Do you have friends or family members that are gluten free?

It’s becoming growingly more important for restaurants, cafes, and coffee shops to offer items that appeal to those with allergies and special diets. Many people have at least one family member that falls into the “special diet” category, if not more. You could be unknowingly turning away potential customers by not advertising or modifying dishes for customers who follow special diets. Restaurants, including chains and small mom-and-pop shops are offering special menu items and modifications for those with special diets and allergies.

The Gluten Free marketing is growing rapidly. Gluten Free foods are becoming more and more popular for health reason, allergies, and Celiac’s Disease. According to NPR, 1/3 of people are trying to avoid gluten. Menu items can sometimes be made gluten free with a few modifications.

What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Some people choose to eat gluten free to lose weight, be healthier, or because they have an allergy. Celiac’s Disease affects around 1 in 100 people, and is an autoimmune disease, that causes damage to the small intestine when eating gluten. A customer with Celiac’s Disease must not have any cross contamination. Small amounts of gluten can cause damage.

The National Restaurant Association released a back of house guide for gluten free dining. The guide has many great tips to avoid cross contamination, such as using a dedicated fryer, prep space, and cookware. Education is important for staff. Gluten free can be more than a lifestyle. Your staff should know exactly what gluten is and avoid any cross contamination. For someone with Celiac’s Disease, cross contamination is extremely serious.

Dishes can often be easily modified using gluten free pasta, bread, and dough. Many pizza places like Blaze Pizza and Mellow Mushroom offer gluten free dough. Olive Garden offers gluten free pasta. Chick-fil-A recently announced they will be offering gluten free buns.

Are your burgers naturally gluten free? Could you offer corn tortillas and tortilla chips instead of flour? What about gluten free pasta? These easy modifications could increase your customer base.

Double check your ingredients carefully. Gluten can be sneaky. It can be found in soy sauces (opt for a gluten-free brand, it tastes the same), beer (offer a gluten free one), malt (think malted milkshakes or malt vinegar), sauces and gravies (made with soy sauce or wheat as a thickener).

Label and advertise
Once you know your gluten free menu items, start labelling and marketing them. Typically gluten free is indicated by (GF). You could also offer a gluten free menu, or advertise that you offer gluten free pasta or buns. The National Restaurant Associate overviewed the FDA regulations in gluten free labeling.

There are a few phone apps and websites that help those who are Gluten Free find local restaurants that offer gluten free foods.

Allergy Eats
Find Me Gluten Free
Gluten Free Travel Site

You can also use social media to advertise your gluten free options. Gluten Free is very popular on social media. The Gluten Free community is tight knit and shares gluten free finds all over the world.

Adding Gluten Free menu modifications and labeling will help attract customers you may have be turning away. Many people have a friend or family member who is gluten free. If they do not know your restaurant can accommodate, they might chose your competitor instead for a meal out. If you decide to offer gluten free options, make sure your staff is knowledgable and your kitchen can prepare the foods without cross contamination.