If you, or someone you love, are one of the growing population of people affected by a food allergy, you will know only too well how stressful a condition this can be, particularly when dining out. Allergies are diseases caused by a hypersensitivity of the immune system to its direct environment, and can be potentially life threatening.
As a restaurant or food provider, it is always good practice to consider what measures you can be taking daily to improve your customer’s overall experience. But with an increase of 4459 hospital admissions for anaphylactic shock during 2015 in the UK alone, it becomes painfully clear that what we really need to be working at is delivering food transparency. As explored in a previous RMagazine article, a huge percent of the population (approximately 30-40%) are now seeking increased knowledge about the food they are eating; meaning this really is a topic of growing importance within this industry.
So, what can be done?
With food allergy laws requiring all known allergens to be displayed on a food product or meal, as well as regulations that ensure the ingredients of a product are always listed, we are progressing in the right direction. Furthermore, as of December 2016, it is now a legal requirement for all pre-packaged food to have the nutritional values of the product displayed on the packaging. Hypothetically then, food transparency should now be an absolute practice. But is it?
Although this legislation is a fantastic indicator of progress, the quest for food transparency doesn’t end there. The theory, the policy and the objectives are all outlined, but it is the practicality of ensuring these are being met that may need some assistance.
Could tech help?
Working in a busy kitchen environment can, at times, be chaotic, and there is always the potential for information regarding a dish or product to be inadvertently miscommunicated between chefs and FOH staff. Although these incidences are often mere accidents, for those affected with an allergy the seriousness of the situation skyrockets. Furthermore, delivering a transparent and compliant service can be a costly and time consuming activity, particularly for those outlets with fast changing menus.
To attend to these concerns many companies are turning to technology to help and, in particular, the aid of cloud-based menu management software has become increasingly popular.
So, what can menu management technology do?
Fundamentally, menu management software offers resources and features that support commercial kitchens in the daily running of their business. The idea is to make every day processes run with ease, allowing kitchens to function at their best and offering features that encourage the deliverance of food safety and transparency.
Although systems vary, the following five steps are the real ‘go-to’ features that this technology can offer.
1- Food Data on Tap
Using a menu management system is like using an online, portable, clear and easy- to-edit ‘recipe bank’ of your food data. You input your recipes into the system yourself, ingredient by ingredient, and the software simultaneously displays the nutritional values of the dish. This in turn creates data sheets that are accessible for all team members, across numerous sites. More significantly, the software will also highlight any allergens present.
Cloud systems work on real time- so, the results are instant. This means that you are always able provide consumers with an accurately transparent overview of a dish before they order, with no paperwork in sight.
If you can find a system that provides compliant labelling for your dishes or pre-packed food, you have won half the battle. Delivering first-class labels for your products is paramount if you want to achieve food transparency, as it allows you to document the ingredients, the nutritional values and any allergens that may be present in the food. In the UK, this is now a legal requirement for all food products.
Traditionally this process would entail businesses sourcing external services and resources to create these labels. Finding software that can design bespoke labels directly from your menu and printer however, will halve the time and cost of this operation making it quick, easy and effective.
3- Numerical Functionality
Surprising at it may seem, numbers play a huge part in the search for food transparency, particularly when you make amendments to a recipe. The weight or quantity of an ingredient will affect the overall nutritional value of a dish; so, if you add more butter to a sauce for example, the nutritional composition of the whole dish will subsequently change. Failing to account for these changes will, without question, compromise the accurate representation of the dish.
A software system that can do all the maths for you is going to be invaluable. If it can take into account the weight or quantity of the ingredient, and do the relevant sums to address any changes, you are going to always be on top of your dish data.
Some systems, like Kafoodle, can also do the maths of the cost per dish, helping you keep track of your recipes GPs and financial scoping for the future.
4- Ingredient Substitution
Another great feature often offered by menu management software, is the ability to add a substitute ingredient to a recipe without compromising the remaining data.
By identifying allergens that are present in a dish, suitable replacements can be found and added without making any further changes, ensuring accuracy.
Having the option to make substitutions like this means you always have the resources to make suitable alternatives for any diner’s requirements, and there is no possible room for human error as the systems does the calculations for you.
5- In-house communication
Last- but by no means least- using an online menu management system can ensure that food data will not be lost or transposed in the journey to the consumer. These systems ultimately allow for you to transfer information directly from the chefs to the FOH staff, via access to the same system.
This limits miscommunication between your team members whilst serving, and so ensures that a smooth level of professionalism is always met. Ultimately, staff are always prepared to provide an accurate food breakdown to the customer should they need to.
Although there are only five points listed here, there are many more features that these systems can offer. The best way to really understand what they can do is to give them a try, and many offer free trial periods. At Kafoodle our software encompasses all the above functions, plus more. We also offer a free mobile app for diners who can filter through restaurant menus to find a suitable establishment that meets their requirements.
Whatever measures you take, making your food transparent is fundamental. Not only are you ensuring your compliance with legislation, you are also attending to the population’s desire for more information about the food they are choosing to consume, and that is always a recipe for success.
If you would like to find out any more information about Kafoodle and how we can help, then please reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are always happy to chat.
Laura Kite is the Executive Assistant of Kafoodle, an award winning menu management software system that aims to keep diners safe by helping restaurants stay compliant. Kafoodle’s cloud-based software offers many features that can help support the running of commercial kitchens, including a recently launched labelling feature to attend to the new FIR regulations and a mobile app for diners to access menu data. If you would like to find out more about Kafoodle, then you can find them at:www.Kafoodle.com, or by reaching out via email to info@Kafoodle.com.