Paul Dickinson, Director of Food at Fuller, Smith & Turner
A person’s reaction to an allergen can vary considerably – from mild to fatal – and as a result, Fuller’s changed its allergens policy to better protect its customers and give our team members clear instructions on their responsibility.
Allergens have been an increasing focus for Fullers since December 2014, when the law changed to ensure allergenic ingredients are indicated clearly. We have a responsibility to offer and serve food which is safe – and obviously, that definition includes being cautious when a customer has informed us that they have an allergy or intolerance to certain foods.
How are we keeping our customers safe from allergens? Three years ago, Fuller’s retrained all its team members and changed the way we take food orders. Every time you visit one of our pubs for a meal, you will be proactively asked by a team member if you have any allergies that the kitchen team should know about. We are constantly retraining our team members to ensure this procedure is always followed.
If you tell us something about a particular food making you ill or uncomfortable, we won’t serve it to you. We will not serve someone a dish that has the slightest risk of containing the allergen to that person, telling thatcannot have that dish. We aim to ensure our customers have the best possible experience and we take the safety of our customers very seriously. But we will do everything we can to provide a suitable alternative by offering menu items that we know are safe for that customer.
We have an information bank of all the allergens present in our dishes. However, the allergens are listed for the meal in its entirety, not for individual ingredients in the dish. This means we cannot serve a variation of that meal by substituting specific ingredients, as we cannot guarantee the remaining or substituted ingredients will be allergen-free.
We are working on getting the allergens in our ingredients tested and listed so we can offer people with allergies more flexibility. But until this work has been completed, we will continue to adhere to our allergens policies to protect our customers. Their safety is just too important to make second guesses.
We have listened to our customer’s feedback and taken comments onboard to evolve how we manage the policy, while always ensuring the safety of our customers.
To assist our diners who have allergies, we introduced Tenkites menus on our websites for easy allergen filtering.
Customers can select the allergies they have, and Tenkites will then display menu items that are free of those allergens. Instead of showing them what they can’t eat, our online menus will show them all the dishes them can eat.
Allergen information is also provided through our talking menu service, Good Food Talks, which provides accessible menus for visually impaired, blind, and dyslexic diners to independently browse and order from the food menu. You can see more about this great initiative at goodfoodtalks.com.
Fuller’s takes a firm approach to allergen safety as we learned from past incidents across the industry, and we want to make sure that we never put any of our customers at risk. While people may not agree with the strict stance that we’re taking on allergens, we stand by the decision we made and will continue to adhere to our allergens policy in our pubs.
We are working hard to improve the information we hold on each ingredient, and we are working with our suppliers to remove ambiguous and unhelpful terms such as ‘may contain’. We have had to take a very rigorous approach – but we are learning, adapting, and improving the policy day by day to make it more workable and customer friendly. But until then, we will continue to err on the side of caution.