Dietary Restrictions and Food Allergies at Events: Planning Tips
Hosting an event is a great way to motivate prospective customers, get to know locals as a small business owner, or even spread the word about a business, brand, or organization you represent.
If you are planning an event where food is present, sold, or even given away for free, it is important to keep common food and dietary restrictions in mind.
Common Food and Dietary Restrictions
Before planning an event, it is important to consider the type of food vendors you will permit and allowing, as well as the type of dietary needs you are meeting. Some common food restrictions include:
Nuts (Especially peanut-based products)
If you want to appeal to a broader audience, it is also advisable to keep other dietary restrictions and lifestyles in mind, such as
Vegan: Vegans do not eat meat, cheese, or any form of dairy. Instead, they prefer to stick to natural fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and nature-based foods.
Vegetarians: Vegetarians typically avoid eating any meat, but may use dairy and/or eggs, depending on their personal eating habits and preferences.
Keto/Low-Carb/Diabetic: An event that is packed with starchy and sugary foods may turn those away who need to restrict their carbohydrate and sugar intake for health or dietary purposes.
According to U.S. News, the Mediterranean Diet, Vegetarian, and Nordic diets rank high in opinion throughout the US today. Currently, however, eating a Paleo diet is the most popular diet throughout most of the US, increasing over 370 percent in 2016 alone, according to Reader’s Digest.
Offering a variety of food options that include foods that are healthy, green, and grain or gluten-free can go a long way to appease your event’s guests, speakers, and sponsors.
Planning Events with Dietary Restrictions
Whenever you are planning an event that is providing food (fresh or prepared), there are a few tips to keep in mind to help make the event go as smoothly as possible with little to no disruptions or distractions.
Tip #1: Collect feedback
One of the best ways to gain valuable insight into the wants and needs of your event’s attendees is to simply ask them for feedback. If you are still in the planning process as you are selling and promoting tickets, you can ask those who purchase tickets about any dietary restrictions and/or preferences they have in mind using custom checkout questions.
Collect feedback using custom questions
Create polls, upload files or documents,
Consider asking about your guest’s dietary preferences and restrictions during the checkout process of purchasing tickets for your event. This will ensure that all feedback that you receive is from a verified paying customer, guest, or registered sponsor.
Use the data you collect from your registered guests and attendees to gauge the type of cuisine that is most appropriate for your event. You can also gauge what type of food is most likely to be in demand during your event based on the type of feedback you receive from guests.
Tip #2: Have general options for different diet types
Because the Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, and Keto diets are more popular than ever throughout the West, it is always advisable to have general food options for all of your guests as much as possible. Even if you cannot provide food options for all different dietary requirements and restrictions, offering a vegetarian or vegan alternative to some dishes you offer will go a long way for those who follow that diet.
Tip #3: Seek out flexible vendors
Whenever you are planning an event where food will be present, it is important to work with the right vendors. Seek vendors who are not only understanding of the dietary needs or restrictions your guests have, but those who are flexible and willing to work around your needs.
Work with vendors who are well-versed in cooking and providing for guests who have dietary restrictions/allergies or those who abide by specific eating habits and lifestyles.
Before signing a contract with a vendor, it is also advisable to inquire about the ingredients they are using and whether they take any additional steps to avoid cross-contamination for those with allergies or special diets.
Tip #4: Handling food allergies at events
Planning an event with food vendors is often not as simple as renting a location and setting up shop. If you are hosting vendors that promote dairy free, gluten-free, or allergy-free foods, the prep for the food and beverage items should be done in an entirely separate location from where the food is displayed, preserved, and sold.
Here are some things to remember when deal with food allergies at an event:
- Prep food in different areas/locations - specifically gluten and peanut allergies
- Possibly order the food already prepared and pre-packaged ahead of time
- Work with vendors on their cross-contamination protocols
- Create standards for handling and providing allergy safe food with staff
- Communicate any risks and possible cross-contamination ahead of time with guests
- Put an emergency procedure in place in case a guest comes in contact with an allergen
Create a registration for vendors
Not just for tickets, you can create a signup
Taking the time to ensure that dietary and food restrictions are kept in mind when planning your next event is a way to show guests that you truly appreciate them. Those who attend and abide by strict eating guidelines will be much more appreciative and will probably find that your event is much more enjoyable.