Food is such an important part of many events, and when it comes to menus, no one should ever feel excluded. Various food allergies, lactose-intolerance and gluten-free dietary requirements are all extremely common though. Special dietary needs can make menu planning a bit more difficult, but not impossible. When choosing a caterer, event planners should make sure they find one who provides allergy free menu items. Accommodating dietary needs for those attendees who have food restrictions helps make them feel appreciated and contributes to the overall success of the event.
One good way to determine whether special dietary requirements are necessary for an event is by directly asking about them on the event’s invitations. The earlier event planners determine if (and how many) guests with special dietary needs are attending their event, the better. This allows sufficient time to communicate any specific food requirements and restrictions with the caterer. It then gives the caterer plenty of time to prepare as well.
Event planners who will be accommodating dietary needs should consider the following advice:
- Inform the catering and banquet staff who are working the event of any specific allergies so they may prepare separate meals or offerings in advance.
- Directly communicate any concerns, strategies, etc., well in advance of the event (i.e. if you need a clean, separate work space in the kitchen to prepare certain meals/foods).
- Be prepared to offer a wide variety of food to accommodate all allergies and restrictions.
- Provide simple menu options which can be made from scratch for specific guests.
- Always label all food items and encourage staff to confirm/double check for food allergens and cross contaminations. (Note: this requires that the caterer is extremely aware of ingredients and how meals were prepared in order to label food specifically enough to allow a food allergic consumer to eat it safely).
- Reiterate and repeat concerns at every step of the planning process and in every communication.
On a positive note, accommodating dietary needs and/or providing an allergy free menu doesn’t mean caterers must serve only bland or flavorless foods. In fact, many caterers create splendid and delicious menus for those with dietary restrictions; and the dishes often taste so good that everyone enjoys them.
Menu planning ideas for three common special dietary requests
Gluten-free menu items
Some people must avoid foods made from gluten for medical or other dietary-related reasons. Gluten sensitivity ranges from mild to a more severe condition known as celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease. The symptoms associated with celiac disease range from none to severe, but the disease can lead to more serious conditions if left untreated.
Luckily, preparing gluten-free menu items has never been easier. Caterers can easily find and purchase quality gluten-free ingredients in retail outlets and online. The internet also provides hundreds of delicious gluten-free recipes they can easily prepare.
Menus for guests who are lactose intolerant
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which people experience digestive discomfort or pain after eating or drinking milk or products made from milk. Caterers can easily provide alternatives and menu items made without milk as a way of accommodating dietary needs for those who are lactose intolerant.
Preparing for attendees with food allergies
People living with food allergies have learned how to avoid any offending foods and ingredients. They know their limitations, and can often communicate them with others. When people with food allergies attend events, they must rely on responsible planning by the catering staff for their safety.
Caterers must understand and become aware of all potential food allergies. Catering staff should provide safe menu alternatives and know exactly how to avoid any possible cross-contamination of food allergens. Once again, communication between guests, event planners, and caterers is key when preparing menus for attendees with food allergies.
At Chef du Jour Catering, we have years of experience in accommodating dietary needs and providing allergy free menus. Contact us at (503) 222-4553 and we’ll be glad to discuss our menu options while helping you plan your next special occasion.