Coeliac Awareness Week 2015: Restaurant chains step up with gluten-free options

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

Ping Pong is the latest restaurant operator to step-up its gluten-free options with gluten-free dumplings
Ping Pong is the latest restaurant operator to step-up its gluten-free options with gluten-free dumplings

Related tags: Gluten-free diet, Coeliac disease

Restaurants across the country are gradually increasing the number of gluten-free options on their menus as awareness of conditions such as coeliac disease increase and diners demand more choice. 

Coeliac Awareness Week kicks off today (11 May) with a campaign that will focus on identifying the half a million people in the UK living undiagnosed with the disease which sees the body’s immune system damage the lining of the small bowel when gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, is eaten. 

The only cure for coeliac disease is a strict gluten-free diet for life and as a result many with the condition can find it difficult to eat out safely. 

According to figures from research commissioned by Aviko 59 per cent of people want to see more gluten-free options on menus and 73 per cent of people don’t think that the out-of-home sector does enough to cater for gluten intolerances, but that is slowly changing.

This month dim sum chain Ping Pong has introduced its new summer menu, which, for the first time includes gluten-free dumplings.

Diners visiting branches of the nine-strong chain will be able to choose from seven types of filled gluten-free dumplings as well as other dishes which are naturally gluten-free such as the tofu, mushroom and black bean rice pot.

Ping Pong chief executive Art Sagiryan told BigHospitality it was important to ensure the core dishes on its menu were available to diners with all dietary requirements. 

"There has been a rise in the demand for gluten free foods, and this has been particularly evident in the last few years. This is the case for those who are gluten intolerant and people who simply want a healthier diet, whether they are cooking at home or eating out. Ping Pong recognises the increasing importance of providing a menu that not only caters for various dietary requirements, but ensures a quality selection of delicious meals for all," he said.  

French restaurant chain Le Bistrot Pierre, is highlighting its gluten-free options which are offered year-round with extensive gluten-free prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus on offer.  Its lunch menu, for example includes five starters, five mains and four desserts, which it hopes gives those unable to tolerate gluten the same amount of choice as those who can.

Both restaurant chains join those who have gone one step further and been accredited by Coeliac UK for their work in offering extensive gluten-free options. They include La Tasca, Prezzo, ASK Italian, Pizza Express, Frankie & Benny’s and Ed’s Easy Diner.

Those restaurant chains offering gluten-free options will not only see people paying more, but also more returning says Aviko general manager Mohammed Essa. According to its research 21 per cent of people would be willing to pay more for a gluten-free meal while 29 per cent of people said a failure to offer an adequate number of gluten-free options would deter 29 per cent of people from returning.

“It’s essential for operators to highlight their coeliac friendly options to increase traffic through the door and maximise profit – especially as 68 per cent of people don’t feel gluten-free options are clear enough on menus,” said Essa.

For Coeliac Awareness Week Knorr gluten-free gravy is also asking chefs and caterers to join its Thunderclap campaign to raise money for the charity supporting those with coeliac disease and getting the foodservice industry talking about gluten-free.

The supplier has pledged to give £1 to the charity for each Tweet that supports its online Thunderclap campaign on 13 May.

Leon Mills, Knorr sauces category manager, said: “With over 500,000 people suffering from coeliac disease in the UK – and 67 per cent of them eating out less than they’d like to due to lack of choice – we want to raise awareness of the issue and help operators to easily produce gluten-free dishes. We’ll target our Thunderclap at chefs and caterers, making it difficult for anyone in the industry to miss.”

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