The hospitality industry is missing out on an estimated £100m a year by failing to provide safe, gluten-free options for people with coeliac disease, campaigners warned today.
The charity Coeliac UK said eating out is "a lottery" for people with the disease (a serious lifelong autoimmune disease triggered by eating gluten) meaning many feel forced to eat meals at home.
Its survey of 3,000 people with the disease revealed that 62% only eat out once per month or less, while 38% only eat out once every two weeks or more.
When asked how often they would eat out with more safe gluten-free options available this figure nearly reversed - 74% said they would eat out once every two weeks or more, whilst 26% said they would eat out once a month or less.
The survey revealed that respondents dine out with a minimum of two or three other people. And with an average spend of £10 - £20 per head, each meal eaten out is worth around £60 of business.
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK said: "Harnessing this untapped market has obvious potential financial benefits for catering businesses. In these difficult times, when over 40 pubs and restaurants nationally are closing per week, this is a huge market that the hospitality sector cannot afford to miss.
"People with coeliac disease want to eat out more often and are ready and willing to spend their money, if only they felt more confident about gluten-free provision."
Coeliac UK is running an awareness campaign this week to promote understanding about coeliac disease and for the need for increased gluten-free provision in the hospitality industry.
By Daniel Thomas
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