Accommodating Gluten-Free Customers: Back-of-House Staff

Have you checked out part one of our series on accommodating gluten-free customers? If not, double back to ensure your front-of-house staff is up to date on safe food handling practices. In this post, we’ll walk you through getting your back-of-house staff on the same page.

Here are a few guidelines your cooks, dishwashers and bussers should follow to keep gluten-free diners coming back for more.

Install Separate Kitchenware

Making a restaurant allergen menu available to gluten-free customers is a great idea, but it won’t do much good if gluten-free food is routinely fried in the same oil as every other dish you offer.

Lori Welstead, a registered dietician at the University of Chicago, weighed in on the topic, telling us: “You cannot state french fries or other foods are gluten-free if they are prepared in a shared fryer with mozzarella sticks, onion rings or other gluten-containing foods.”

Keep gluten-free customers safe by investing in two fryers, one of which should be dedicated exclusively to gluten-free foods. Hold on, though – you aren’t finished yet. The same must be done for toasters that come in contact with gluten. Clearly label each appliance to make sure all back-of-house employees – not just cooks – easily recognize which of the two is used for gluten-free items.

Maintain Clean Hands

Even the slightest exposure to food containing gluten can lead to cross-contamination. If you are serious about maintaining safe food handling practices in your restaurant, implement a food allergy training program that teaches back-of-house employees about the importance of keeping their hands free from gluten when necessary.

Touching gluten-free food after preparing a dish that contains gluten places customers with celiac disease at risk of becoming ill. Instruct your employees to always wash their hands or put on a new pair of protective gloves before tending to a gluten-free meal.

Use New Utensils

Just as it’s important to keep hands clean, you need to keep utensils from getting cross-contaminated as well. Say, for example, a customer reviews your restaurant allergen menu before deciding on a gluten-free dish. While every ingredient may be free from gluten, any utensil that has previously come in contact with gluten has the potential to trigger an allergic reaction.

Avoid using the same tongs, knives and spoons for every dish, and instead stock up on extra utensils specifically reserved for gluten-free dishes.

Designate Grill Space

There are few things more satisfying than the sound of a burger sizzling on a smoldering grill. But while pure beef may not place the health of gluten-free customers in danger, complementary items such as buns will.

“If you have a flat-top grill, block off an area on the grill that is used to only prepare gluten-free food. You can also place a small pan on top of the grill to prevent food containing gluten from contaminating the area,” says Welstead.

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