance of avoiding cross-contacts in restaurants as a means of preventing food allergy reactions. Although risk communication is important to prevent allergic reactions, some participants (n = 5) perceived that customers bore more responsibility than servers when communicating allergen-free requests. Currently, only one-way communication occurred, mainly from customers with food allergies to restaurant servers. Managers provided little training to service staff on topics related to food allergies and risk communication, and some thought such training had low significance for restaurant settings. Restaurateurs, foodservice educators, food allergy advocates, and policy makers may use these findings when developing food allergy training and strategies to prevent food allergy reactions, including fostering two-way communications in restaurants.
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