A recent survey conducted by food subscription box, HelloFresh found that nearly half (45%) of Brits with food intolerances or specific dietary requirements claim their condition prevents them from dining out at restaurants.
The study revealed that 22% felt they did not have a satisfactory selection of restaurants catering to their specific dietary needs. Interestingly, respondents in Scotland and Wales showed a lower likelihood of rating local restaurants as inadequate in meeting their dietary requirements.
When reflecting on their most recent restaurant experience, one in eight (12%) expressed dissatisfaction with the menu choices available to them. This sheds light on the ongoing challenges faced by individuals with food intolerances in finding suitable and satisfying dining options.
Among the various food intolerances and dietary requirements, gluten emerged as the most prevalent, with nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents indicating intolerance to gluten. Dairy and shellfish followed closely behind, both accounting for 19% of reported intolerances.
Mimi Morley, Senior Recipe Development Manager with over a decade’s experience in the food industry, adds, “It’s a shame that in 2024 people still feel like they can’t eat out and enjoy themselves the same as those without intolerances. Though there appears to be a growing number of food preference/intolerance-specific restaurants, it’s those that have a broader menu that need to cater to all so that families and friends can enjoy meals together.
“Our study found that 24% of the UK have a gluten intolerance, and external data tells us that 6% of the UK are vegetarian and 2% vegan. Even now, the number of people who want to experiment with the amount of meat they eat (flexitarians) has increased to 12%. Restaurants need to up their game to be able to suit as many preferences as possible, which in turn will benefit both their customers and themselves as a business.
“Food subscription boxes have become a popular alternative to eating out for those who do have specific dietary requirements, as they can be tailored to either one person or two families with different diets. They deliver restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of your own home and this is what people need when they feel they don’t have the option to go out.”
HelloFresh spoke to Dan, 27, from Sheffield, about his experience with his mushroom allergy: “I found out I had a mushroom allergy when I was 18, and since then, it’s continued to be a struggle when eating out at restaurants and ordering food,” said Dan.
“As a result of my allergy, eating even the smallest amount of mushrooms causes me to have excruciating stomach pain and sickness, to the point where I have to take time off work to recover. Going to new restaurants causes me a lot of anxiety because I’ve found that in some circumstances, my allergy hasn’t been taken seriously because it’s not one of the 14 recognised allergens, so I’m often fobbed off with comments like, ‘We can’t guarantee there won’t be mushrooms in your dish.’ In particular, truffles cause me a lot of issues. As a common seasoning, sometimes restaurant staff aren’t sure what dishes contain it or whether it can be removed.
“Because of how stressful this can be, I tend to rely on visiting the same restaurants or ordering the same dishes, but really the only way I can be completely sure I won’t have any issues is by cooking for myself at home. I’m a bit of a natural in the kitchen, so most of the time, to avoid any stress, I’ll opt to try new recipes at home, where I can be sure no mushrooms are added.”