With the ever developing health-conscious world, dietary restrictions continue to enter the spotlight. Guests have any number of reasons for requesting a menu substitution ranging from personal tastes to religious reasons to medical necessity. The dietary restrictions we will discuss here include allergies and adverse reactions, as well as wellness and religious reasons.
Catering to Dietary Restrictions
It is believed that 6 out of 10 Americans have some sort of dietary restriction. It is vital that a company understands and respects that a dietary restriction is more than just a ‘preference’. In some cases, it is medically necessary, and therefore every action should be taken to ensure the safety of the guests. Here at Event Solutions, we see this as important as safe food handling practices. Careful consideration for cross-contamination, methods plate/dish markers and informed staff/guests are essential no matter what menu you choose or limitation your guest(s) may have.
90% of all food allergies can be related back to just eight foods. Crafting a menu that does not contain these foods limits the likelihood of a dangerous allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis.
The Most Common Food Allergies Are:
- Milk (and milk products)
- Shellfish (shrimp, crayfish, lobster, crab, clam, scallop, mussels)
- Tree Nuts (almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, etc.)
- Fruits and Vegetables (consumed raw, uncooked can cause Oral Allergy Syndrome)
However, with modern culinary staples such as egg, milk, wheat, and soy included on this list, creating all-allergy-free meal can be a real challenge. Many companies instead opt for a special meal tailored to their individual guest’s needs (either as a full-menu option or as a special per-plate meal) or a buffet option where guests can select their preferences. Notices on the invite (and disclaimers at the event) inform guests of the possibility of contamination and advise guests with allergies to take the necessary precautions (such as bringing an EpiPen).
Avoiding Adverse Reactions
While not considered an “allergy”, people which specific adverse reactions to food or cooking additives (such as a lactose intolerance, gluten or MSG reaction) should be treated with the same vigor of avoidance behavior as any food allergy. These foods, like an allergy, cause physical symptoms and should not be dismissed as “preferences”. What is the difference?
Allergic or Adverse Reaction?
Allergic Reaction Symptoms
Adverse Reaction Symptoms
Gluten and Sugar-Free Options
Sugar-free or low-carb options have been an alternative menu option for diabetics and low-sugar dieters for decades. Gluten-free menu choices at events are becoming more popular, still has some work ahead of it. While only a small number of gluten-free followers have a medial need (such as in the case of celiac disease sufferers) to follow the diet, a growing population have found benefits in eating gluten-free.
Our event managers suggest taking an event survey before you start planning your event to understand how many of your guests would like these choices in their event menu. Eating gluten-free or sugar conscious is a challenge that prompts chefs to utilize more fresh foods in place of processed; making your event’s meal healthy and delicious. If your corporate responsibility includes health and wellbeing, you could plan your entire event around this wellness theme.
Vegan and Vegetarian
Like sugar-free, vegan and vegetarian options are widely available and included in nearly all catering packages. At all of our BBQ outings, we offer veggie burgers in lieu of all-beef burgers or franks. Our BBQ catering company automatically brings enough to cover 1% of your guests due to the popularity of this dietary/lifestyle choice. You and your event manager should discuss alternative options for buffet, family-style, and plated dinner catering according to your guest’s needs and event budget. In some cases, preparing an alternative entree for RSVPed guests is all that is needed.
Respects to Religious Restrictions
Another challenge of catering business-based events is paying respects to those with different cultures and religious beliefs. While some religions hold that certain foods are taboo all-year, others restrict diets based on annual events and/or time of day. Again, knowing what cultures are important to your guests is vital for successful planning, catering, and event production.
Common Restrictions by Religion
Fasting: March 2-20
No Food or Drink from Sunrise to Sundown
No: Meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Garlic, onions, alcohol, tea, and coffee are voluntary/per person’s preferences.
Fasting: Sundays, day of the new moon, the full moon, 10th and 11th of each month, the feast of Slvaratri, the 9th day of the month of Cheltra, the 8th day of Sravana, and days of eclipses, equinoxes, solstices, and conjunction of the planets.
No: Prefer not to eat meat or fish.
Fasting: Buddhist monks fast.
No: Non-kosher meat, emulsifiers, and stabilizers of animal origin, gelatin, birds of prey and non-kosher seafood such as prawns, shellfish, and sturgeon.
Fasting: No eating or drinking for 25 hours during Yom Kippur and Tisha b’Av. Tzom Gedaliah, Tenth of Tevet and Seventeenth of Tammuz, Ta’anit Ester, and Ta’anit Bechorim are no food/drink from sunrise to sunset.
Fasting: No meat on Fridays of Lent, Ash Wednesday & Good Friday
No: Pork (or pork products), non-halal animal-based gelatin, blood, alcohol, all carnivorous animals and birds of prey and all meat that is not harvested according to Islamic way.
Fasting: Ramadan, 6 days during the month of Shawwal, on the 10th day of Muharram, and the 9th day of Zul Hijjah. Voluntary fasting on Mondays and Thursday.
Catering Solutions in Short
As solutions for various dietary needs, our event planners employ a number of techniques when catering to groups with these dietary restrictions. Such techniques include:
- When it matters, hire a professional event manager to oversee all the details (including communication with guests, staff and different vendors) to ensure nothing gets overlooked. Remember, your caterer may not be the only vendor handling food products for your event.
- Use event surveys to gather information about what is important to your guests before you start planning. Pro Tip: Technology has made this easier than ever. Send a survey right to their inbox or go mobile and send a link to your event webpage right to their phone! The feedback is available in real time to help your event planner plan your event.
- Send out invites and follow up on specifics with RSVPs to specify meal selection (and note special dietary needs) on a per-guest bases. This reduces catering costs, waste, and ensures everyone can enjoy their meal (and, ultimately, the event itself). Go full-digital, traditional-print or mixed-media.
- Working with a catering company and venue, you could offer multiple options with a well-labeled buffet, create a custom menu for family-style or prepare plates specific for the individual guest(s).
- Have ingredient-knowledgeable servers hand pass trays of various bite-sized appetizers. Include a little of everything, so no one feels hungry or left out!
At all of our events we offer a variety of food options. Whether it be food trucks or food from around the world, we always make sure to have a vegetarian option and a nut-free option. Our inclusive catering policy can also offer meals that are gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan, kosher, halal, I-tal, and any other dietary restrictions that your guests may follow. All of your guests dietary restrictions will be taken care of and everyone with dietary restrictions will feel fed and included by the end of the delicious catering that we provide. We can ensure this because we place a professional, experienced event manager at the center of your event and empower them with our full-service production and catering teams.