For customers, finding restaurants that serve their seasonal favorites while respecting health and safety concerns can inspire loyalty that lasts a lifetime.
Inspired by countless holiday stories and movies, as well as our own treasured memories, the desire to come together over seasonal food and drink is especially powerful as the holidays approach. This year, our desire to celebrate together is particularly strong after three years of social distancing. For restaurants, the holiday season is the busiest and most profitable time of year. Restaurants can maximize their sales by offering an inclusive menu with gluten-free options for people on the diet.
When gluten-free eating became popular over a decade ago, many in the restaurant industry assumed the trend would be a passing fad. However, the demand for gluten-free options has proven surprisingly durable. Today, nearly a quarter of American households have at least one member who has adopted a gluten-free diet for medical reasons or to promote general well-being.
Like their loved ones and peers, gluten-free diners crave opportunities to indulge in their holiday favorites. Because the holidays are peak season for office parties and family gatherings, many restaurants will host or host special events that will most likely include at least one person who eats gluten-free. When you consider that people with dietary restrictions often determine where a group eats, it makes sense for restaurants to incorporate gluten-free options into their holiday menu.
What is on the menu?
Provided your restaurant follows proper procedures for preparing and handling gluten-free dishes, offering a gluten-free holiday menu is a great way to show those customers that you appreciate them. When planning holiday deals, a simple solution is to pay special attention to desserts and your children’s menu. Food manufacturers now offer a wide variety of gluten-free products, including baked goods and kid favorites like chicken fingers. With so many options available, there’s no reason to limit your gluten-free menu to basic salads or baked potatoes with broccoli and little else.
Offering gluten-free beverages is another great way to create a special vacation experience. Many festive drinks, especially those made with distilled spirits, are gluten-free and make the perfect companion to a delicious holiday meal. Offering a gluten-free beer, cider, seltzer, or spritzer and designating it gluten-free on your menu is definitely a winning strategy, especially if you’re trying to increase your totals.
Start spreading the news
With the busy season stretching from November to New Years, fall is the perfect time to ramp up marketing efforts regarding your gluten-free holiday menu. Ideally, you’ll want to jump in during the holidays, so you’re not launching your campaign during your busiest weeks. However, it’s never too late to promote the fact that you serve gluten-free dishes. Customers will appreciate your efforts to meet their dietary needs, no matter the time of year.
When serving gluten-free meals, the first step is to review your menu and list gluten-free items. Many restaurants advertise their willingness to make gluten-free dishes, but don’t include the crucial step of clearly labeling gluten-free options. This oversight is a missed opportunity to attract gluten-free customers, as many of these customers carefully research restaurants that can meet their dietary needs. If they don’t see any identified gluten-free options on your menu, they’re likely to move on to another restaurant.
When doing your review, don’t overlook your online menu. During the pandemic, many restaurants have relied heavily on food delivery services to stay afloat during shelter-in-place orders. Since these menus tend to be more limited than the on-site versions, gluten-free customers may not realize that you are serving gluten-free dishes. This online menu is the first place gluten-free customers will turn when looking for a restaurant. You can counter this limitation to some degree with good SEO, but nothing beats an online menu with items clearly marked as gluten-free, whether customers are ordering online, getting food delivered, or just planning a visit.
Cultivate an active social media presence
Along with revamping your menu online, cultivating an active social media presence is one of the best ways to attract gluten-free customers. The gluten-free community is very active on social media, frequently exchanging recommendations for their favorite restaurants on online forums. This is a great opportunity to communicate your ability to follow proper food handling procedures. Because ingesting even a tiny amount of gluten can sicken a gluten-free dinner, a negative dining experience is just as likely to go viral as a stellar one, so confirm any gluten-free claims by following best practices for prepare and serve gluten. -free food and building a relationship of trust with your customers.
To optimize your social media presence, use quality content like personal testimonials and cooking demonstrations that showcase your gluten-free food preparation, as well as top-notch food photography and relevant hashtags. To raise awareness of your gluten-free menu, treat food bloggers and influencers to a holiday meal and encourage loyal customers to leave restaurant reviews through apps like Find Me Gluten Free, AllergyEats and Yelp. Another way to promote your restaurant is to be validated as a gluten-free place by a trusted program like the Gluten-Free Food Service (GFFS).
More than any other time of year, the holidays are all about getting together with loved ones and making new memories. Whether you’re hosting an office party or serving a meal onsite to a large group, your restaurant plays a pivotal role in providing guests with an unforgettable vacation experience. For people who eat gluten-free, finding restaurants that can serve their seasonal favorites while respecting health and safety concerns can inspire loyalty that lasts a lifetime.