Eating out 'freefrom'

Survey of visitors to the FreeFrom Awards stand at the Allergy & FreeFrom Show, Liverpool - October 2013


1. Who were surveyed?

Of those who visited the stand and filled in the survey:

46% had coeliac disease
20% were wheat allergic/intolerant
14% were dairy allergic/intolerant
20% suffered from a range of other allergies and intolerances including egg, soya, celery, nightshade and sesame

2. How often do they eat out?

Asked how often they ate out:

• 19% ate out twice a week and 18% only ate out once a week

• 25% ate out twice a month and 19% only ate out once a month

(*A recent survey – September 2013 – showed that, in the London area at least, people now eat out, on average, four times a week.)

3. Why don’t they eat out more?

• 67% said there was not enough choice to make it worth their while eating out.

• 53% said that they did not trust most restaurants to understand their allergies or special dietary needs

• 44% said it ‘was too much hassle’

• 16% said that they did not like ‘to feel different’


4. Where do those who do go out to eat go?

Rated on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 worst, 5 best)

• Fine dining restaurants and family run restaurants
more or less level pegged scoring 3-5/5

• Chains such as Harvester, Wagamama or Brewers Fare and vegetarian restaurants scored on average around 3/5

• With a few notable exceptions (McDonalds and Pizza Express), burger and pizza chains scored 1–3/5 as did coffee shop chains.

• Least popular were sandwich bars and ethnic restaurants which rarely made it to 3/5.


5. Special occasions when those surveyed would like to have eaten out but couldn’t.

• 53% cited birthdays (their own and others’), anniversaries, wedding receptions and family gatherings.

• 34% specifically mentioned Christmas parties, both at work and with the family.

• 21% complained that they found it difficult to get any suitable food when they were travelling or on holiday.

6. Precautions

Asked what precautions those who do eat out take to ensure that they get safe food:

• 53% phoned in advance to discuss their needs

• 50% asked to speak to the chef on arrival
(32% both phoned in advance and asked to speak to the chef when they arrived.)

• However, the largest number, 75%, whether or not they had phoned in advance and/or spoken to the chef, just chose to stick to simple menus anyhow.

7. Getting at the facts

Asked what they thought would be the safest way to find out about potential allergens or gluten in any dish:

• 54% thought that talking to the chef was the safest option although may of those (45%) also wanted to see a written list of ingredients for each dish or to be provided with an ‘allergen-free’ menu.

• Only 17% felt that asking their wait-person or the front of house staff about allergens would be a safe and reliable way to go!

8. Wish list

• Nearly 60% of those who responded opted for clear, reliable and transparent information about possible allergens in the food and better understanding of allergies among catering/restaurant staff.

• Just under 20% had a greater choice as their number one priority.



The survey was conducted over two days among visitors to the FreeFrom Awards stand at the FreeFrom and Allergy show in October in Liverpool.

* Survey of eating habits in London conducted for the Zagat Restaurant Guides in September 2013.

For more information contact Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, director of the FreeFrom Awards michelle