June 25 2014 – Robert Fiumara
‘Gluten free’ is something that those of us in the restaurant industry are getting more and more familiar with all the time. This new trend in consumer diets is so popular, in fact, that it’s expected that about a third of all orders will contain at least one gluten free dish. A quarter of Americans are reportedly cutting down on or eliminating the product from their diets. Chances are if you’re not gluten-free, you know someone who is or is trying to be. For those unaware, gluten is a type of protein found in wheat that gives dough its elasticity and give. In years prior, only a select few individuals with particular diseases suffered adverse reactions to foods containing this protein. Recently, more and more consumers are growing concerned with digestive issues around wheat and wheat proteins. So much so, in fact, that many are beginning to correlate the presence of gluten with food items being unhealthy, much to the chagrin of nutritionists and restaurateurs everywhere.
The Gluten Free Trend Is Here To Stay
Now, like many things before, this might just be another fad. However, this trend comes at a time when consumers are incredibly involved in food development issues. Being involved in and concerned about food production is becoming a lifestyle choice. It’s trendy, and many of your customers are going to be jumping on board.
What can you do? That’s easier said than done, but providing dish alternatives that are produced or composed of primarily rice or corn starches as opposed to wheat are a good start. Likewise, there are a wide variety of grain options and wheat types that will provide customers with a similar taste and consistency in their foods. Substitute breads or wheat products with vegetable or meat based products, or at the very least, research what options you can offer your customers. Just by attempting to accommodate customers with special needs, it will help you capture long-term customers, as they’ll feel that you’re concerned about their needs.
In that vein, be careful with preparation of your meals. For those who are truly allergic to gluten, or who have Celiac’s disease, even some residual flour is enough to trigger an extreme reaction. Don’t cross-contaminate your preparation tools. If possible, have a separate station and tools set aside for cooks to work with when preparing gluten-free foods. To further prevent such problems, keep an eye on side menu items. Drinks, sauces, and other simple ingredients can play host to gluten sources. Offer a wider variety of these items, and do some research! You’ll find going that extra mile for your guests will keep them pleased and coming back for more.
How Will You Capitalize?
The gluten free trend isn’t going anywhere, and you’ll find that if you actively engage this part of your audience and accommodate their needs, you’ll be actively rewarded with a loyal and loving customer base. Adopting these trends into your menu isn’t just about bowing to what’s trendy; it’s keeping a personal investment in the desire of your customers. In the restaurant industry, nothing is more important.