Only 17% of allergy sufferers and coeliacs trust waiting staff to give them accurate information

A WAKE-UP to the foodservice industry, many of whom are only just now getting to grips with the new regulations that, as from December 2014, will require them to be able to tell any customer who asks about any of the major allergens in their offer.


The regulations do not require this information to be offered in a written format, allowing it to be provided orally by the waiting staff instead. But a survey has shown an overwhelming majority of consumers do not trust the waiting staff to give them the right information.


This finding came in a survey conducted by the Freefrom Eating Out Awards team at the Allergy and Gluten-free show in Liverpool in October. Of those who filled in the survey:


  • 46% had coeliac disease
  • 20% suffered from wheat allergy/intolerance
  • 14% suffered from dairy/cow’s milk allergy/intolerance
  • 20% suffered from a range of other allergies/intolerances




1. Asked how often they ate out:

  • 19% ate out twice a week and 18% only ate out once a week
  • 25% ate out twice a month and 19% only ate out once a month

(*A recent survey – September 2013 – showed that, in the London area at least, people now eat out, on average, four times a week.)


2. Asked why don’t they eat out more?

  • 67% said there was not enough choice to make it worth their while eating out.
  • 53% said that they did not trust most restaurants to understand their allergies or special dietary needs
  • 44% said it ‘was too much hassle’
  • 16% said that they did not like ‘to feel different’


3. Asked which were the best and the worst places to eat if you have an allergy or coeliac disease:

  • Best were fine dining restaurants and family run restaurants, scoring 3-5/5
  • Worst were sandwich bars and Indonesian and Indian restaurants, scoring 1-2/5


4. Asked what precautions they took to ensure that they get safe food:

  • 53% phoned in advance to discuss their needs
  • 50% asked to speak to the chef on arrival
  • (32% both phoned in advance and asked to speak to the chef when they arrived.)
  • However, the largest number, 75%, whether or not they had phoned in advance and/or spoken to the chef, just chose to stick to simplest menus anyhow.


5. Asked what they thought would be the safest way to find out about potential allergens or gluten in any dish:

  • 54% thought that talking to the chef was the safest option although many of those (45%) also wanted to see a written list of ingredients for each dish, or to be provided with an ‘allergen-free’ menu.
  • Only 17% felt that asking their wait-person or the front of house staff about allergens would be a safe and reliable way to go!