How to Make Gluten-Free Diners Feel Safe in Your Restaurant in Toronto

Celiac disease is not an intolerance like lactose or even gluten intolerance. While many people who have popularized a gluten-free diet are reaping the health benefits, a person with the Celiac disease has a full-fledged autoimmune disease.

Eating at a restaurant when you have Celiac Disease can be extremely unnerving and can make you feel like you’re the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons. Fortunately, there are positive steps restaurants can take to help reassure their gluten-free diners and ensure they keep coming back to your restaurant. If you own a restaurant, you can buy gluten-free products via

gluten free products
Image Source: Google

Here are five steps for creating extremely loyal gluten-free foodies:

1. Have a gluten-free menu. 

This is a great first step to earning more customers and generating interest in your restaurant.   Your gluten-free menu should have at least a couple of options for each category on the regular menu.  Most items on a regular menu can easily be made gluten-free.  Once word gets out that you have a gluten-free menu, gluten-free diners will likely call you and inquire about it.

2.  Have a dedicated gluten-free space. 

Your gluten-free pizza isn’t really gluten-free if it’s prepared on the same surface and baked in the same oven as regular pizza. And your gluten-free pasta is no longer gluten-free if it’s boiled in the same pot of water as regular pasta.  A salad is not gluten-free if the croutons were just removed.

Not all restaurants can afford to have an entire separate oven and completely separate prep areas, though.  There are still affordable ways to make your gluten-free diner safe from cross-contamination.  Some restaurants keep colour-coded utensils to know which ones can be used for gluten-free meals.  Others have dedicated prep and cooking space for gluten-free foods.

3. Be knowledgeable.

This is your chance to shine!  In order for this to be effective, it needs to start with management and trickle downwards. When a potential customer calls to ask about your gluten-free menu, they will ask about your preparation methods and what steps you take to avoid cross-contamination.

Everyone, from the hostess to the waitstaff, should be educated on what gluten is, what type of effects it can have on someone with Celiac Disease, and what steps are taken in your restaurant to make the gluten-free diner safe from cross-contamination.

Also, it’s okay to say no.  We would rather hear that you confidently know something isn’t gluten-free and why than end up getting sick from eating something we were told was safe.

You should also know that many items on your regular menu can be prepared gluten-free in spite of not appearing on a gluten-free menu.  This demonstrates confidence in your food and service, knowledge of cross-contamination and understanding of your customer’s needs.  These first three steps are guaranteed to get a gluten-free foodie into your restaurant.

4. Have a plan. 

Come up with a plan specific to your restaurant that details how you will handle gluten-free patrons from the moment they walk in the door.

The restaurant owner, manager and/or chef should be involved as soon as it’s known that a customer is gluten-free. Introduce yourself, reassure your customer that you’ll keep an eye on their meal and make sure it is prepared correctly. Remind them how you will keep their meal safe from cross-contamination.

Most importantly, make your customer feel welcome, normal, and comfortable without drawing too much attention to them.   Many restaurants have more than one person serving a table and it’s easy for miscommunication to happen.  Having one person oversee your gluten-free guest’s entire experience will help ensure no miscommunication or mistakes happen.

5. Follow-up. 

Before the customer pays for their meal, the manager or owner should again go to the gluten-free customer and see if everything was served to their satisfaction.

Unfortunately, autoimmune reactions from gluten aren’t always immediate like they usually are with food allergies, so they may not be able to give you a 100% accurate assessment right away.  Let them know that you value and welcome their feedback and that they’re welcome to call you with any issues afterwards.  This feedback is critical to improving your operations and gaining a good reputation and following with people who have to follow a strict gluten-free diet.