In the list of ‘dirty’ words in the restaurant biz, ‘gluten’ ranks in the top. While Celiac disease affects 1% of the population, another 6% suffer from gluten sensitivity and an additional 30% of Americans are trying to cut gluten out of their diet! Whether or not ‘gluten sensitivity’ is here to stay or just a fad, it’s making a huge impact on restaurants and their menus. In fact, from 2009-2012, there was a 275% increase in gluten-free menu item demands as reported by Mintel Menu Insights. Where there’s customer demand, your restaurant needs to be prepared with high-quality supply! If you haven’t done so yet, it’s time to freshen your menu with gluten-free items.
So what exactly is gluten? Many people - even those who boast a gluten-free diet - aren’t exactly sure! Gluten is in fact a composite protein found naturally in wheat and other grains but also in items not normally associated with gluten such as lip balms, salad dressings, and seasoning mixes. So while you may associate a gluten-free menu item with merely the elimination of breads and pastas, there are many other potential invaders that can taint a gluten-free option. Similarly, not every type of grain contains gluten! Naturally gluten-free grains include rice, corn and popcorn, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, teff, and oats (as long as they haven’t been contaminated with wheat during processing).
With so many dietary restrictions, customers find it easier to dine at establishments that already have a gluten-free menu rather than picking and choosing items off of a regular menu (which many times can fall prey to cross-contamination). We’ve discussed previously the importance of allergens in your kitchen, and gluten-free items should be handled in the same manner. Ensuring safety is key, and your responsibility to your customers is of utmost importance in handling any allergen. As always, note to customers that your items have a disclaimer on the menu stating that while you’ve made every effort to create gluten-free dishes, there may be trace amounts as products with gluten are prepared in the same kitchen.
When creating your gluten-free menu, ensure that items can be prepared in small or individual-sized quantities, as your restaurant will likely not see the same surges and swells in orders from this menu as from your regular menu. Always ensure every ingredient is handled separately from standard-items menus and stored separately as well. If you’re looking for some ideas for gluten-free options, check out the Gluten Free Guide for selections from different chain restaurants around America.
According to a LivingSocial survey, Americans tend to eat out at a restaurant 4.8 times a week on average. With so many opportunities to cater to consumers, restaurant owners are constantly looking for ways to appeal to their target audience. To stay in the game, restaurants need to constantly ‘freshen’ their menu! Each week, we will discuss a key aspect to help you in this endeavour and to keep your products trendy. Get creative, and find ways to incorporate this week’s topic of gluten-free selections into your menu!