How To: Should You Go Gluten-Free?

Should you go gluten-free? Nation’s Restaurant News reports that, while the buzz around gluten-free is on the rise, the actual growth in the market has been slow. The suggestion is the pay attention to it, but don’t overhaul your whole menu. The largest increase in gluten-free lifestyles are those in the 18-34 year demographic. Many of these people may have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or just a general desire for the perceived health benefits of living a gluten-free life. Could, and should your restaurant go gluten-free?

What Does “Gluten-Free” Mean?

To quote NRN, gluten-free means

To avoid gluten, consumers must reject products containing wheat, barley and rye. Specifically, that means they can’t enjoy many of their favorite foods, including breads, cereals, pastas, beers, cakes, pies, cookies, crackers, croutons, French fries, gravies, processed deli meats, candies, salad dressings, sauces and more.

While not wholly accurate, this rules out many traditional carbohydrates. In some ways, creating a gluten-free menu would be easy and require no new products. On another level, depending on how committed you wish to be to the movement, you may be crafting whole new menu items and investing in new machinery.

How To Craft A Gluten-Free Menu

  • It’s important to note that “Gluten-Free” does not mean a complete and total lack of gluten, but very minimal amounts can be processed by those sensitive (the actual number is up for debate, but generally hovers around less than 10 mg per day)
  • Corn, potatoes, quinoa, and rice are common replacements for fillers and carbs in a gluten-free lifestyle. Almond flour and buckwheat can be commonly replaced in dishes that require their regular version.
  • Most dishes that are intended for Passover are gluten-free, except those that use matzah as an ingredient.
  • A gluten-free diet allows for fresh fruit, meat, vegetables, and many dairy products, but not all.
  • The United States FDA considers food with 20ppm or less gluten to be “Gluten-Free”.
  • Be wary of cross-contamination; if you wish to fully commit to having a gluten-free menu alongside your regular items, you may need to invest in items and machinery that will be relegated to gluten-free-only dishes, such as bowls and pots.
  • Most beers are made from malted barley or wheat, and will thusly contain gluten.
  • Cornbread is a simple, gluten-free substitution for regular bread.
  • A simple way to come up with a gluten-free menu is to go through your current menu and find items that are already, coincidentally, gluten-free. Make sure you actually mark them as gluten-free via an icon or simple text addition.
  • The second step beyond this is to see what easy substitutions and removals you can make to turn a normal dish into a gluten-free one. The removal of croutons and the change of salad dressing can quickly and easily make certain salads gluten-free.
  • Finally, to fully embrace gluten-free, consider making new gluten-free dishes or variants that actually substitute materials. A gluten-free pizza crust could easily turn most of your pizzas into acceptable ones, and gluten-free pasta could whip a few of your pasta dishes up. Quinoa can be used to kickstart a few new menu ideas as well.
  • Capitalize on your gluten-free changes, but be careful. Make sure to note that cross-contamination may happen, although is not intended.

Advertising and promoting a gluten-free menu could easily upgrade your restaurant’s attention from sensitive parties.