The gluten-free market is the fastest growing food intolerance category in Canada. In fact, according to the Canadian Celiac Association, one third of Canadians (approximately 10 million people) are looking for gluten-free foods, whether they suffer from Celiac disease or are simply gluten sensitive. Since this is a category with real profit potential, it definitely shouldn’t go ignored. So how can you get in on the action and incorporate some of these items on your menu safely? The good news is that it’s not as hard as you think. Read on to find out more.
1. PARTNER UP WITH EXPERTS ON THE SUBJECT
First things first, in order to offer delicious gluten-free dishes, you may need some outside help to make sure your creations are as tasty as the rest of the items on your menu. Take the guesswork out and hire a reputable dietician that specializes in gluten-free recipes. Whether you’re simply turning a few of your current dishes into the gluten-free versions or creating a couple of brand-new recipes, they will go ingredient-by-ingredient with you to make sure your recipes are on point.
2. SOURCE SMART (AND LOCAL IF POSSIBLE!) INGREDIENTS
Now that you’ve got the right recipes, it’s time to get the goods. When shopping for the right ingredients, you want to use trusted suppliers who label their products certified gluten-free. If you can find local suppliers and partners, that’s a huge bonus, especially because there’s a good chance your gluten-free diners will recognize the brands and trust your restaurant even more. If products aren’t marked gluten-free, you may have to do a little detective work and rule out packages with ingredients like wheat, rye, barley and oats. To stay on the safe side, try to use only naturally gluten-free ingredients like fresh meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts, and seeds wherever possible so you don’t have to worry about a thing.
3. STORE IT ALL SAFELY
Just as it’s important to source gluten-free products properly, it’s just as, if not more important to store those gluten-free items in a safe place, separate from their gluten counterparts. Keep open packages sealed and clearly labelled, and even designate a special gluten-free shelf if you have the space. Just be sure that shelf is above the gluten-containing products, so they don’t accidentally spill into the gluten-frees. It’s also a good idea to keep an ingredient list handy so you’re prepared for any queries from your gluten-free customers.
4. PREP & COOK SEPARATELY
Thankfully you don’t need a separate kitchen to offer gluten-free dishes, but you do need to use separate utensils and cookware to avoid cross-contamination. You’ll also want to designate a section of your grill or griddle for gluten-free cooking. The only place it gets tricky is if the item or items are fried. Because it’s impossible to clear all the gluten-y debris from the fryers after every use, you may want to consider a designated fryer if your gluten-frees require frying.
5. EDUCATE YOUR PEOPLE
Once you’ve got a handle on the dishes and you’re ready to share them with the gluten-free world, you’ll want to make sure your staff is well-versed on the subject matter so they can answer questions confidently (or know who to ask in case there’s something they’re unsure of). This will require some form of training with both the front and back of house staff where you’ll discuss cooking requirements, the use of separate serving utensils, and clearly identifiable dishes.
6. GET THE MESSAGE OUT
Now that you’ve got all your gluten-free ducks in a row, the last step is to let it be known so those food sensitive customers come a-calling. Highlight gluten-friendly items on your menu, post about them on your social media page, call them out on your website—wherever you can get the word out. The last thing you want to do is have all your hard-working efforts go unnoticed. Just make sure you add a disclaimer about trace gluten. Because if you don’t work in a completely certified gluten-free kitchen, you can’t guarantee your restaurant’s dishes won’t have a trace.
And that’s a gluten-free wrap! If you have a love for vegan food as well, discover these latest plant-based food trends popular in Canadians.