Gluten Free Pizza at Pizza Hut

Social media has gone truly wild in the last couple of weeks with news that Pizza Hut would be introducing a gluten free pizza to its restaurants. Pizza Hut worked with Coeliac UK to develop their gluten free base. The following statement appears on the Coeliac UK website:

“After close consultation with Coeliac UK and following extensive research into their customer needs, Pizza Hut have developed a new gluten-free pizza base that meets the No Gluten Containing Ingredients (NGCI) accreditation.

The pizzas will be available in store (not take away) from Monday 8 October at no additional cost for the gluten-free option.

Pizza Hut keep all their dough separated throughout the entire product journey to ensure that it doesn’t come into contact with floured dough bases and they’ve made all their toppings gluten-free throughout their restaurants. They also use separate sauces for their gluten-free pizza bases, which are also stored separately, and separate utensils are used for making each product.

All their team members are receiving in depth training so they rigorously clean all the food preparation areas, and they have a thorough hand cleaning process before they make any gluten-free pizzas.”

I was quite impressed with the lengths Pizza Hut have gone to in order to develop the gluten free pizza. In addition to the above, the shape of the pizza is different to their regular pizzas by being square shaped and so is baked in square pans only used for the gluten free pizza. The waiter (who was excited to be serving me his first gluten free pizza order) explained that they provided the cutter so the customer can cut their own pizza, thus removing another potential source of cross contamination in the kitchen.

So how did I rate it? Overall I thought the pizza tasted good and in particular the topping to base ratio was well balanced. It comes in a 9” base size which I found very filling. Downsides? The base could have been thinner and crispier and the tomato sauce was a little bit sweet. But regular readers will know that I’ve spent a lot of time eating pizzas in Italy where the gluten free bases are very thin and crispy and that’s my personal taste preference. Having said this, it’s difficult to tell the Pizza Hut base is gluten free because it doesn’t taste it.

Mr D is modelling the gluten free pizza here to show a cross section of the base. He proclaimed it tasted better than his gluten pizza and said he’d order the gluten free one himself next time.

Going to Pizza Hut really reminded me of being a teenager again. Maybe it was the décor, the salad bar or perhaps the 80’s soft rock classics playing on the stereo! Either way, I’m not sure I’ve set foot in a Pizza Hut since I was a teenager and, frankly, that was a long time ago. Thinking about this led me on to a further thought. I didn’t grow up in London; I grew up in a small seaside town which doesn’t have even a fraction of the gluten free restaurants and food shops I’m lucky enough to enjoy in London. For example, in my part of London alone, there are three companies who can deliver gluten free pizza to my house.

OK, the pizza at Pizza Hut is not the best pizza in London but sometimes it’s easy to forget when you have everything on your doorstep that this isn’t the case for everyone else. The fact Pizza Hut will have the gluten free bases available nationwide – in addition to the quality of the product – is what makes this great news for coeliacs and gluten intolerants in the UK.

Gluten Free Bread at POD

Pod is a chain of healthy and natural fast food restaurants located mainly in the City of London but now expanding into the West End. I’ve written before about their wide range of gluten free foods, both sweet and savoury as I was a daily (sometimes twice daily) customer when my office was located next door to a Pod.

POD Food

In the last couple of weeks Pod have started offering gluten free bread by Genius with various options on their breakfast menu including scrambled eggs and bacon sandwiches. Just imagine….your colleagues are tucking into their bacon sarnies following a big night out. And you have a yoghurt. Again. Not any more if you work/live near a Pod.

Well, sort of.

One of the things I like about Pod – apart from the food – is the CEO prints his email address on the back of the menus and invites you to contact him if you have any questions. So I did just that. How, I asked, was their gluten free bread prepared? Did they have a separate toaster for the gluten and gluten free bread? I’d already asked in the restaurant I was having my lunch in. They’d told me the gluten free bread was not toasted in a separate toaster but I wanted to double check.

I promptly received the following reply:

“Thanks for taking the time to contact us with your feedback and for your questions. I’m so glad you can are pleased to see the addition of gluten free bread to our menu!

We are grateful that you have brought this to our attention. We in fact were not aware that gluten free bread needed to be toasted separately from standard bread and I would like to apologise on behalf of the team that we had been toasting both breads together until now.

As of next Friday [19th October 2012] our gluten free bread will be toasted separately (the GF bread will be toasted in toaster bags) and all our team members will be made aware of this procedure. Thank you so much for highlighting the importance this is for Coeliac’s – we always want to accommodate for customers with specific nutritional requirements.”

Yes, they have made a mistake in toasting the bread together. Since we all need to take personal responsibility for the food we consume (as far as is possible!), I’d like to hope that any other coeliacs visiting Pod would have checked how the gluten free bread was prepared before ordering. However, I’m pleased to see that the Pod management have reacted quickly to address the problem and to provide a solution which will make the gluten free bread suitable for Coeliacs.

I wonder whether other companies, when notified of this issue, would have gone to the effort and cost of rapidly ordering toaster bags, changing their procedure and training their staff? I suspect many companies would simply not make that investment, as we have seen with some food manufacturers since the change to gluten free labelling laws were enforced in January 2012.

At the end of the email I was offered 2 bacon sandwiches on gluten free bread as a thank you for contacting them about this. I look forward to trying them, but only after 19th October and having checked with the Pod I go to that they’re using the toaster bags.