#5 How NOT To KILL Your Customers - Dumb Waiter

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How To Kill Your Customers #5 Dumb Waiter

Yes it’s a pun – a dumb waiter is an elevator for food used in hospitality, but I mean an ignorant negligent waiter.

Service staff in whatever context may stuff up food safety by being dumb (ignorant – untrained).

Many times I’ve asked about vegan option in a restaurant and been offered the gluten free menu, or I've asked about allergy information and been given a vegan menu, which sometimes isn’t vegan as it contains honey, or is simply vegetarian and not vegan.

I have had to argue with a waiter, chef, CEOs of large food companies, that pesto is not vegan. There are vegan pestos available but traditionally it contains parmesan cheese. They were annoyed with me for doubting them….I was annoyed with them for attempting to “milk poison” me out of ignorance and stubbornness. They are all nice well intentioned people, competent in many other ways, but also naively negligent to people with allergies.

A “dumb waiter” guesses when asked about allergy information, they’d say something like “I guess so”, “I think so”, “Of course”. This is so extremely dangerous and often disrespectful to the customer.

By not training staff how to communicate about allergens is doing great damage to the restaurant or food service business’ reputation. They look incompetent and are in fact negligent.

A quick test: Ask a waiter if the vegan option is safe for people with milk-allergy…..the answer is nearly always a presumptuous yes. When I ask about contamination, it nearly always turns out it’s absolutely not suitable for people with allergies, lactose intolerance, sometimes even a vegan wouldn’t want it.

It's still common that waiters confuse vegan and vegetarian.

If the information is not available in writing, all the customer has to go on is the waiter’s word and logic. The customer with food allergies usually has had numerous experiences with dumb waiters.

My advice to all food service business particularly places were food is served through a waiter or server….. write down your allergy information. Consider the questions a person with allergies will have to ask (usually ingredients and risk of contamination, or actual known contamination), then ensure your staff take it seriously and can explain what is available and what is not.

The law has changed in the UK recently (Natasha’s Law), customer expectations have increased. You must label food with ingredients and allergy information, but do not neglect to enlighten your staff too.

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