Fransmart Blog

Gluten Free: restaurant franchises cater to consumers' dietary restrictions

Posted by Staff on Jan 19, 2012
Part 1 in a 3 Part Series covering different dietary restrictions, and how restaurant franchises are reacting to the growing needs of today’s consumer. About ten years ago, the term “gluten free” did not get much mainstream attention.  And those on a gluten free diet would sooner forego the hassle of trying to have their dietary needs met, than to bother with the restaurant scene.  Recently, however, food franchises are taking dietary restrictions more seriously and examining their practices to accommodate the diverse needs of their customers.

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.


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