Gluten-free menus may be yesterday’s news, but there is still much confusion going on about how to do it 100% accident-free.
If you are thinking about adding a few gluten-free items to the menu, here are a few important things to remember.
1. Gluten-free kitchen space. Cross-contamination is the #1 priority, very similar to food allergies. If you are not sure how to create gluten-free kitchen space, check out GREAT course, offered through the National Association of Celiac Awareness.
2. Inventory. Once you have your gluten-free space ready, you need to put together a gluten-free inventory. One thing to remember here is that gluten comes from grains. This doesn’t mean you have to completely remove ALL grains and grain products from your menu. There are several gluten-free grains that you can work with: rice (all varieties), millet, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, corn, and teff. Celiac Sprue Association has a more detailed list of gluten-free grains and flours.
3. Menu. Creating gluten-free options doesn’t mean removing the bun from a burger or serving a salad without croutons. Quite the opposite. Offer dishes that can be normally found on a regular menu, only in a gluten-free version: pasta, pizza, cake, pancakes, etc. Your customers will appreciate it.
4. Be selective with gluten-free products. There is a sea of gluten-free products available in the market. Some taste better than others, some are more processed than others. Ideally, I would encourage you to search for a minimally processed product (few or no preservatives/artificial colorings & flavorings) with good taste, and, of course, at a right price. Keep in mind, though, that gluten-intolerant customers would generally be willing to pay extra.
5. Gluten-free certification. When purchasing a packaged gluten-free product, ensure it has gluten-free certification seal on the package. Packaged gluten-free grains are generally a safer bet than buying in bulk because of the cross-contamination issue.
6. Train your staff. Having a gluten-free menu is half the battle. Your staff needs to have a good understanding of this health issue, back- and front-of-the-house procedures, and be able to speak to the menu with knowledge.
What is your restaurant doing to make your gluten-intolerant customers feel comfortable?