Coeliac Awareness Week, from 14th to 20th May, turns the spotlight on gluten-free food.
Coeliac UK estimates that the catering industry could make an extra £100 million a year by catering better for people with coeliac disease. In a survey of the organisation’s members, 80% said that when eating out with friends and family, it was gluten-free menus that determined their choice of eatery.
Celebrity chef Ben Bartlett says:
“Gluten-free food is not a dietary preference or a trend – it’s a basic need for people with a serious autoimmune disease.
“Thankfully, awareness is growing rapidly. Ten years ago many people with coeliac disease might not have bothered trying to eat out at all, because of the serious risk to their health created by a lack of understanding and information. That’s an estimated one in 100 people – a big potential customer base.
“Now, there are lots of good places to eat that provide genuinely gluten-free dishes and know how important it is to keep ingredients and equipment separate to avoid contamination.
“Introducing more gluten-free recipes to the menu doesn’t have to mean paying a premium for specialist products and ingredients.
“Switch to gluten-free versions of products as much as possible, to keep it simple when creating dishes. Sometimes it’s as simple as switching from a sauce or condiment that has been thickened with wheat flour, for example, to one that has not.”
If a dish can be made gluten free without affecting its flavour, texture or appearance, serve that recipe as standard.
Make customers aware of your policy – reassure them food is kept and prepared separately from food containing gluten and show that staff understand the need to prevent cross-contamination.
Don’t make customers search for gluten-free options – let them know before they even enter your premises that they’ll have plenty of choice. Be loud and proud on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – and encourage users to spread the word about your menu.
Invest in accreditation and staff training, with advice from Coeliac UK. And then shout about it!