I live a gluten free life, yet as a meeting professional I was not going to admit that I needed special meals at events. I did not want to stand out as being different or make another planner have to pay or do more. After all, my issue was that my body was sensitive to gluten, but not allergic. My symptoms made me think that I was in the early stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis until I eliminated gluten from my diet. I have spent the better part of the last five years trying to stay away from gluten, which is difficult when the meeting world is full of gluten.
At one time I may have suggested that doing a gluten free meal would be going to far but I have changed my tune, since learning of my gluten sensitivity. As I worked to eliminate the gluten in my life and my health improved, I became more sensitive to it in smaller amounts. As a service industry we always have to balance the costs with the benefit. How difficult is it for us to accommodate this special request? Our requests for food accommodations come because of religious beliefs and/or dietary preference.
As meeting professionals we have dealt with these different preferences without question of cost or ease. We've always been willing to accommodate those with standard allergies like peanuts or shellfish. We have been mindful of our attendees. If you have a large Jewish population or Muslim group you wouldn't serve pork. Just like not serving meat or having a vegetarian option for those that choose to avoid meat and we have all offered fish on Friday's for our Catholic members during Lent.
• Ask your attendee what they can and cannot have. Engage the opportunity to learn what they need. In the end you will have created a positive outcome for that attendee.
• Being careful about and understanding what is on banquet event orders (BEO) regarding food is critical.
• Have your menus posted to help attendees know what the meals will be.
• Serve your vegetarian meal with rice or potatoes. Both of these starches are acceptable and gluten free.
• Have fresh fruit or veggie options, but not covered in sauces.
• Check to see if there are gluten free options in the restaurant that are not part of the banquet menus.
• Talk to the chef at your venue; they are frequently able to help develop a low cost, gluten free option.
• Check local area restaurants to see if they have delivery of gluten fee meals.
In short, we are professionals and as such should not say no, but rise to the occasion to provide great customer service.
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Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat, rye and barley. To be gluten free, anything that has flour or wheat in it cannot be eaten. Oats are another grain to watch as they are usually processed in plants that also process wheat. Crackers, bread, cereal, thickening in gravy, breading and salad dressing are just a few of the foods where you may find gluten. I have found gluten in caramel coloring agent from barley malt, in marshmallows and in my favored candy red licorice bites. The problem with a gluten issue is that gluten may not be the primary ingredient. Those who suffer with gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease are constantly reading labels. We have to cook fresh foods, as foods that are quick and cheap are often loaded with gluten.
To some gluten free is seen as a fad, but in reality it is a serious issue for anyone with Celiac disease. Celiac disease is referred to as the wasting disease because the body can't digest gluten and it interferes with the body’s ability to gain any nutritional benefit from food. Those diagnosed with Celiac disease have had to drastically change their diet and have undergone an intestinal biopsy for their diagnosis. Allergies on the other hand are determined by tests from a medical professional and show your system is over reacting to something as an invader. Common allergies are nuts, onions and seafood. A person with an allergy to a particular food can go into anaphylactic shock and if not treated, may die. Many with allergies these days carry epinephrine pens to help counter the swelling reaction that can be deadly.
Kim is a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Communication and minors in Public Relations/Business. She is an avid Spartan fan having grown up in East Lansing, Michigan. She is currently the Chief Operation Officer/Owner Planner for Moore Voices/Events & Moore. In addition to running her business she is a Sewing Instructor for Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts. She has worked in both 501c (3) and 501c (6) organizations, both professional and trade associations in a variety of industries. She sat for her International Certified Meeting Professional exam in 2006 and renewed that certification in 2011. She has recently completed training with the Greater Lansing Convention and Visitors Bureau as a Certified Tourism Ambassador. Planning her older daughter’s Wedding made her realize that Wedding/Event planning with her own business was the next focus for her career.
Contact Kim at email@example.com or www.moorevoicesmichigan.com