For some customers, “free-from diets” are a lifestyle choice, but for the increasing number of people who suffer from food allergies, eating out can be a matter of life or death, or can at least result in a trip to the hospital, which is not how they want to end an enjoyable night out. At JPRestaurants, we take these matters very seriously and we have put in place a series of measures to ensure customers with food allergies and intolerances can eat at our restaurants and cafés with confidence. Whilst we have to balance the needs of the majority of customers, and can’t protect against every eventuality of minor cross contamination for all allergens unless we exclude certain ingredients from our kitchens, we aim to strike the right balance.

What is important is that we are clear with the information we provide, our staff are trained, and customers with food allergies are put into a position where they can make an educated choice as to whether or not to dine with us, or whether or not to order a particular dish. We understand that those with life-threatening food allergies may decide not to eat out.

Our process starts with recipe development around three months prior to our seasonal menu changes. We may decide to exclude common allergens from certain dishes so they appeal to a wider group of people. As an example, as of October 2019, we don’t use peanuts in any of our kitchens (they are, however, available in sealed packets as part of confectionery sold in Café Ubé), and we use gluten-free flour in many of our batters. We also carry out due diligence on our suppliers to ensure we have confidence in what they deliver to our kitchens.

The second part of the process is following key parts of the European regulations on allergens (which are not law in Jersey). We publish a list of all dishes available in our restaurants and provide a simple means of identifying which dishes contain any of the 14 main allergens. These allergen menus are available on our customer restaurant and café websites in the menu sections.

Separately, for those with dietary preferences but not allergies, we also publish key indicators on our main menus to give information about popular dietary choices – for example, our menus show clearly which dishes are Vegetarian (V), Vegan (VV) or Dairy Free (DF), and which dishes have no gluten-containing ingredients (NGCI). This helps customers to make an informed choice about which dish they should order, and avoids confusion between customers and our teams.

The third part of the process is staff training. All our managers, order-taking wait staff, chefs and kitchen staff are provided with training and we stress the importance of the processes we have in place and the potential danger to customers with allergies of eating ingredients that may make them ill.

This training, menu and recipe development, and our processes and procedures to ensure we can provide a safe environment as well as tasty food, is one the reasons we decline customers requests to cook special dishes that are not on our menu or to bring food such as cakes to our restaurants.

There is a separate service policy for dealing with customers with allergies. This includes sending an email to a customer prior to dining explaining how we deal with allergens, if they mention when booking that they have an allergy.

This policy also includes requirements for staff to ask all customers if they have an allergy prior to ordering. If a customer replies that they do, they are handed the allergen menu from which to make their choice and when the order is taken via the electronic order handhelds, a flag is put against the dish to warn the kitchen of the customers allergy and the relevant allergen(s). The kitchen will then take all reasonable precautions to avoid cross contamination, as well as putting a blue allergen flag on the dish so servers and customers know that the kitchen has received the message. This blue flag gives customers the confidence that their allergy has been understood by the kitchen, and provides reassurance that every reasonable step has been taken to make sure that the dish has not been contaminated by the relevant ingredient(s).

All customers have the opportunity to request certain alterations to a dish (for example, up to two ingredients, such as removing a sauce). However, whilst modifications may seem easy to accommodate, we ask customers to understand when they are declined, as they may impact on the efficiency of service to others or be impossible due elements of the dish being pre-prepared. We strongly recommend that customers with severe food allergies do not request such alterations and modifications, and instead choose a complete dish off our allergy menu, ensuring it does not contain the relevant allergen. This advice is part of our strict policy, and whilst there is always the possibility of cross-contamination, it means that the risk of potential communication errors leading to contamination is further reduced.

If a customer is allergic to an allergen that is not listed on the 14 key allergens tracked on the menu, we cannot follow the same approach. There are risks from allergens contained in bought-in ingredients that are made from several ingredients, and we cannot follow the same level of process around handling of non-key allergens. We therefore strongly recommend a customer with a life-threatening allergy who is severely allergic to ingredients that are not one of the 14 key allergens assesses the risk before dining with us. We understand they may decide not to dine with us.

Ultimately, customers with food allergies understand that no restaurant or food supplier can offer a 100% guarantee that they will never unknowingly serve an ingredient that is not disclosed, that cross-contamination is impossible or human error can occur, but at JPRestaurants we invest considerable resources to ensure customers can be confident when they dine with us, and that they have the information to enable them to make the choice whether to dine with us or choose a particular dish. Those with severe food allergies always travel with their medication including Adrenalin auto-injectors and anti-histamine close at hand and it’s important we encourage customers to check with their JPRestaurants server and look at the allergen menu each time they visit us, as ingredients can change.

We encourage customer feedback on this policy and have discussed the contents with medical professionals. Further information on food allergies and intolerances can be found on the Allergy UK Website.