What is in this article?:
- A look behind Chuck E. Cheeseâ€™s gluten-free rollout
- Troubleshooting and sales
The family-dining chain took three years to develop and roll out gluten-free pizza and cupcakes.
Troubleshooting and sales
What are some of the hurdles to providing gluten-free menu items?
Getting past the cross-contamination stage. A lot of consumers are surprised that we make dough fresh in-house. For our back-of-the-house cast members, that’s pretty much all they are doing, making each pizza by hand. We have flour and semolina and all the components of fresh pizza being handled in the back of the house.
You found the dough mix and bag vendor separately at a trade show. How long did the process take?
It was about three years. The genesis of it was serendipitous. It was seeing the bag and seeing the pizza and then putting two and two together.
How do you avoid cross-contamination with items that contain gluten?
[The vendor] has a dedicated gluten-free facility…. He makes the pizza in this facility and when it’s done it goes into a bag, sealed and frozen. It comes into our facility still frozen and still sealed in the bag. When the order comes in from the consumer, our cast member simply goes to the freezer, they take it out and run the pizza, still in the bag, through the oven. Once it is cooked up to temperature, we bring it out to the guest still sealed in the bag.
Can you customize the gluten-free pizza?
No. That’s probably the one limitation to it. It ends up being a cheese-only. For the bulk of our audience that this is targeted toward, which is younger kids, we know cheese pizza is by far the most popular and their favorite. It addresses 99 percent of them.
What is the percentage of gluten-free orders?
At this point, it’s still very low. … Sales are slow. They are at the low end of our threshold. But we’re OK with that. There’s no waste involved. There is no risk. We think over time, as the community becomes more aware, that the offering can only grow for us.
What did you see in the test markets?
The sales slowly grew. We decided that with new exposure, no risk and no spoilage, it makes perfect sense to address the needs of the consumer. For us, we’re seeing gluten-restricted diets increasing. We want to make sure those families can use us.