Every chef and cafe owner wants to be the best at what they do. So how about being the best gluten free restaurant or cafe in your city? Here are my top five tips on how you can become the best gluten free restaurant.
Gluten free menu
To be the best gluten free restaurant let’s start with the obvious. You need to offer gluten free items on your menu. Now, I’m not talking the usual gluten free orange almond cake. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s a bulk standard offering in any shopping mall cafe. Let’s try a bit harder shall we.
Put some decent time into researching gluten free trends. Right now there is an upswing in not only gluten free, but also other niches like low carb, sugar free, whole foods and more. Start by looking to blogs like The Gluten Free Blogger, aptly named and so much content provided by the lovely Sarah Howells. Spend 20 minutes trawling through Sarah’s amazing recipes and be inspired. Another one I love is Katrin who writes at Sugar Free Londoner.
Another zero cost way to do some market research is to use google trends. Just go to google trends and type in gluten free. Here you will see what related topics come up when people search for gluten free. The day I did the trend search, look what came up as related topics. This tells me that people are increasingly on the hunt for gluten free sourdough bread and gluten free banana bread.
I know this isn’t formal market research from your customer base. But if you had a mind for it, you can imagine that gluten free sourdough bread would be a real crowd pleaser. Google is telling us that, as there has been a 120% increase in searches for gluten free sourdough bread.
Now you have found some new and exciting menu items, let’s look at your team.
Great Customer Service
It’s super important that you have a responsive front of house team. The customer service team has to understand what gluten free means and how to make recommendations to your gluten free customers.
Of course your waitstaff can always ‘check with the kitchen’, but it’s far more professional and seamless if your team already knows what items are gluten free, what can be tweaked and what cannot not. This is easy to achieve. Just instigate a team briefing prior to service, or even a kitchen whiteboard showing, what’s new and deliciously gluten free today.
Be sure your wait team always highlights gluten free modifications sufficiently on the order. The kitchen brigade are not mind readers. There is nothing worse than plating up an order to then have the waiter say, “which one is gluten free?” and find out that chef missed the tiny ‘GF’ in the corner of the order. If necessary shout it out loud and get confirmation from the kitchen that a gluten free order has just come in.
Finally, be sure your wait staff be respectful to all dietary requests. Eye rolling is not appropriate when a customer asks ‘is this gluten free?’ Nor is it ok to respond with ‘no, of course not, it’s pasta’. Eating out is a big deal for most people, an even bigger deal for people with food sensitivities. Ensure your staff are educated and remain their most pleasant, helpful selves even in light of the 99th request for something ‘off menu’.
So the floor staff have done their job well, now the kitchen takes over. Super important that you, as owner, provide a kitchen work environment that does not give rise to cross contamination. That happens when gluten free ingredients or products are contaminated with gluten. I have written a post here with some tips to avoid this.
The kitchen crew should be instrumental in ensuring what is represented as gluten free stays gluten free. Great food handling standards will go a long way, as will awareness of the issues. Teach them, the same way you teach knife skills, what it means to be the best gluten free restaurant.
Promotion of your Gluten Free Greatness
There is no point having the best wait staff, kitchen crew and gluten free menu if no one, besides your mum, knows about it. Along with your usual marketing efforts you will now want to add in relevant tags. Think of words and images that convey the gluten free message.
The free resource site Best Hashtags will give you ideas on what other words work well with #glutenfree. Then you can beef up your messages. Remember a picture says a thousand words, so grab some decent images and use those to sell the sizzle.
You might even want to create a special section on your website. This can highlight your commitment to being the best gluten free restaurant in your city. It costs nothing to make the claim, but just be ready to back it up with the real world experience.
As you up your gluten free game there will be bloggers and online magazines specific to your city who you will want to reach. Many have exsisting gluten free cafe and restaurant guides, like Yum Gluten Free. A well-crafted press release is easy to create, and then can be emailed out to these content publishers. With a slight modification it can also be sent to your own customer mailing list.
Go one step further … Get Accredited
Yes this is a thing, you can become an accredited gluten free restaurant or cafe. The Coeliac Australia Gluten Free Accreditation Program is an audit of your business against the Gluten Free Standard for Food Service Providers to ensure that best practice gluten free processes have been implemented.
Once you are accredited then you are able to use their unique ‘GF’ symbol on menus and advertising. This symbol lets the gluten free and coeliac community know that they can ‘eat with confidence’ at your place.
As an accredited business you can use their unique trademarked GF symbol and receive marketing and public relations exposure to the very customers you are aiming to be of service to. Coeliac Australia have a large audience who will be informed of your business once accreicted. There is a fee and these things are included in the accreditation fees.