Food allergy policies, procedures, motivators and barriers related to ollowing food allergy practices in Metro Orlando restaurants

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2021-12
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Placa, Nelson M.
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Naig, Anirudh
Arendt, Susan W.
Coleman, Shannon
Jeong, EunHan
Myers, Megan J.
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Apparel, Events and Hospitality Management
Abstract
Each year, more than 32 million Americans are affected by food allergies, which are a growing safety concern for both consumers and restaurant owners. Considering the complexities and costs related to accommodating consumers with food allergies, foodservice establishments face the challenging task of preparing and serving allergen-free meals to customers. While independently owned restaurants in the United States may have food allergy policies and procedures to accommodate consumers with food allergies, few research studies have assessed these policies and procedures. This study attempted to evaluate food allergy policies and procedures and employees’ perceived motivators and barriers to following food allergy practices in independently owned restaurants in Metro Orlando, Florida. Restaurant names (n = 601) were obtained from a list of independently owned restaurants found on the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR), Division of Hotels and Restaurants website. The research study consisted of two phases and employed a web-based questionnaire for data collection. Phase one examined current food allergy policies and procedures using a quantitative approach and also assessed differences and similarities in existing food allergy policies and procedures in independently owned restaurants in Metro Orlando, Florida. Phase two assessed foodservice employees’ perceived motivators and barriers to following food allergy practices in independently owned restaurants in Metro Orlando, Florida. The restaurants included in the sample received communication from principal investigator, and it is unclear whether multiple participants from the same restaurant participated in the study. Owners and managers (n = 103) of independently owned restaurants participated in phase one, and 58 frontline foodservice employees’ usable surveys were used for phase two. Results of phase one, indicated that 71 (68.9%) participants accommodated consumers with food allergies. Sixty-three participants (61.2%) indicated having no written food allergy policies and procedures in place, 33.9% indicated having written food allergy policies and procedures, and 4.9% answered “don’t know.” Those who selected “yes” to having written food allergen policies and procedures indicated that they had them in place for 1-3 years (n = 20, 19.4%). Forty-one participants (39.8%) indicated that they owned or managed restaurants identified allergen-free menu items for the benefit of customers with food allergies. Fifty-five participants (53.4%) represented restaurants that had designated individuals (e.g., manager, host[ess], server, cook) who could explain allergen-free menu options to customers with a food allergy. Participants reported that servers (65.1%) were not required to ask customers if they needed food allergy accommodations. In phase two, perceived motivators and barriers to following food allergy practices were assessed. Participants (n = 58) perceived 17 of 22 motivators as important to preparing or serving allergen-free food (mean score of 4.0 or higher on a 5.0 scale), with the highest rated perceived motivator being “keeping customers satisfied” (4.66 ± 0.71). The highest-rated barrier was “no policies/procedures in restaurant requiring safe food allergy practices” (2.74 ± 1.48). Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was 0.86 for the items measuring motivators and 0.93 for those measuring barriers. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to detect significant differences in motivators and barriers to following food allergy accommodation practices with relation to demographic characteristics. “Barriers by education” was the only variable with a statistically significant p-value (0.047), indicating a significant differences with regards to barriers among education levels. When a chi-square test of independence was used to test the relationship between “currently have a food safety training certification” and “received food allergy training,” the result was not statistically significant based on an alpha value of 0.05, suggesting that currently having a food safety training certification, providing employees with food allergy training, and lacking a food allergy training certification were independent of one another. The results show that food allergy training for foodservice employees is lacking (n = 30, 51.7%). Fewer than half of the participating independently owned restaurants (n = 35, 33.9%) had written food allergy policies and procedures, suggesting need for owners/managers of such restaurants to implement food allergy policies and procedures. Based on results from phase two, several areas could improve the situation with regards to employees’ food allergy motivators and barriers. Results of study support the concept that owners and managers of independently restaurants need to develop food allergy policies and procedures to accommodate customers with food allergies better so as to prevent incidences of food allergic reactions. Furthermore, the study presents an opportunity for owners/managers to explore factors influencing foodservice employees’ perceived motivators and barriers related to following food allergy practices.
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