Correct Terminology Matters

I am not someone who habitually writes to businesses about their ad campaigns. However, I made an exception today, after hearing a commercial on a local radio station advertising a new restaurant.

The restaurant owner is the voice of the ad, and he speaks warmly about the local ingredients going into the food, the homemade desserts, and ends with the promise of a new “gluten-friendly” menu. I have looked at this restaurant’s menu online, and many of its offerings already contain gluten. I find it unbelievable they would be going against the tide of restaurants offering gluten-free items for those suffering from Celiac disease, Crohn’s, or who are sensitive to gluten.

I am guessing this new menu in the works is actually “gluten-free.” However, using the wrong terminology to describe it is not only confusing, but may erode the trust of its patrons who cannot eat gluten.

I know several people who avoid gluten because they feel a great deal of discomfort after eating it. Some have been misled by restaurant servers to believe that a dish they’ve ordered doesn’t contain gluten, when in fact their bodies tell them later that it did. In many cases, friends have not returned to restaurants where they have been “glutened.” As a public relations professional, I can tell you that word of mouth, which now has an expanded reach thanks to Twitter and Facebook, can be a business owner’s best friend or worst enemy.

As with any food allergy or selective diet, restaurant patrons are put in a position of having to trust what the server tells them about menu items’ ingredients; therefore, getting the terminology correct from the start is very important. One wouldn’t say a restaurant is child-friendly if children were not welcome, or red meat-friendly if the menu was meant to appeal to vegetarian diners.

As a helpful gesture, I sent a note about the term “gluten-friendly” to the restaurant owner via the restaurant’s Facebook page. It is fair to say that his response will determine whether I take any of my friends who do not eat gluten to that particular restaurant.

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