According to research by Coeliac UK, the hospitality industry is missing out on an estimated £1 million a year by failing to provide safe, gluten-free options, because sufferers feel obliged to eat at home. And this is just for the 1% of the UK population who have the disease.
Add this to the huge numbers who have some kind of allergy or intolerance to certain foods and you’re certainly missing out on huge opportunities if you don’t make any provision to cater for them. Not only are you potentially missing out on the people with dietary requirements, but if you can’t cater for that person, then the whole party will probably end up going somewhere else.
You just have to look at any of the big supermarkets and their range of products to recognise there is a huge market here.
But with so many different conditions to cater for it’s inevitable that we are often put off doing anything about it. So what are the first steps?
Contact Coeliac UK and/or Allergy UK to gather information on different dietary requirements and ingredients to avoid and suitable substitutions. Talk to your staff, existing customers and your network to identify those with first-hand knowledge and experience of any specific conditions. If any of your staff have first-hand experience enlist them as your dietary champion.
2. Decide on your strategy
Decide whether you want to actively promote that you are able to cater for specific dietary requirements, or whether you want to do this on request. By prompting people at the time of booking if there are any special dietary requirements enables you to cater for them on individual basis.
3. Review your existing menu
You may be surprised to identify a number of dishes already on your menu that will meet certain dietary requirements such as those with no dairy produce, or wheat. You may also identify dishes that only require minor modifications to comply with some of the requirements. Check pre prepared ingredients especially sauces and condiments for any ‘rogue’ ingredients.
4. Revise menu options
Whether you decide to revise certain many items to feature on your main menu or whether you opt to have a variation of the same dish, make sure you have the recipe written up, costed and of course test that the replacement gives you satisfactory results.
5. Segregate foodstuffs
Some food-triggered conditions can be set off by only minute traces of the food. So ensure that any dishes you have identified as being safe for certain diets are not then contaminated by the ingredient from utensils, chopping boards, or serving ware.
6. Educate your staff
Ensure your staff are aware of all the options on the menu which are suitable for specific diet requirements, and the importance of checking if they are in any doubt. Keep staff up to date with any changes to recipes or ingredient substitutions.
7. Gather customer data
Keep details of any of your customers who require special diets with specifics of foods or ingredients to avoid. Build relationships with these people, ask for feedback on meals you’ve created specially for them, get to know their likes and dislikes, and what they’d like to see more of on the menu, giving them an incentive to come back again.
Please note: I am not a trained dietician – these notes are intended as an introduction only. Please contact the relevant societies for detailed information on diets.
Information on Lactose intolerance http://www.foodreactions.org/intolerance/lactose/index.html
Coeliac information for Food Service businesses
Gluten-free Chef of the Year http://www.coeliac.org.uk/get_involved/our_campaigns/1370.asp
If you are an established chef, enter recipes for a three course gluten-free menu and you could win a 1 week placement at Gleneagles.
Food Standards Agency introductory leaflet
Food Standards Agency allergen information
Food Standards Agency Voluntary Best Practice Guidance