For the huge number of people with specific dietary needs due to food allergies or intolerances, or the ever increasing people choosing to adopt vegan or vegetarian diets, too often a restaurant or cafe menu provides limited, if any choice. Often when choosing to eat out you are met with hesitant or unknowledgeable waiting staff who are unsure about the ingredients of certain menu items. And sometimes even annoyed kitchen staff who appear to view questions, and additional requests from customers as an inconvenience. This can all leave customers feeling apologetic and awkward. Often still, these dining experiences, can result in a meal that is uninspired, and unappealing leaving you with an overall poor experience.
But thinking – “What if this could all be very different?” became the inspiration that launched Sustainable Kitchen
“What if every customer could have the same amount of choice and the same opportunity to enjoy their meal when eating out?
What if restaurants provided food and drink that suited more dietary requirements and lifestyle choices in a pro-active way, rather than as an afterthought?
What if waiting staff could feel confident in discussing menu allergens with customers, so that neither staff member nor customer felt that awkward, frustrating feeling?
And what if Kitchen teams could confidently create food that was delicious, using ingredients that meant that more customers were able to enjoy them?“
It is because of our Founder & CEO Julie’s own personal experience of dining out with food allergies, that led her to set up Sustainable Kitchen.
As both a customer with food allergies and a trained chef with the knowledge of ‘free-from’ and Vegan and Vegetarian cooking, our founder Julie saw a gap in the market to help not only customers, but restaurants and other hospitality providers as well.
Julie says: “For me, eating out is more than about the food on the plate, although, for someone who adores food, what is on the plate is still extremely important. Dining out, whether it be in a café, restaurant, pub, wedding or conference venue is as much about the food as it is about the experience. I understand first-hand what can be a very alienating experience of dining out with specific dietary needs, and wanted to help dining establishments deliver a better experience”.
As a Nutrition trained Natural Chef, Julie has trained and honed her skills producing food that caters to a range of dietary requirements and enjoys creating ‘free-from food’ that is ‘mainstream food’, i.e. great food that can be enjoyed by anyone, irrespective of their dietary needs.
Why is catering for these customers essential for hospitality businesses?
Why should restaurants, cafes, and caterers consider catering for these customers? Not only are there millions of people living in the UK with food allergies or intolerances, there are also customers and food consumers more generally making a conscious and considered shift to eat better food for their health, and for the environment.
The UK free-from market is worth £365 million and expected to grow by 50% by 2019. Yet the hospitality industry is not yet responding quickly enough to cater for these customers in their restaurants, cafes, hotels and cafeterias.
Veganism has grown in the UK by 360% over the last 10 years.
The food industry is evidently becoming more concerned about keeping up with these trends, as well as others, such as reducing food waste and sustainability, but slowly. With more focus on the environment as a key global challenge, it is very likely that customers will increasingly continue to be conscious about what they eat, where it comes from and how it is produced. And with relationships with the EU strained, the food industry is likely to be challenged further by the rise in food production and staff costs, meaning the need to think more innovatively, more inclusively and more sustainably about providing food is more important than ever