Falkirk Delivers is flagging up the latest evidence that local publicans are determined to meet consumer expectations - with this week’s launch of a gluten-free menu at the Tolbooth Tavern.
Few people who are not themselves gluten intolerant know exactly what “gluten free” really means, and even experienced restaurant reviewers occasionally confuse it with controversial additive monosodium glutamate.
But for some it means the difference between being able to dine out and being forced to eat at home.
However the evidence suggests true sufferers are a small minority, and that most people who shun gluten think they are simply making a healthy lifestyle choice - like cutting sugar or alcohol intake.
Gluten is a mix of proteins found in wheat and similar grains - for example barley, oats and rye - and can be found in many mainstream pub and restaurant dishes in venues of every kind.
To create its gluten-free choices the Tolbooth keeps all produce separate from other food, and cooks it in a separate fryer.
Its menu choices include standard favourites like fish and chips, macaroni and steak pie - so the optional gluten-free menu allows people who want this option to enjoy standard pub favourites,
Meanwhile Falkirk bar diner Behind the Wall has its own separate vegan menu, recognising that “vegetarian” does not cover every non meat-eater’s requirements in full.
The Wheatsheaf Inn, Falkirk’s oldest pub, has also proved it aims to cater for increasingly discerning customers by making a main feature of cask ale, with a special days’-long mini-festival profiling no less than ten beers from Larbert’s award-winning Tryst Brewery.
Experienced licensed trade operators recognise the old keg beer and optional pie format is all but dead for pubs, and that offsales purchases (usually from supermarkets) have outstripped drink sales in bars for at least a decade.
Live football is one way of wooing a particular pub audience, although at the expense of losing people who don’t enjoy the game, and many publicans have complained for years that the expense of satellite TV packages counters any real advantage.
With pubs continuing to close at an alarming rate across the country the trend towards more complex food offers is possibly further evidence that we’re heading to a future of fewer but “better” outlets - one in which there is increasingly no real difference in quality between food served in “pub” or a “restaurant”.