The gluten-free trend doesn’t seem to be slowing just yet, and while many folks are looking for gluten-free options, they’re also becoming more picky about the results. With more gluten-free options popping up in restaurants across America, those who opt for the gluten-free menu are looking for more tasteful, flavorful dishes. No longer are they forced to choose between one or two items. The gluten-free trend has shaped demands, and your menu should cater to the increase in gluten-free folks as well.
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.
So what’s 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.
E Friedman Associates Inc