Frustrated By Food Allergies? Relax, Restaurateurs, There's A Conference For That.

Chefs and restaurateurs are wrangling with a slew of dietary restrictions these days. To better handle the barrage of customer questions about ingredients and preparations, one restaurant in Austin began printing seven different menus every day each catering to a specific category of diner: celiac, dairy-free, gluten-free, shellfish-free, tree nut-free, vegetarian and vegan.

In an interview with Eater, Mark Buley, chef and owner of the multi-menu venue, Odd Duck, explained this extra level of customization as a mere matter of enhanced customer service: "You can put the food in front of them and make them feel secure and confident that what they're eating isn't going to mess with their health."

Operators looking for other dietary-troubleshooting strategies possibly even some with lower printing costs should check out the 3rd annual AllergyEats Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs & Food Service Professionals, which is coming up on Oct. 21 in New York City. (Registration is $279 per person; get the full details here.)

"Attendees will learn that accommodating food-allergic guests doesn't need to be expensive, complicated or time-consuming to implement, and the benefits to their business including increased profits and customer loyalty can be quite significant," organizer Paul Antico says in a press release.

The conference will feature various chefs, physicians and other experts discussing all sorts of "best practices," ranging from preventing cross-contamination in the kitchen to heaven forbid handling a full-blown allergic reaction in the dining room. (Scroll down for more from the official release.)

As the following Portlandia clip remind us, "for some people, a Thai restaurant is a death trap."

From the AllergyEats release:

Some of the key questions to be discussed at the conference include:

How can I make my commercial kitchen safer for food-allergic and gluten intolerant guests? Prestigious industry trainers Betsy Craig from AllerTrain and Dr. Julie Kuriakose from Hudson Allergy will explain how to prevent cross contact, elevate internal protocols, create detailed ingredient spreadsheets, understand ingredient "aliases," and much more.

What types of protocols do allergy-friendly restaurants implement? Expert restaurateurs, including Matt Abdoo of Del Posto and Robin Hamm of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, will describe their best practices around food allergies. They'll also explain why they've committed to being allergy-friendly and the positive outcomes they've experienced as a result.

Will accommodating guests with food allergies really impact my business? Paul Antico from AllergyEats (and a longtime financial expert) will demonstrate that allergy-friendliness can significantly impact business, leading to increased revenue, customers and loyalty.

What happens if a guest accidentally eats their food allergen? Prominent physicians, including Dr. Scott Sicherer of Mount Sinai Hospital, will explain the basics of food allergies, the range of repercussions, what allergic reactions look like and what to do if one occurs. They'll also discuss the increased prevalence of food allergies and dispel common misconceptions.

How do I modify meals to accommodate food-allergic diners? Accomplished chefs Colette Martin, Lori Sandler, and Beth Hillson will discuss ingredient substitutions, explaining how to modify recipes to be allergy-friendly, gluten free, and still delicious. They'll also advise on the must-have items for allergy-friendly commercial kitchens.

How can university dining halls safely serve food-allergic students? Hear from Robert Landolphi of the University of Connecticut, a pioneer who has created exceptional allergy-friendly protocols on campus. He'll describe the steps he's taken to better accommodate students with special dietary restrictions, including labeling allergens, offering cook-to-order stations, and training dining hall staff.

How can my mom-and-pop restaurant be as accommodating as big restaurants/chains with much more significant resources?Independent restaurateurs like Jared Schulefand of Home will discuss cost-effective ways to elevate food allergy procedures, showing that restaurateurs don't need to invest significant time or money into the process to reap the tremendous business rewards.

What are food-allergic diners looking for when choosing a restaurant? Experts, including Dr. Mike Pistiner of Children's Hospital Boston and Lisa Giuriceo of the Food Allergy & Asthma Support Group of North Jersey, will discuss the factors that go into this important decision, teaching restaurateurs how to attract this loyal customer base.

The conference will be held on Tuesday, October 21 at the Radisson Martinique on Broadway in New York City. The event is sponsored by Mylan Specialty L.P., as well as Nation's Restaurant News, the New York State Restaurant Association, the Connecticut Restaurant Association, MenuTrinfo, and Gipsee.

The AllergyEats Food Allergy Conference for Restaurateurs & Food Service Professionals has been approved by the American Culinary Federation for 7 continuing education hours.

Advanced registration is required. Registration is $279 per person. Group discounts are also available. To register and for more information, please visit

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