Tips for making to-go orders allergen-safe

Safe food handling continues in all applications, no matter what the business scenario.
Food handling
Photograph: Shutterstock

During the coronavirus outbreak, restaurants have had to switch up service at a fast rate, many closing their dining rooms and shifting to all off-premise via drive-thru, curbside pickup and delivery.

Despite the shift, safe food-handling practices continue to be enforced, including cleaning and sanitizing protocols called for by food safety training programs such as ServSafe.

In the shift to all off-premise, and with employees learning to cross-train positions, allergen awareness continues to be an important part of staff communications as well.

The following is a list of tips to help reinforce best practices with your off-premise staffers.

Menus and ordering platforms

  • Provide menus with ingredients or major food allergens identified. For example, use “menu marks” or icons next to dishes to show that they can be prepared for special food allergen orders.
  • Provide a way for guests to clearly identify special food-allergen needs for their order.
  • Communicate your policy on accommodating food allergen orders.
  • Communicate any menu or ingredient changes or adjustments.


  • If taking an order over the phone, check and recheck to confirm the details of the order with the guest.
  • Flag all special food allergen orders and communicate the details with all staff.
  • Communicate the details of the order with delivery agents.

Keep the foods separate

  • Prevent cross-contact—which occurs when one food comes into contact with another and their proteins mix—and keep ingredients separated during preparation, packaging and delivery.

During preparation

  • Wash your hands and keep uniforms clean.
  • Check ingredient labels and use proper recipes.  
  • Inspect supplier deliveries for any substituted products containing food allergens . 
  • Change gloves and aprons before preparing a food allergen order.
  • If possible, use separate equipment to store, prepare and cook allergen special orders. Purple is the designated color for many foodservice utensils and equipment.
  • Wash, rinse, and sanitize all surfaces, utensils and equipment before and after preparing the special order.
  • Mark and label all prepared allergy orders by using a special container, flag, label or sticker.
  • Communicate with staff/delivery agents about allergen orders. 

During packaging

  • Wash, rinse and sanitize all surfaces and utensils before and after use. 
  • Change cloths, buckets and cleaning solutions after use or use dedicated spray bottles and single-use towels.
  • Wash your hands and wear clean uniforms, aprons and gloves.
  • Package food allergen orders separately and securely.
  • Clearly label the special food allergen orders.
  • Communicate the special order details to delivery agents.

During delivery

  • Keep special food allergy orders separate and sealed. A separate bag or box is a great practice.
  • Practice good personal hygiene: Wash your hands and keep your uniform and equipment clean.
  • Confirm with the guest the special food allergy order details and how they can identify the order (e.g., packaging, labels, stickers or colored bag).
  • Deliver the special food allergy order first, or separate it from any additional orders in the designated location.


The National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Allergens course helps establishments, operators and employees achieve compliance and mitigate risk by offering the highest-quality food allergen awareness training by the most trusted industry experts.

For additional information and resources on how to improve food allergen awareness in your organization, please email foodallergens@restaurant.org.

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