The only current effective treatment for coeliac disease (CD) is a lifelong diet that is as free from gluten as possible. This study provides baseline evidence to inform future interventions of benefit to CD sufferers by examining awareness of CD issues by food servers and preparation staff, assessing their claims to provide gluten-free foods by analysis of a meal concurrently sampled. While the majority of attempts to purchase a ‘gluten-free’ meal on request in restaurants were successful, some 10% of all samples contained gluten, 2.7% between 21 and 100 mg kg−1, and 7.7% >100 mg kg−1 and two unsatisfactory samples were purchased from so-called coeliac-friendly restaurants. These findings were consistent with those obtained previously by Collin et al. [Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics 19 (2004) 1277], Størsrud et al. [European Food Research & Technology 217 (2003) 481], Gélinas et al. [International Journal of Food Science & Technology 43 (2008) 1245] for cross contamination with gluten. Staff confidence, ‘gluten-free’ notices, signs and menu choices were no guarantee of risk-free dining for CD sufferers. Based on our findings we suggest the need for further training, specifically for chefs and managers.