Did you miss Paula Cooper’s article in PMQ Pizza Magazine’s June/July Issue?

In this interview with Rick Hynum he asks me how restaurants can create and deliver an exceptional pizza experience for gluten-free and food allergy guests.

I also name my current pizza favourite.

Q&A with Paula Cooper of Dine Aware: Developing a gluten-free and allergen-free approach that ensures quality and consistency. A leading industry consultant says overcoming the language barrier is key to building trust with customers who have celiac disease and food allergies.

Q: As a pizza fan, how did celiac disease impact your ability to enjoy pizza in restaurants?

Cooper: Huge pizza fan! It was like a food group for me. It was about eight years ago when I was forced to go 100% gluten-free, and options then were virtually nonexistent. In fact, my rate of eating out overall dropped a whopping 85%, a common story for people with dietary restrictions. Gluten-free pizza was figuratively and literally off the table at that time. While gluten-free pizza has certainly gained in popularity over the years, finding good (and safe) pies is still a bit of a unicorn for me.

Q: What are your expectations from a pizzeria that offers gluten-free food? 

Cooper: The first thing I’m looking for is information, not menu items. The goal is to make an informed decision. To do that, I—and folks like me—need answers to things we can’t see. Questions like:  … read the full article.

Q: How would you evaluate the quality of gluten-free pizza today compared to five or so years ago?

Cooper: In most cases, it’s only slightly better, for a couple of reasons. First, I’m simply not able to try all the gluten-free pizza out there because of inadequate cross-contact prevention practices. Truly, I would make it my life’s mission to eat all the GF pizza if everyone would just follow the right protocols. Second, … read the full article.

❤️ Truly, I would make it my life’s mission to eat all the gluten-free pizza if everyone would [or could] follow the right protocols 🍕

Q: So what should restaurateurs be doing differently?

Cooper: There is still a tendency with gluten-free to think short-term, focusing on the fad instead of developing the fans. Celiac disease and food allergies are not a fad; they are tied to societal shifts in how we are going to eat. Transparency and traceability are the nucleus of catering to guests with food allergies.  I want to know, as a customer,  … read the full article.

There is still a tendency with gluten-free to think short-term, focusing on the fad instead of developing the fans.

Q: Do you have a favorite pizzeria that caters to the gluten-free crowd?

Cooper: My recent favorite is … read the full article.

Q: Aside from celiac disease, what are some food allergies that pizzeria owners should keep in mind?

Cooper: The next on the list are people with lactose intolerance or milk allergies. It’s important to understand the distinction, because … read the full article.

Q: Dine Aware offers courses for restaurants and other foodservice providers. What does this training entail?

Cooper: Food allergies in foodservice can seem like guests are speaking another language. There are unique questions, words and even a style of interaction that inform that type of communication, all of which are the cornerstones to making informed decisions. People can only communicate what they understand. Knowing how to “speak food allergy” with guests helps the staff feel confident and knowledgeable in their exchanges. When employees are empowered with a food-allergy language, they can empower guests in their decision making.

Our focus is on creating a culture of awareness that is consistent across the entire team, locations and brands. We have six courses for the entire front- and back-of-the-house team. We wanted a solution that did not rely on just training managers, then stressing their time and resources to constantly train new hires. That’s not really a solution at all. Instead, we automated the training process so everyone is on the same page, 100% of the time.

The courses cover best practices, golden rules, cross-contact prevention and communication. We have a unit that touches on the top 14 food allergens, since employees need to have a basic understanding of these allergens.

One of the most important and unexpected outcomes of teams learning how to speak Dine Aware has nothing to do with food allergies at all. We began to notice that when companies established a culture of awareness, it helped people overcome misconceptions about food allergies and food allergy guests and to foster a state of tolerance. So not only do employees speak the message of tolerance in the workplace, they also bring it back into their communities. And I think that’s pretty cool. 👏

Thank you, Rick for the interview I hope it gave your readers some valuable pizza insights!


Did you love Rick’s article? Did it answer important questions about serving a safe pie? If it did, please like and share.

If you have more pizza related questions or want to send an invite to help me in my quest to eat ALL the gluten-free pizza send me a message would love to hear from you!