Since Celiac disease, a condition marked by sensitivity to gluten, affects at least one out of every 133 Americans, a great number of potential customers seek dining establishments and caterers that can provide a gluten free menu. These clients are also concerned with whether restaurant supplies have touched regular orders, since cross-contamination often causes symptoms. Not only wheat – including derivatives such as spelt and semolina, but also rye, barley, and triticale contain gluten. Oats, though technically gluten-free, sometimes cause illness in those with Celiac disease. Divesting your restaurant entirely of wheat products is unnecessary, but you should be able to offer a decent range of gluten-free menu items covering every category from appetizers to desserts. Adapt some of your regular offerings and make sure that your target audience notices.
Gluten Substitutes and Naturally Gluten Free Dishes
Many of your current menu options may already be gluten-free or nearly so. Just ensure that either none of your restaurant supplies touch gluten-free dishes without being thoroughly washed or that you keep a set of the necessary equipment for use only with gluten-free dishes. Use particular caution in this matter; you should not even let the cake stand cover touch a gluten-free plate because of the risk of transferring crumbs. Unprocessed foods with no preservatives or additives are the most likely candidates for making gluten free dishes. Fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, potatoes, and eggs all lack gluten in their natural states. Fresh meat and fish, nuts and seeds, beans, and the majority of dairy products also fit this classification. Obviously, breading must not be used. Watch out for sauces, oils, store-bought spices, and flavorings, including flavored yogurts as these can all contain gluten or may have been manufactured or packaged in factories where gluten is present. Note that “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” tends to involve wheat, so keep an eye out for this ingredient on your labels. Check with your ingredient suppliers for gluten-free alternatives to customer favorites. Even bread can be gluten free if the manufacturer uses potato flour, for example. Rice noodles make pasta dishes accessible to the gluten-free crowd as well. Experiment with creating your own gluten-free recipes. Suitable substitutes for common ingredients include quinoa and flours made of potato, rice, beans, soy, or corn. Buckwheat, cornmeal, millet, flax, and tapioca comprise another set of gluten-free basics.
Make Your Gluten-Free Menu Items Known
Now that you have gone to all the trouble of providing perfectly gluten-free choices, let customers know that they are available. Update your business’s website and social media with the good news, being sure to list a few examples of the new options. If you are a caterer who has worked with gluten-free dishes in the past, or if your restaurant possesses a separate gluten-free menu or at least has gluten-free menu items clearly marked on the regular menu, sign up with glutenfreeregistry.com. This way, your target consumers have the opportunity to discover your business. People who simply cannot eat elsewhere will be grateful to gain the chance to have a meal out. Once customers are in the restaurant, simplify their experience by putting a menu card holder displaying all relevant menu choices on each table. Specify acceptable options with asterisks on the regular menu as well. Place a notice on your door explaining that you accommodate people with gluten sensitivities and requesting that customers inform you of any food allergies that they may have.
Consistently remind your staff to let the chef know when a customer who cannot eat gluten products. Build a reputation of careful concern and explicit attention to every special order. Paying attention in this area results in bigger business and more satisfied customers.