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Managing the Catering Minefield of Dietary Requirements

Gone are the days when a basic ham, cheese, and tomato sandwich platter sufficed for your event’s lunch catering. That platter alone would clash with the needs of coeliacs, vegetarians, vegans, the lactose-intolerant, and those who follow Kashrut, which is why event planners in 2017 need to have a basic understanding of dietary needs.

1 in 3 Australians AVOID GLUTEN, DAIRY, OR MEAT

In this article we help you understand how to cater for all dietary requirements for your conference or business event and provide an essential guide for your to download.

The CSIRO have found that ‘one-in-three Australians avoid gluten, dairy, or meat’, and this number is projected to increase further year-by-year. Understanding this trend, as well as the expectation of event delegates to receive a ‘personalised experience from their event attendance’, especially regarding ‘what they eat and drink’, puts pressure on event organisers to customise event catering.

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Ask the right questions

Before booking your event venue or your event caterer, speak to them about how they manage catering for dietary requirements. Do they prepare customised meals for guests with dietary requirements? Are dishes served on buffets labelled with dietary notes, so that impacted guests can easily identify what they can and can’t eat? What are some examples of dietary-friendly meals that they often supply? Will there be diversity in what dietary-impacted guests will receive for each meal? If these suppliers have difficulty answering any questions regarding dietary catering, you must seriously evaluate whether or not this supplier is suitable for your event needs.

How to coordinate THE dietary requirements of YOUR attendees

Once your venue and caterers are sorted, it’s time to gauge how many of your guests indeed have dietary requirements. The best way to coordinate the dietary requirements of your attendees is by following the below process:

RSVP

Request that guests indicate their dietary requirements when they submit their event RSVPs.

The more detail the better

If guests have complex dietary specifications, ask them to send through as much detail as they feel necessary about what they can and cannot eat. Caterers prefer to have as much information as possible about who they are cooking for, so do not hold back from providing them with in-depth detail.

Double check with attendees

Double check with any confirmed attendees who have not specified whether or not they have dietary requirements

Follow up 1-2 weeks before the event

1-2 weeks before the commencement of the event, send another email to all attendees, asking them again to highlight any dietary requirements they may have. The dietary requirements of some people are reasonably fluid, and therefore this late call-to-action should capture any recently updated requirements of your attendees.

Update the venue or caterers

Forward all dietary requirements received to your event venue or event caterers. If attendees are arriving and departing the event at varying times, ensure that the venue and caterers know exactly which meals each dietary guest will be in attendance for. This avoids any food wastage for unnecessarily prepared meals, or general confusion regarding overall catering numbers.

Cross-check on the day

Upon arriving at the venue for the event, cross-check your list of attendees and corresponding dietary requirements with your venue contact.

Take last minute changes in your stride

Despite your thoroughness regarding dietary catering throughout the lead-up to the event, guests may still approach you during the event to advise you of changes to their dietary needs. Once you have tamed your internal screaming, calmly advise your event contact of this late change ASAP. They are used to receiving such last-minute changes, and will do everything possible to cater for this guest with such short notice. 

Liaise with your event co-ordinator

Work with your venue’s event coordinator throughout the lead-up and during the event, to clarify any questions about dietary catering you may have. Understanding and accommodating for dietary restrictions is an unavoidable part of modern event planning, so just be sure that you’re thorough, concise, and assertive with any requirements you receive. The hard work that you put in to ensure everyone is looked after, will pay off via positive responses to the overall event and appreciation of the extra effort you have put in.

dietary restrictions guide

 

Ali Inay

References:

Survey reveals delegates hunger for dietary respect

One-in-three Australians avoid gluten, dairy or meat: CSIRO