Do you need to up your free-from offering?


Do you need to up your free-from offering?

free from

Why it’s important to up your ‘free-from’ game.

A few years ago, gluten free diets were seen as a bit of a fad, a fashion statement for consumers seeking the latest diet trend. But free-from guests aren’t going anywhere, whether coeliac, intolerant or simply a lifestyle choice, free-from is set to stay.

But are these guests being taken seriously enough? Our research suggests not.

We asked a panel of over 500 mystery guests a number of questions about their dietary requirements and a staggering 20% have at least one kind of dietary demand.

Coeliac UK recently reported that 80% of its 3,000 members said that when they eat out with friends and family, their need for safe gluten-free options always determines where they dine.

So, if a salad is as creative as your free from menu gets, be sure to up your offering to stop missing out on valuable business.

Of those restaurants that do provide separate free-from menus, according to our research, when it comes to staff knowledge, 70% of diners still think there is room for improvement when team members are faced with a dietary query.

It’s not enough to offer a ‘free from’ menu as a token gesture. It is essential that your team members know their gluten from their dairy and are adequately trained to tell guests which allergens are in which food items on your menu. 64% of our diners stated that menus alone do not provide enough information and if your team aren't switched on, this could be life threatening for guests with severe allergies.

Hannah Allsop, Digital Marketing Coordinator at HGEM says: My personal experiences consistently leave me feeling let down by lack of staff knowledge – this is the difference between me enjoying my experience and not. I find it somewhat awkward when staff keep dashing back and forth between myself and the kitchen to answer the simplest of questions such as ‘are your chips gluten-free?’. This is something that staff should know the answer to right away, with a list of alternatives if they can’t make a special request. Something as simple as staff training is the difference between me returning and not.

When asked which type of operator caters for dietary requirements very well, pubs only scored 12%. There's no doubt that pubs have come a long way with the rise of gastropubs, but some traditional pubs can still be seen serving up nothing more than classics such as fish and chips, burgers and a vegetarian lasagne if you’re lucky. Fine dining however, scored 43% when it comes to catering very well for free-from guests and 59% said that casual dining restaurants cater quite well for people with allergies.

For today’s health conscious guest, this simply won’t cut it anymore. Even fast food joints are getting in on the free-from movement. McDonalds launched their first ever vegan burger in 2017 and KFC are currently working on a vegan menu, excellent news for those in need of a free-from treat.

Often in chain restaurants you see gluten free and vegan menus, this is great but when it comes to people with multiple dietary requirements, only 4% of guests feel they are well catered for. What’s more, 32% of guests would eat out a little or a lot more every month if there were more dietary options available on menus across the industry, meaning more cash in your till. So, surely it’s worth upping your free-from game?

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