Uno Chicago Grill is the nation’s first
casual dining chain to offer a gluten-free pizza, currently testing the new
menu item in its Northeastern Region. The new pizza debuts during Gluten-
Free Diet Awareness Month (November) and has received a very positive
reaction from guests who suffer from celiac disease, which affects
approximately 1 percent of the population .
Uno Chicago Grill, recently lauded as America’s Healthiest Chain Restaurant ,
has added cheese and pepperoni pizzas to what is already one of the most
extensive gluten-free menus available for a casual dining chain. This is good
news to the estimated three million Americans diagnosed with celiac disease,
as well as an additional seven million Americans who have a wheat intolerance
or allergy and rely on gluten-free foods. While awareness of celiac disease is
rising, an estimated 97 percent of those who have it remain undiagnosed .
“Food allergies are a very serious, sometimes life-threatening, issue for many
Americans,” notes Uno’s Executive Chef Christopher Gatto. “Pizza is our
signature product, and we wanted to offer a gluten-free pizza so all of our
guests could enjoy it when dining at Uno.”
It took over a year of research and development to find
just the right recipe for a brand that is known for its iconic pizza. “While we
want to meet the needs of guests with allergies, we never forget that we are
about great taste and choice, and that means developing new dishes that
are healthful without sacrificing great flavor,” Gatto says.
Uno Chicago Grill works closely with its Nutrition Advisory
Board, which meets quarterly to discuss trends and solutions to improve the
quality and nutritional value of its menu. The board includes world-class
physicians with expertise in coronary disease, weight management, and other
food/health related issues. Uno CEO Frank Guidara oversees the Advisory
Board and brings his expertise as a member of the Harvard School of Public
Health Nutrition Roundtable.
The new gluten-free pizza is being tested at Uno Chicago Grill locations in
Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts (excluding
Worcester, Springfield/Holyoke, and Dedham).
“Thus far, indications have been extremely favorable, and sales are exceeding
our expectations,” notes Rick Hendrie, senior vice president of marketing for
Uno. “We hope to roll it out to all stores in 2009.”
According to the Gluten Intolerance Group, surveys show that about 15 to 25
percent of consumers report looking for gluten-free products, far more than
Uno boasts a number of healthy firsts, including being the first national
restaurant chain to eliminate artificial trans-fats and to increase menu and
nutritional transparency via nutrition information centers located in their
restaurants. The company’s gluten-free menu has over 12 items ranging from
entrées, salads, sides and desserts. For guest convenience and safety, Uno
clearly labels menu items with ingredients that are linked to the most common
food allergies, such as fish/shellfish, soy, tree nuts/peanuts, egg, milk and
wheat/gluten. Diners can also preview the menu and nutritional information
online via the company’s website at www.unos.com.
The company has invested more than $2 million in nutritional advancements
since 2005 and, according to Guidara, will continue its commitment to
providing delicious, fresh and healthful menu options for its guests.