Due Diligence on F&B 6 measures for managing attendees’ dietary needs By Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM, CHC
ntil recently, we didn’t think much about the food we served at events. A catering menu from Atlanta looked just like the one from Washington, DC, Johannesburg, London and Dubai. Our main consideration was making sure we didn’t serve the same thing we did yesterday. Today, food and beverage planning has become much more complicated. A growing number of guests follow a strict diet, whether it’s because of food allergies, celiac disease, diabetes, religious beliefs or lifestyle choices. With a little bit of knowledge and by asking the right questions, you can cater to your attendees’ dietary needs without much difficulty, whether you’re planning a cruise, safari, conference, product launch, employee recognition event or a wellness incentive.
and type of meals served, but also a list of special dietary requests made during registration and onsite.
Ask attendees about their dietary needs during registration. As much as possible, use check boxes instead of calling for open-ended responses to show that you are asking about restrictions rather than preferences.
Work with chefs to create delicious menus that can be eaten by the general population as well as those with dietary restrictions. If the food is tasty, few will notice or care that it contained no gluten or dairy, for example.
Put a meal-ticket system in place. Provide attendees with meal tickets to communicate to service staff about their dietary restrictions. And label buffet items with the top eight to 14 allergens and preferences.
with meal tickets to A food allergy is a serious and sometimes fatal medical condition caused by eating, touching or inhaling a communicate to particular ingredient. While many foods can cause an service staff about allergic reaction in different people, eight of them cause 90 percent of all allergic reactions: wheat, egg, soy, milk, their dietary Document and verify all peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish (crustaceans). Overall, special-meal requests in BEOs restrictions. there are more than 160 known food allergens; some of the and at pre-cons, along with the less common ones are banana, nickel, onion, celery and agreed-upon serving procedures garlic. for them. When dealing with a possibly life-threatening situation, People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity must avoid you can’t over-communicate your attendees’ needs. gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley. Note that a gluten intolerance caused by celiac disease differs from a wheat allergy. After the event, survey attendees and speak with caterers Vegetarians do not consume animals but do eat animal to confirm that the meal service went as planned, and that byproducts such as eggs, milk and honey. Vegans avoid the everyone received meals that were safe and satisfying. Find out byproducts, too. how many special meals were served and if others were requested, People who have chosen the Paleo Diet refrain from consuming to keep tabs on the “I’ll have what she’s having” phenomenon. grains, legumes (such as soy and peanuts), milk, refined sugar, potatoes, processed foods, refined vegetable oils and alcohol. Meetings and events are designed to educate, recognize, Religious diets are very common among attendees. Muslims motivate and inspire. I believe that providing healthy, delicious who keep a halal diet avoid alcohol, pork, carnivorous animals food that is safe for all attendees to eat is possibly the most and birds of prey. The latter includes falcon, vulture, buzzard and motivating thing a meeting planner can do. osprey, which are not an issue in meeting menus. Kosher guests do not eat pork, rabbit, fish without scales, shellfish or birds of A speaker, consultant and meetings industry trainer, Tracy prey. They also do not eat dairy products and meat in the same Stuckrath is Founder & Chief Connecting Officer of Thrive! meal. Additionally, generally all the food, except for whole raw Meetings & Events. She specializes in educating the fruits and vegetables, must be certified kosher. hospitality industry on how to reduce risk, maximize budgets Once you have understood common dietary needs, and improve customer experience through safe, delicious and I recommend the following steps to ensure the accuracy of special healthy food and beverage events. Based in Atlanta, Tracy was meals — and the safety of your attendees. named one of the top 25 women in the meetings industry in 2015 and a 2014 Meetings Trendsetter. Include a detailed F&B history in your RFPs when selecting hotels and caterers. This should not only include the number
Facilities & Destinations 2016 Superbook