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Understanding and Catering to Diverse Eaters When Selecting Event Menus

How to choose menus for those with dietary requirements
Event Menus for Diverse Eaters

As we all know, food is a universal language that brings people together. But in today's world, it's not just about the taste - it's also about catering to diverse dietary needs and preferences when selecting event menus. The buffet tables have turned (pun intended), and our menus need to evolve too! Let's discuss how we can make this happen.

Remember the good old days when planning a buffet was as simple as including beef, poultry, and fish with some starch and veggies on the side? Well, those were simpler times indeed. Now we've got gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, kosher, and more. We're practically juggling an alphabet soup of dietary requirements.

It's more important now than ever to collect detailed dietary information from your attendees using open-ended questions on their registration form – avoid checkboxes or radial buttons; let them tell you exactly what they need. This gives you a chance to reach out for further clarification if needed. Never be afraid to ask questions. For example, if someone puts on their form that they keep kosher, it's not unusual to reach out and ask what level of kashrut they practice. This will determine if a vegetarian meal suffices or if you need to order special meals for them from a certified kosher restaurant. If they say they have a nut allergy, ask if they are allergic to them in the air or just if they ingest them, determining if your event needs to be nut-free. Confirm that they carry an EpiPen with them in case of cross-contamination.

Collecting dietary information
Use open-ended questions to collect dietary requests on registration forms.

Making Your Event Menus Inclusive

To ensure inclusivity in your menu choices, partner with your catering contact who understands these needs better. This partnership will allow enough time to prepare specific meals tailored for certain attendees based on their dietary requests while still being able to provide a broad buffet selection. Remember that food ingredients often have to be ordered. So, it's important to provide ample advance notice. Your catering team will thank you!

It's often a great idea to also meet with the chefs themselves who are experts in accommodating diverse dietary preferences. They may have ideas on how best you can enhance your menu choices so that they appeal more broadly to different types of eaters.

When you are able, consider action stations over buffets. Action stations allow attendees to see and choose what goes into their dishes.

Label Everything!

A key aspect of event catering effectively to diverse diets is labeling everything appropriately according to the types of attendee dietary requests you've received. Review the labels in advance with your catering partners for accuracy and ask questions about ingredients in hard-to-guess elements such as sauces. It makes guests feel welcome knowing that their specific dietary needs have been taken care of. Those with dietary restrictions often arrive at your event anxious, worried that they will be unable to eat anything you've arranged. Personal touches and verbal / written assurances set your attendees' minds at ease so that they can focus on the purpose of your event, feeling included and cared for.

Label food on a buffet
Label all food items so that those with dietary requirements know what they can and cannot eat.

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Achieving inclusivity doesn’t mean compromising taste or enjoyment when selecting your event menus! For example, start off the day right with protein-packed breakfasts rather than sugary muffins or pastries - after all, you don't want your participants going into meetings hungry and lacking focus. Do not discount the importance of breakfast. Many planners choose to save cost on this meal. However, attendees who are well-fed at breakfast arrive at your meeting alert and ready to go! You don't want your attendees dozing off during morning sessions. A way to encourage breakfast eaters is to offer a speaker or a session during breakfast.

Re-Thinking Breaktime

Beyond just changing up breakfast offerings, breaks between sessions can incorporate healthier food options too. It's time to steer away from donuts, cookies, and brownies. Sugar=brain fog! Instead, think nuts or DIY trail mix stations where attendees get creative control over their snack packs! Consider subbing out sodas with healthy juices or water infusion stations.

Hungry yet? Here’s another fun idea- A make-your-own smoothie station where you pick your ingredients & an attendant blends up your custom concoction– healthy, tasty AND Instagram-worthy!

Chocolate lovers fret not; Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants promoting healthy blood pressure and heart health. And the minerals in dark chocolate help improve brain hyperplasticity, which is the ability to adapt to training and learning new skills. Some studies even say that consuming dark chocolate can help to prevent cancer! Consider something like dark chocolate blueberries. Blueberries are one of nature's best sources of antioxidants and a great food for brain health.

Healthy meeting refreshment breaks
Rethink refreshment breaks to incorporate food and beverages that promote focus and participation in sessions.

To sum it up, creating inclusive menus results in happier healthier guests, leading to productive sessions. So next time when budget comes into consideration, think beyond dollar signs and focus on ROI instead. Sometimes it’s worth spending more for better results. And, when you partner with an agency like RCD Events Worldwide, our expert planners have a few tricks up their sleeves to mitigate some of those costs too.

Happy Planning!


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