In reality, they could be matters of life or death. People regulate their diets based on a variety of factors including personal preference, religion or health. An individual might pass on red meats, for instance, because he or she has chosen a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle - or because he or she has a serious, life-threatening cholesterol problem.
Most catering and banquet personnel are accustomed to dealing with special diets and are more than capable of providing what is needed. In addition, there are a few steps you as the planner can take in order to provide options for those who may or may not ask for what they need.
Following are a few ideas you can incorporate to provide a wider range of options for attendees.
• Always include space on your registration and speaker forms for people to make special diet requests.
• When special diet requests are made, make absolutely certain to communicate these needs to food and beverage staff and work out a system to quickly and easily identify the attendees in question.
• If you’re uncertain as to what you should provide in response to a special diet request, don’t be afraid to call and discuss directly with the attendee; the gesture will most likely be appreciated.
• For diet requests made due to a religion’s requirements, it might be best to discuss directly with the attendee; many people vary widely in their level of adherence to restrictions.
• For plated meals, request a standard percentage of vegan or vegetarian meals for those who might not wish to eat meat or animal products.
• For buffets, request complete ingredient cards to be posted with each dish for those who avoid or are allergic to specific foods, such as peanuts or shellfish.
• Ask that a low-carb option, such as a vegetable mix as an alternative to potatoes or bread, will be available on the menu for those who desire it.
• Offer items such as boiled eggs, peanut butter, yogurt and bananas for those seeking a healthy energy boost.