how to cater to guests who follow a gluten free diet

Celiac Etiquette: 4 Rules For Guests And Hosts

Earn a free micro-certificate with a quick quiz!

Who is this micro-class for

* Waiters and hospitality staff

* House-party hosts

* Guests with an intolerance to gluten

What you’ll learn

* What a gluten-free diet is

* How to provide a safe dining experience to guests with an intolerance to gluten


* Less than 8 minutes to complete

About this micro-class

Celiac etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately plan a menu and manage the dining experience for guests with an intolerance to gluten.

1. Be prepared to tend to your celiac guests

How to spot the symptoms of an intolerance to gluten

Celiac guests are intolerant to gluten, thus they usually follow a strict gluten-free diet. Gluten is usually contained in grains, such as bread or pasta.

The most common symptoms include:

  • An itchy sensation inside the mouth, throat, or ears.
  • An itchy red skin rash.
  • Swelling of the face, tongue, lips, or roof of the mouth.
  • Abdominal cramps, vomiting, bloating, wind, and diarrhea.
  • Coughing and difficulty breathing.

Emergency plan

Every host should have an emergency plan in place in case a guest or customer experiences an allergic reaction.

Ensure that the staff knows how to call for medical assistance if needed.

2. Plan a safe gluten-free menu and dining experience

Avoid gluten traces and cross-contamination

Even a small amount or trace of gluten can trigger a reaction.

Intolerance symptoms usually happen after ingesting a large amount of gluten. However, celiac people tend to avoid gluten altogether. Thus, their body grows less accustomed to it and sensitivity increases.

Follow cooking etiquette principles to cook food safely. Designate specific utensils, cutting boards, and cooking surfaces for gluten-free dishes.

Create a transparent gluten-free menu

Clearly mark all the dishes or items on the menu that include gluten and those that are 100% gluten-free. Label them with a recognized symbol or statement. Make detailed ingredient lists available to customers or guests upon request.

Serve each food on its dedicated plate

Allow your guests with gluten intolerance to pick the foods they can eat and avoid the ones they cannot eat. 

Avoid serving multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, try to separate them. Assign a plate to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separately from food. Present each food with its serving utensils.

Include safe options for your celiac guests

Some foods present a lower risk of triggering an allergic reaction or food intolerance. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. For instance, baked potatoes or salad are safe options for most guests.

Be open to accomodate any special needs of your celiac guests

Offer ingredient substitutions whenever possible to accommodate guests with gluten intolerance. Be transparent about potential substitutions and any extra costs involved.

Be open to customizing dishes and offering a gluten-free version. Clearly communicate any limitations in customization due to the nature of the dish or kitchen processes.

Avoid foods that may be unhealthy for celiac guests


In general, meat can be appropriate for a gluten-free diet. However, a celiac diet must avoid any meat that may contain gluten, such as breaded meat or processed meat like schnitzel, hot dogs, or sausage.

Fish and seafood

Celiac people can eat fish or seafood unless they are breaded. However, it is best to avoid canned or processed fish as they may contain traces of gluten.

Dairy products and cheese

A gluten-free diet allows milk, most dairy products, and most cheeses. Be careful with processed cheese, as it may contain traces of gluten.

Eggs and honey

A celiac diet usually allows eggs and honey.

Vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts

A gluten-free diet allows all types of fresh vegetables and fruit. However, celiac people should apply extra care to processed food that may contain gluten.


Celiac people on a gluten-free diet must avoid any type of grain or cereal, such as rice, pasta, couscous, and quinoa. The same applies to bakery products, such as bread, or flour-based foods, such as pizza.

Condiments and sauces

A gluten-free diet allows oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, and spices. Sauces, dressings, and gravies may contain gluten, and thus they must be excluded.

Sweets and desserts

Celiac guests on gluten-free diets must avoid sweets or desserts that may contain gluten. Avoid any food that is made with wheat or cereals, such as pies, cakes, pancakes, and cookies.

Drinks and alcoholic beverages

Gluten-free diets forbid most alcoholic drinks. Beer, wine, and spirits such as Vodka contain gluten.

It is possible to drink coffee or tea. Soft drinks without any gluten are allowed. Smoothies and milkshakes are allowed too, provided that they do not contain any forbidden ingredient.

3. Politely ask your celiac guests about their food restrictions

At home

It is perfect etiquette to ask your celiac guests about their dietary restrictions. Gluten-free diets differ and may include or exclude different foods.

In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to inform the hosts about any dietary requirements. In informal invitations, a simple “Do you follow any diet or have any dietary restrictions?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food. 

Never judge or question someone’s dietary restrictions. Avoid asking additional questions, such as why someone follows a diet. Some guests may be uncomfortable sharing their food restrictions.


Hospitality staff should encourage guests to communicate their food allergies or intolerances when making reservations and upon arrival. 

Waiters should ask about food allergies before taking orders, and convey this information to the kitchen.

4. Etiquette for celiac guests

Clearly communicate your food restrictions

Clearly state with your host if you have any dietary restrictions.

Do not expect a change in the menu based on your needs. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled. Instead, you can ask if there may be some gluten-free options for you. 

Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests. However, any considerate host will feel compelled to adjust the menu to your needs.

Politely refuse food that you do not eat

If the host serves a type of food that you do not eat, simply avoid it. If the host or another guest explicitly offers such food to you, politely refuse it. It is enough to say “no, thank you”. 

Provide additional details only if someone asks you. Be brief and avoid annoying others with your dietary restrictions.

Do not pressure others​

Do not expect others to adjust their menu or diet to your dietary restrictions. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order.

Celiac etiquette mistakes

The worst etiquette mistakes for a host are: 

  • Not accommodating your celiac guests’ needs that are due to their intolerance to gluten.
  • Using the same kitchenware with different foods.
  • Asking personal dietary questions.

The worst etiquette mistakes for celiac guests are: 

  • Not communicating your dietary restrictions to the host.
  • Pressuring others.
  • Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.

Test Your Knowledge and Earn a Free Micro-certificate

Earn a free micro-certificate with a quick quiz!

Additional resources & links