Catering for guests with special dietary requirements on your important occasions

You’re hosting an important event, you want everyone of your guests to have a great time including those with special dietary requirements. You wish to provide a plentiful choice of delicious dishes that allows everyone to eat healthily, happily and safely. But as it becomes more and more common for guests to follow restricted diets, it can seem overwhelming.

The first step to catering success is to become more knowledgeable about food sensitivities and preferences. You will feel more confident and better prepared to meet your guests’ needs including answering any queries they may have.

Here are some common questions asked about special diets. (Please note: If you have any concerns about health issues and dietary concerns, always consult your medical professional for advice)

What is the difference between a Food Intolerance and a Food Allergy?

A food intolerance affects the digestive system and can result in extremely unpleasant symptoms including bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting.Examples are an intolerance of lactose in dairy products and of gluten in products such as breads and pastries.

However, an allergy to a certain food involves an extreme immune reaction . Symptoms may include rashes, swelling, dizziness and nausea through to anaphylaxis- breathing problems and/or a sudden drop in blood pressure- which can be fatal if not treated immediately with epinephrine (commonly via an epi-pen).

What are the main foods that cause allergies?

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat

Often even small traces of these allergens can cause severe reactions . A peanut allergy causes an especially rapid and severe reaction. Any contact- not just by eating- can set off a reaction.

What is the difference between gluten intolerance, coeliac disease and wheat allergy?

All involve gluten, found in wheat, barley and rye and some other grains.If a coeliac sufferer consumes gluten they will developsimilar digestive issues as someone who isgluten intolerant, however, additionally, as coeliac is an auto-immune disease, serious damage to the intestine will occur making this extremely serious.Gluten is just one of many allergens present in wheat; other allergens in wheat also pose a danger. A wheat allergy sufferer must be alert for all products that may contain wheat.

How is this similar to a milk allergy versus lactose intolerance?

Again,it is other proteins in milk that cause the allergic reaction meaning all dairy food should be avoided as well as other products that may contain milk. An intolerance is due to the lactose, the sugar in milk.

A quality caterer will treat all food sensitivities as allergies to provide your guests with the highest level of protection

Besides food intolerances and allergies, what other reasons do people have for restricting their diets?

Religious beliefs. Some guests may follow a religion that prescribes certain restrictions. For example, Muslims must follow an Halal diet, those following Judaism, a Kosher diet while restrictions for Hindus include avoiding eating beef and generally all meat and eggs.

Pregnancy. During pregnancy, expectant mothers are advised to avoid certain foods including raw or undercooked fish, shellfish, meat and eggs; unpasturised dairy products and processed meats.

Medical conditionsMedical professionals may advise sufferers of other conditions such as heart conditions and diabetes to avoid certain food items to safeguard their health.

Remember : It is important that those with food intolerances and allergies requiring special diets do not feel they are being ‘bothersome’, but rather that catering for them is viewed extremely seriously.

Personal beliefs and preferences

    • Guests may have ethical concerns such as those around animal welfare and the environment leading them to follow a Vegetarian or Vegan diet.
      Vegetarian: They avoid meat however some may eat fish. Some guests may also restrict eggs and dairy .
      Vegan: This is a completely plant -based diet restricting animals and their products, including meat, fish, dairy-foods and eggs. Honey may also be excluded
    • Some guests may hold beliefs about the health benefits of certain diets.
      Paleo – ‘a hunter and gatherer ‘ diet,
      Keto – replacing carbohydrates with fats and Macrobiotic are some examples.
Respecting dietary choices.

Whatever the reasons behind guests’ food choices, we need to be respectful and empathetic and do our best to ensure everyone is catered for.

Providing for your guests with special dietary requirements: Working with your caterer.

Advising on hidden allergens

A top quality caterer will be happy to spend time discussing the issue of food sensitivities and special diets needed. They will have in-depth knowledge of which foods may contain allergens especially those hidden in unexpected places such as milk products in sauces and flavourings. They will be able to put together a variety of safe dishes.

Discovering your guests’ requirements

A quality caterer will suggest ways of finding out just what kinds of special diets your guests will need and what quantities of these they must cater for.

  • They may suggest you include with your event invitation and RSVP , a specially designed questionnaire and may even provide samples of these for you to use. A combination of tick boxes and some open questions should provide all the required information. They may also help in collating this information by employing digital- based software. This will save you time and provide accurate data. This will ensure you don’t end up with not enough of one item and a surplus of another. There will be sufficient quantity for all your guests.
  • A good caterer will set a timeline for this process to make sure all the information is gathered well ahead of the event . Creating a menu incorporating special dietary requirements is a complex process and needs considerable time to do well.

Care in Food preparation.

Professional caterers will be aware of the care needed in preparing the food. They will be able to outline strict procedures they use to prevent cross-contamination of different food ingredients at every stage of the process. This may include the use of separate equipment for different diets. They will know which ingredients they should avoid completely in the kitchen as these are too risky, for example they may not use any peanuts, nut oils or shellfish.

Planning the dishes

A quality caterer will take time to ensure you are happy with the choice of food options provided. They may suggest a menu of key items and then make available different variants of these eg, gluten, dairy -free or vegetarian versions of a pasta dish. They may have a range of items under each special diet for you to choose from. They will ensure you have a sufficient range and variety of items to provide delicious and satisfying choices no matter what a guest’s food restrictions may be.

During the Event

A quality caterer will know the following points are important:

Clear labelling of food items according to diet eg dairy-free, vegan, gluten- free.

Lists of ingredients in a menu item are made available if a guest wishes to check a dish is suitable, for example to check there are no dairy items in a sauce.

Separation of dishes for different diets eg having vegan and vegetarian items on a separate table or well away from dishes containing meat.

Knowledgeable staff who can explain the dishes clearly and respectfully and who are fully aware of allergens and intolerances and their symptoms.

You’re ready!
Confident in your own knowledge of special dietary requirements and with caterers you trust to do a great job, you can look forward to a memorable occasion which both you and all your guests will enjoy. Relax and wait for the compliments to flow in!

‘Seasoned and Dressed’ are professional and experienced Wellington caterers who you can rely on to meet all your guests’ special dietary requirements for your next important occasion.

View the Seasoned menu to get started and enjoy delicious catering ensuring that your next event is a successful one.

seasoned catering logo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *