Gluten free customers; how well are you catering to this important consumer group?

Wednesday, 15 July, 2020

According to Coeliac Australia’s latest membership survey1 only 5% of those with coeliac disease find it easy to eat out. This is despite the fact that gluten free is the most common special dietary request in Australian food services. In fact, gluten free requests are five times greater than requests for nut and peanut free meals and seven times more requested than dairy and lactose free2.

Smiling waitress taking orders from two customers

It’s worrying then, that one in three hospitality workers have never had training in gluten free food service – an issue for any business offering gluten free meal options. This Coeliac Awareness Week (13-20 March), let’s take a look at what you can do to increase skills in managing gluten free menus and catering to gluten free consumers.

The health of customers with coeliac disease, relies on a strict gluten free diet. As a result, restaurants and other commercial food providers should offer genuine gluten-free options.

Gluten free training can be easily forgotten, overlooked or just not considered when times get tough. And there is no denying there have been many challenges for hospitality in the past two years. However, for many customers after a gluten free menu, avoiding food that contains gluten is a medical necessity, rather than a lifestyle choice. As a result, many working in the hospitality industry may need to review their processes to protect the health of their customers.

gluten free restaurant sign

Supporting staff with training is easy with a range of resources available, such as Nestlé Professional’s second edition of its gluten free management resource, Your Practical Guide to Gluten Free in Food Service.

The Nestlé Professional guide aims to educate on the key principles of 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.

Delivering a gluten free menu that contains no detectable gluten requires all staff to be aware of the three main principles of gluten management.

Chef decorating a dish


The three principles of gluten free management


1. Sourcing: the first step in creating a gluten free menu

  • Use of trusted suppliers who can validate their claims about the nature of their gluten free ingredients
  • Simplify processes by utilising naturally gluten free ingredients across your whole menu
  • Check labels and product specifications regularly to ensure gluten free ingredients remain gluten free


2. Segregation: ensuring ingredients and menu items stay gluten free

  • Avoid cross contamination by identifying all high-risk areas and activities in the kitchen
  • Dedicate a preparation area for gluten free menu items, or prepare these items first
  • Use colour coded dedicated utensils for gluten free food preparation
  • Store gluten free ingredients separately to prevent cross contamination
  • Consider scientific testing of your menu to validate your gluten free claims


3. Service: supporting front of house in gluten free

  • Educate front of house on their responsibilities regarding knowledge about food allergens, including gluten
  • Ensure all staff know where to go for your menu’s allergen information
  • Highlight high risk activities at service that can result in gluten contamination of a gluten free meal, eg, addition of gluten containing garnishes, not delivering gluten free meals separately, or not maintaining separate serving utensils for gluten free foods

Being on top of your gluten free processes is good for business, as word of mouth is a valuable promotional tool. When customers with special dietary needs can enjoy eating gluten free at your business without falling ill, they will spread the word. We also know the odds of having one gluten free customer amongst a group of customers is on the rise, so if you can’t cater to this one guest, you may miss out on the opportunity to serve the whole group. The Practical Guide to Gluten Free in Food Service has been designed to complement Nestlé Professional’s portfolio of gluten free food products. Download the Guide for free at: Additional allergen training options Other allergen management training options for the hospitality industry include:

  • Gluten Free Online Training by Coeliac Australia, sponsored by Nestlé here
  • All About Allergens Training for Food Services, by the National Allergy Strategy here
  • All About Allergens for Hospitals, by the National Allergy Strategy here


1 Coeliac Australia Membership Survey (N=2759) 2021

2 Nestlé Professional Customer Survey 2020