Dining out Free-From at Christmas


I have seen many post on social media over the last few weeks where coeliacs or dairy free diners have been placing comments on their disappointment and concerns of eating out with colleagues over Christmas, either at parties in house or at Christmas functions. FB no 2So how can you make their life easier and stress free at this hectic time of year.

Event booking staff  and chefs need to work closely together when providing for the free from customer, the chef needs to be able to provide an adequate choice to all their customers and the event team needs to communicate any requests in an safe and methodical manner.




Event Teams

Many event teams will roll out the standard “Yes we can cater for all diets”, but they need to go that bit further to state what is actually provided.  It is not good enough to say we can cater for gluten free and then discover that half the dinner hasIMG_5728 then been removed and no alternative has been put in place.

When taking a booking where it is highlighted that  customers have an allergy (anaphylaxis) within in the party, take the time to walk down to the kitchen and communicate this in person,emphasize the importance of ensuring the meal is free from Nuts for example, ensure it is highlighted in bold on the the function sheets to emphaize the importance of the request.

IMG_5730I was recently made aware of an event in Birmingham where a ‘Nut free’ menu was requested due to 3 severe nut allergy customers.  Thanks to the original person booking the event picking up on praline in the cheesecake she managed to alert the three people very quickly.  One however did have to go to hospital due to a severe reaction.  This hotel  part of a chain are now under close scrutiny by their local EHO and TS.

Work with the kitchen to understand what is practical and possible before promising the customer something which cannot be delivered.  The food allergy customer will feel happier about you checking with the kitchen and coming back to them rather than a blanket yes we cater for all.

When you say you cater for special diets be specific – if you only provide a bread roll and a sauce-less dinner and fruit salad – at least be honest, nothing worse in building up your expectations to then have a plain salad!


Chefs – Pre Planning

Try menu planning  way ahead of the festive season, look at the menu and see what provision or adaptations can be made for special diets. Gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian options could have the same selection of starters and desserts. The more items you create that are accessible to all customers the happier the free from customer will be and the less likely you are to have cross contamination issues.FB Cin UK HI eastlaigh

  • Remember the gluten free customer is not always a vegetarian and may also like a tasty sauce with their meat!  If you buy in a gluten free sauce mix, have you done the taste test? You can adapt the sauce as long as the recipe is documented.

Think about your recipes, try to eliminate ingredients which are not required and where possible source every day gluten free products like  gravy, pigs in blankets and stuffing. If you serve gluten free sausages ask your supplier for the gluten free sausage meat and adapt the stuffing to include gluten free bread crumbs – there will be no difference to the taste.

  • If you are not able to provide the trimmings for the gluten free customer – think outside the box and provide an alternative solution so they do not feel left out. Create an alternative for example make stuffing tartlets which can be prepared and frozen and cooked as required.


FB no 3Desserts

When it comes to pudding don’t be surprised if the gluten free or dairy free customer give a huge sigh when you excitedly state “We can do a fruit salad”   Again think out of the box and provide an alternative which caters for all diets and no one notices the difference.  Take a leaf out Dominic Teague’s restaurant Indigo at One Aldwych who have gone gluten and dairy free and no ones has noticed any difference.

Check out Gluten Free B’s blog – ‘Fruit is not a pudding‘ for more dessert ideas. The blog was set up to document the gluten free adventures of coeliac, Carly ‘B’ Talbot, her gluten eating husband (GEH) and new arrival Baby A (who has a suspected cows milk protein allergy).

How does your business caterer for the freefrom customer? Let us know by adding a comment below.

We hope you have a safe and happy Christmas and if you have some tried and tested freefrom recipe ideas please do send them through to us at marketing@fatc.co.uk


If you would like to receive our regular bulletin with allergy awareness information for caterers, including hints and tips, suggested suppliers and services to enhance the free from customer experience please Click here!

Panna Cotta with Apple and Honeycomb at the Belfry Hotel – Nottinhgam



7 responses

  1. I saw your post on GF and me, and as someone who has to live GF I wanted to share my experiences of trying to eat out safely.

    I have had some restaurants who could not do enough for me, and where the service and food has been amazing! Credit where credit is due, not all places are bad for GF.

    However, some places are an absolute disappointment. My office party Christmas meal was camembert starter, served cheese only, no bread….. turkey dinner, dry turkey, veg and that was it. No option for dessert. I got to watch my colleagues eat fresh bread, have bread with their cheese starter, pigs in blankets, stuffing, roasted potatoes and gravy with their turkey, and dessert!

    Or try some famous chains… GF meal, fab btw…. till I spent the next three nights in the bathroom, wondering why, so next time, went back and ordered the same meal, then was told: yes that is GF but we fry it with everything else!!! Checked the menu, marked clearly as GF, well if you fry it with wheat it is no longer GF!

    I also was told last month that deep frying removes gluten… I walked out, the place could not be trusted.

    A lot of the time I would be a very happy customer if the staff were more knowledgeable, if my meal was a meal and not half a meal at full price and if my condition was taken seriously. Gluten makes me very sick for days at a time.

    On a positive note, I have one place I go out for a meal at, which does not have an allergen menu, the staff checks all options with the chef, informs me exactly what I can and cannot have, make all necessary changes to my meal, food is fab, freshly cooked, GF, tasty and I am happy to pay their prices as I get a full, delicious meal, great service, never had any food issues. Meeting up with my non GF friends? This is our safe place, and of all places Nando’s. They really have surprised me with how clued up their staff is, and ensuring my meal is cooked on a separate place of the grill which is for allergens and always cleaned between meals. I never thought I’d say this, but one “fast food” place which knows their stuff, makes us GF people feel safe and secure eating there, and never been glutened.

    1. Elisabeth Thank you for your feedback its great to see there are some restaurants offering positive experiences, and as you say its about having the knowledge to understand about cross contamination!

  2. I’m in the Vale of Belvoir on the Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, borders. Langar Hall, an award winning restaurant where Ed Milliband was married, is local. Had a choice of Gluten and Dairy free starters plus gluten free gravy. Bread was defrosted sliced white Genius, dessert was fruit salad or sorbet.
    Another prestigious local, Paul’s in Bottesford could only offer fruit salad. Both minus main course trimmings of course.
    However, Michelle at The Reindeer Inn at Hoveringham nr Southwell, given notice, cooks a full 3 course meal with soft brown roll and olive oil dip to munch on whilst each course is cooked to order. Yorkshire pudding, gravy, stuffing etc too. Sweets include crumble, baked apple and Dairy free custard. White coffee too! At half the price of the big names and no cross contamination. It can be done!

  3. It’s my office Christmas meal tonight. I emailed the restaurant just to be sure they understood what it meant to eat gluten free due to having Coeliac Disease and not just as a fad diet choice. They told me it would be fairer and safer for everyone if I ate before coming out….so, of course I’m really looking forward to watching my colleagues eat and be merry!!!

  4. I always ask my clients are there any dietary needs GF or allergy. I have become accustomed to asking the question being that my business revolves around people that have different allergies.

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