Approximately one-third of the US population, over 100 million Americans, are managing gluten-free or allergen-free diets, according to global research by GlutenFree Passport®, an internationally recognized consulting firm. For this significant portion of society, eating out is one of the most frequently cited concerns. In the unprecedented and soon-to-be released 2008 benchmarking study, Understanding Gluten and Allergen-Free Experiences of Guests and Hospitality Worldwide, over 70% of the consumers surveyed indicate that social gatherings and eating out with special diets impacts their quality of life on a daily basis!
Additional empirical research data indicates that almost half of the individuals following gluten-free diets eat out weekly close to home. Yet, over 75% of these guests eat out less than they did prior to diagnosis due to concerns about the safety of their meals, and lack of knowledgeable personnel in restaurants and other eating establishments. 65% of individuals feel safer finding new restaurants based on the recommendation by another on a gluten-free diet and the availability of gluten-free menus.
Approximately 40% find a restaurant mentioned in the media or listed in on-line gluten-free meal databases, such as Glutenfreeonthego.com. The pioneering and innovative database is a one stop solution; expanding daily for gluten-free guests searching online to find places they can trust either close-to-home or on-the-road. With the dramatic expansion of North American establishments between October 2007 and March 2008, sponsored by GlutenFree Passport®, over 4300 global listings are currently available throughout the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mallorca, New Zealand and the UK.
Since eating out is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures, it needs to be enjoyed by all; regardless of whether one is following a special diet. Restaurant operators who agree with this guiding principle have benefited greatly by taking the extra steps to cater to guests with special dietary needs. Recent research also supports this growing movement since gluten-free and allergen-free guests are viewed as a new profitable market by 62% of the restaurant study respondents.
What food service providers across the globe are realizing is that gluten-free guests are extremely loyal, travel long distances, typically control the destination decision of their party, and spread the word about their experiences. If an establishment makes one gluten-free person happy, hundreds, if not thousands, will follow in their footsteps! With growing consumer sentiment towards operations with special diet programs and food safety legislation continuing to spread; in time, gluten-free and allergen-free lifestyles will become universally understood and supported ways of living on a worldwide basis.
By Kim Koeller and Robert La France and thanks to GlutenFreeda