How to Accommodate Dietary Restrictions for Your Special Event Catering

Up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, according to the Food Allergy Research and Education organization. Beyond food allergies, many people follow particular diets for health or ideological reasons, such as keeping kosher or being vegan. This is a fact that most special events will have to consider and accommodate for. In order to prevent your guests from feeling like they must bring their own dinner, try to accommodate them by working with your special event caterers.

Here’s a chart from Convene Magazine that breaks down of the most common types of dietary restrictions you may come across:

Common Dietary Requests for Special Event Catering

Here are 4 things you can do to accommodate your guests’ dietary restrictions so everyone can have a good time:

Ask in Advance

One of the best ways to collect dietary restrictions to pass on to your special event caterers is to include a text box on your RSVP card asking for attendees to write down their allergens or other dietary concerns. This allows you to have a much better idea of which dietary restrictions you will need to accommodate, and allows your caterer time to prepare. If you use an electronic invitation, you can do the same on the online RSVP. You’ll need to ask for food allergies, special requirements, and meal preferences. This information is better to obtain early on to give your caterers plenty of time to craft recipes, order food, and prep their team.

Budget the Cost

Plan for a wide variety of food right from the beginning, especially if you know many of your guests have restrictions. Consider the common allergens and try to align menus with these restrictions to reduce the number of accommodations needed.

And if you only have one person who is gluten free in your 200-guest wedding, buy only enough for him and ask your caterers to set the food aside. There is no need to tack on an extra gluten-free pan of food if only one person will eat it. This allows you to save money while still accommodating the one guest.

Make Sure Everything is Labeled

Talk to the event venue or your special event caterers ahead of time to ensure that all items are properly labeled. These labels need to include basic ingredients and highlight common allergens, such as dairy, wheat, nuts, or seafood.

For those guests who are on Weight Watchers or another type of special diet, you may also ask your caterer to include the calorie count per serving. Your caterer, unless otherwise specified, should have a warning stand that gives a statement about the risk of cross-contamination in order to avoid lawsuits or other complaints.

Choose the Right Caterer

Choosing the right caterer also plays a very important role in accommodating your guest’s dietary restrictions. Caterers need to have the proper training and knowledge when it comes to food safety, which is enforced by federal law. There are many inexperienced caterers and restaurant staff who can take on your special event; however, they may not know how to prevent cross-contamination properly or accommodate allergies. Here are a few food safety beliefs that are FALSE as reported by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology:

  • The food will be safe as long as the nuts are picked off.
  • Fryers destroy allergens.
  • It’s okay to use spoons that have stirred a cream-based sauce in milk-free soup.
  • It’s not a problem to prepare burgers with wheat buns on the same table surface as allergen-free burgers.
  • Touching food that contains a food allergen and then handling allergen-free food is okay.

A professional, high quality caterer will have a full understanding of today’s common allergens and food safety guidelines, and have staff that are trained in safe food handling techniques. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with Celebrations Catering Culinary Team!

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Everyone I had the pleasure of working with at Celebrations was wonderful and helpful! We got a ton of complements on the food. I knew I would be in good hands when choosing Celebrations and they exceeded my expectations! They went above and beyond! Thank you Tammy and crew for being so great to us!