By Casey Thorp: Gluten free eating practices have gained a spot in the limelight recently. Although only 1% of the population is diagnosed with celiac disease – an allergy to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat products – a higher percentage of people have “gluten sensitivity”, and many more eat gluten free just for a healthier diet/lifestyle. Allergy to wheat is one of the Top 8 Most Common Food Allergies, and there are gluten free aisles in many popular grocery stores including ShopRite, Wegmans and Whole Foods.
Gluten free is also a big trend in Hollywood, creating even more pop culture buzz around the diet. Actresses including Zooey Deschanel, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow are all self-proclaimed gluten free eaters. Elisabeth Hasselbeck, from The View, even released a book about the benefits of the diet and how to overcome the difficulties of creating a gluten free lifestyle (The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide).
There are many health benefits to eating a gluten-free diet, even if you are not allergic to gluten. Among these are weight loss, increased energy and the alleviation of symptoms for many diseases ranging from migraines to autism. It also helps your digestive health, and can lower bad cholesterol. Many people incorporate it simply in an attempt to eat a fresher, more whole and organic diet.
People who are diagnosed with celiac disease need to worry about cross-contamination when eating out. This can cause a hassle, to say the least. Whether you need a kitchen that operates gluten free or are simply looking for gluten free menu choices, it is much easier to choose a restaurant if there is a reliable food franchise that is consistent with their gluten free practices.
Many popular food franchises are catering to the gluten free demand.
Zpizza, a pizza franchise whose motto is The Pure One, offers gluten free options such as their mozzarella cheese, and certain sauces and toppings, as well as an entirely gluten free pie (made on a separate workstation). They have partnered with Autism Speaks, to further their efforts towards offering options that are consistent with a GFCF (gluten free casein free) diet.
Elevation Burger, the largest better burger franchise to offer 100% organic beef, is another food franchise that is sensitive to the needs of its gluten free patrons. Their fries are gluten free, are cooked in dedicated fryers, and are fried in olive oil. They grill their buns separately from the meat, making the meat celiac friendly. You can also request to have your bun wrapped in lettuce instead of bread. For dessert, they use Blue Bunny (gluten free) ice cream for their hand-scooped milkshakes.
Tossed, the home of garden fresh salads, crepe wraps and sandwiches, offers a lineup of gluten free menu suggestions for customers which consists of over a dozen different salads. They also have gluten free guidelines on which toss-ins, toppings and dressings to add for guests who opt to use the “Design Your Own” salad alternative. Eric Clark, COO of Tossed Franchise Corporation, says “Between our Signature and ‘Design Your Own’ choices, there are literally thousands of ways to enjoy a flavorful, gluten-free meal at Tossed”
Merzi, a fast casual Indian food franchise, offers a variety of gluten free products, and lists clearly, for their staff and for their patrons, which of their menu items contain the most popular food allergens – including wheat/gluten - via an ingredients checklist.
Freshii, a health food franchise, offers custom built orders that cater to many dietary restrictions. From their salads to soups and rice bowls, all can be custom made for a gluten free diet. Freshii also offers rice noodles, gluten free brownies and chips, and uses one set of utensils for each ingredient to prevent cross-contamination.
Although diet fads seem to come and go, gluten free is a mainstream trend. Those food franchises, such as zpizza, Elevation Burger, Freshii, Tossed and Merzi, who cater to this population, will see the benefits of an increased loyalty and appreciation from the customers struggling to accommodate their diet restrictions.
As Founder and CEO of Fransmart, Dan Rowe has turned dozens of emerging restaurant concepts into national and global chains. Mr. Rowe is a franchisee, master franchisee, franchisor, consultant, strategist, and private equity investor. He has published several expert opinion articles and spoken at numerous restaurant and franchise industry conferences. Dan is also a guest blogger for CNBC through his membership in YPO - Young Presidents' Organization. Connect with Dan Rowe on LinkedIn
As Fransmart's Vice President of Marketing, Kristin Martonik directs the global franchise marketing strategy for Fransmart’s portfolio brands. She has led franchise marketing for more than twenty regional, national and global chains. Her expertise areas include strategic marketing consulting, sales strategy development, public relations, content marketing, e-mail and online marketing, brand development and print and digital design. Kristin has worked with Fransmart since 2004. Connect with Kristin Martonik on LinkedIn
As a Senior Director of Development, Paul Tran facilitates franchise deals between investors and emerging, high growth restaurant brands, with a specialization in global markets. He also has experience in corporate banking; private, alternative, and business investments; and business-to-business, consultative, and high-ticket sales and marketing. Paul is a former restaurant founder / owner, and a restaurant franchisee. Paul has been with Fransmart since 2007. Connect with Paul Tran on LinkedIn
As the Vice President of Brand Management for Fransmart, Kathy Thombs work closely with new and existing restaurant brand franchisors and the Fransmart development team, to ensure seamless and successful franchise partnerships. Her areas of expertise include brand strategy and development, franchise sales process and operations, franchise compliance - including the ever-changing federal and state franchise regulations, marketing strategy, analytics, and CRM proficiency. Kathy has been with the company since 2003. Connect with Kathy Thombs on LinkedIn.
As Vice President of Sales, Ryan Durishin helps food operators build wealth by expanding their portfolio with high growth, emerging restaurant brands. Ryan consults closely with both prospective franchisees and Fransmart franchisors, and manages and mentors our franchise development team. Ryan has been with Fransmart since 2010. Connect with Ryan Durishin on LinkedIn
Mark Treptow is a Senior Director of Development at Fransmart, and founding shareholder in a privately held QSR concept. Connect with Mark Treptow on LinkedIn