Adding gluten-free menu options provides added boost when returning to full service

As the food service industry navigates a longer than expected road to recovery, new research shows that focusing on gluten-free offerings could be a beneficial move for hospitality businesses.

The survey showed that gluten free tops the list of special dietary requests in Australian hospitality, with gluten-free requests five times greater than nut/peanut-free meals and seven times more requested than dairy- and lactose-free meals combined.

Despite this reality, one in three hospitality workers have never had training in gluten-free food service.

Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Brand Nutritionist at Nestlé Professional, Ms Karen Kingham, urged the hospitality industry to review its approach as venues re-open and adapt to current circumstances.

“Gluten free training can be easily forgotten, overlooked or just not considered in these difficult times. For many, the avoidance of gluten is a medical necessity rather than a lifestyle choice, so we need to make it as easy as possible for hospitality to improve the reliability of their gluten free menus so customers can have confidence in what they order,” Ms Kingham said.

“With an estimated 3.1 million Australians (1 in 12) choosing gluten free1, hospitality can use this opportunity to adapt to meet this demand. As businesses try to keep their doors open, it’s more important than ever that appropriate training is provided all the way through the food service operation, including both front and back of house,” she said.

To support the hospitality industry, Nestlé Professional has released the second edition of its gluten-free management resource, Your Practical Guide to Gluten Free in Food Service. The Guide aims to remove key barriers to providing gluten-free foods using case-study scenarios and streamlined step-by-step solutions based on Coeliac Australia’s Gluten Free Standard for Food Service.

The findings also reveal that while the hospitality industry is gradually providing more choice for consumers requesting gluten-free meals, gluten is not being treated with the seriousness it deserves as one of Australia’s declarable allergens.

Mark Clayton, Executive Chef for Nestlé Professional, said providing genuine gluten-free foods in a food service setting can be difficult for kitchen staff.

“Because of this challenge, we want to ensure hospitality has the tools, training and quality products it needs to confidently provide great tasting gluten free meals their customers can trust and enjoy, and not miss out on valuable business,” Mr Clayton said.

With 54 per cent of hospitality staff identifying cross-contamination as the biggest challenge when providing gluten-free menus, Cathy Di Bella, Partnerships and Sponsorship Manager at Coeliac Australia, said this is a common issue.

“We need to address the lack of confidence gluten free diners have in food service providers’ ability to serve genuine gluten free meals,” Ms Di Bella said.

“It’s about ensuring diners with gluten free dietary needs can eat out without falling ill. We also know the odds of having one gluten free person amongst a group of diners is on the rise, so if you can’t accommodate that one gluten-free guest, you’re actually missing out on the opportunity to cater for the whole group,” she said.

The updated guide has been designed to complement Nestlé Professional’s portfolio of gluten-free food products which, when combined, help simplify menu planning and kitchen workload to help businesses deliver delicious, attractive gluten-free menus.

Additional research insights:

– 90 per cent of food service staff would like more training in gluten free1

– Almost 20 per cent of food service staff weren’t aware soy sauce contains gluten, while 17 per cent thought the naturally gluten free food quinoa contained gluten1

– Only 10 per cent of customers with gluten free dietary needs trust a gluten free claim, and 63 per cent find it difficult to eat out2

The second edition of Your Practical Guide to Gluten Free in Food Service is available now. Download it free at:

1 Hendrie G, et al. CSIRO Healthy Diet score. 2016

2 Coeliac Australia, Eating Out Survey. 2019

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