A restaurant industry report says more restaurants have friendlier menus for people with restricted diets — including the gluten free diet.

The news release from Technomic which produced the Restrictive Diets Market Intelligence Report looked at low-salt, low-cholesterol and gluten free menu offerings at restaurants.  While I didn’t purchase the report, I found the news release and the article from the Nation’s Restaurant News very enlightening and frustrating.

The news release said, “Menu items billed as ‘gluten-free’ experienced significant growth between 2010 and 2011, increasing by 61 percent. Operators are beginning to see that the audience for gluten-free fare is growing and that it includes consumers with gluten allergies or intolerance, as well as those who just feel gluten-free items are healthier than items containing gluten.”

So the significant growth in gluten free menu items must be because more  people who have ill-effects when eating gluten — including people with celiac disease– are ordering those items…right?  Wrong.

According to the article, “Of about 250 survey respondents who said they had dietary restrictions or lived with someone who did, only 4 percent identified gluten intolerance as their restriction. Still, about 25 percent said they believed gluten-free foods are better for you.”  So…menu items went up 61 percent in  year, yet they could only find 4% of those surveyed who actually needed the diet for health reasons?

The article cited a quote from Mary Chapman, Technomic’s director of product innovation.  She said summed up from the research “…gluten-free dining appears to be growing in popularity, even among those who don’t describe themselves as gluten-intolerant.”  Finally she said,  “There seems to be evidence that it’s trendy,” Chapman said.

Oh great….back to the trend or fad.

I believe the report further reinforces that with the answer to a question that asked how much people actually adhere to their restricted diet. It found 70 percent said they follow their restricted diet but occasionally indulge.  This screams “fad” to me in regards to gluten free.  Yes, people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance probably cheat once in a while…but the people close to me with celiac cannot occasionally indulge.

This report did not explore whether the gluten free menu items restaurant chefs are cooking truly are gluten free.  Cross contamination at some uneducated restaurants can be a problem and cause people to get sick.  Nor did the report article or news release mention any type of customer satisfaction with the specialty menu item.  Many gluten free menus are very weak (Example:  Caesar salad with no croutons or dressing?)

What do you think of this report?  How do you rate the gluten free menus out there?  There are a lot of menus available right now, but are they being done right?  Feel free to comment below.



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One Response to ““Friendly” restaurant menus for Gluten Free & other Diets”

  1. While a really appreciate there being more restaurants out their with GF menus, it seems like fewer of them really “get” it. They’ve created a GF menu, but done no (or little) staff training or work in the kitchen to avoid contamination. I am still as likely to get a salad with croutons on it from a place with a GF menu as from a place without one.

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