In Marketing Strategy

Have you ever noticed how some restaurants are the “it” place for college students, retired folks, or young families? Well, developing a gluten-free customer base (including gluten friendly customers) to increase restaurant table covers is possible, too. In fact, our proven 5 step process works if you’re hungry to grow your vegan customer base, vegetarian customer base, pet-friendly customer base, and more.

Skeptical? One of our clients grew their gluten-free customer base to a whopping 30% of all table covers. And it all started with a conversation about allergies.

Related content: Why paid social media ads increase restaurant sales

5 steps to increase your gluten-free customer base (including gluten friendly customers)

  1. Establish protocols. The platinum rule among a gluten-free customer base is to keep everyone healthy. (The Platinum Rule is a step above the Golden Rule, and is defined as treating people how they want to be treated.) While people who prefer to eat gluten free may not get sick, others with celiac disease or a biological gluten sensitivity may become extremely ill from any contamination. Anchor your reputation and attract a strong gluten-free customer base by establishing written protocols and training your entire team on how patrons with an allergy are handled. For example, our longtime client, Jo’s American Bistro in Newport, RI, serves patrons with any kind of allergy on a blue-rimmed plate. It’s a clear visual cue to the front-of-house team that the restaurant’s allergy protocol is in effect. It also reassures the diner (and their caregivers) that the restaurant is taking proper steps to ensure the allergy is being treated with care.
  2. Designate a GF fryer. French fries and many other items are naturally gluten-free, unless they are fried in the same fryer as items containing wheat (like your breaded fish and chips). Avoid cross contamination, which will make GF diners ill, and designate a separate fryer for GF items. This will allow you to offer many more GF items, making your restaurant even more attractive to these patrons.
  3. Register on gluten-free restaurant sites. Did you even know they exist? They do! Being able to eat–safely–at a gluten-free or gluten friendly restaurant is so important to some customers that there are dozens of websites that aggregate listings, reviews, and information so these diners can more easily find a safe place for their party to enjoy a meal. Once you register your restaurant, complete your profile and let patrons know they are welcome to dine safely at your restaurant. You may also want to monitor comments and reviews left on your profile to reflect how much you care about these customers and their experience at your restaurant.
  4. Highlight GF menu items. Make it clear which menu items are appropriate for your gluten-free customer base and gluten friendly customers with simple visual design queues. See the fun graphics on the Jo’s American Bistro menu, pictured below. Additionally, denote which menu items can be prepared gluten free upon request. You may be surprised at how many menu items there are! If you can, create a landing page dedicated to your GF menu items. This is an opportunity to rank for specific keywords your gluten-free customer base is searching for to find the perfect restaurant–that could be yours!
    gluten free and gluten friendly menu items

    Gluten friendly menu items (white circle) and dishes that can be prepared gluten friendly (black circle) from Jo’s American Bistro restaurant in Newport, RI.

  5. Tell the world. Blast your menu options to gluten free customers and gluten friendly customers across your social media channels, email campaigns, web presence, traditional and digital ads, videos, and wherever else you have a presence. Highlight your GF menu by creating a separate menu of only GF and GF upon request items that are available, then add it to your website as a separate drop down tab from the Menu navigation link. Everyone who scrolls over your Menu tab will see your restaurant offers a gluten friendly menu, even if they don’t click on any of the menus.

Whether you are developing a gluten free customer base, gluten friendly customers, vegan customers, vegetarian customers, or something else, you can adapt our 5-step proven process to increase a specialty customer base at your restaurant and grow sales.

Want to increase your GF customer base without lifting a finger?

We may be the perfect match for you. The first step is to schedule an exploratory call.