The recent European allergen law forces our sector to inform guests about the presence of allergens in dishes. As MICE professionals we need to comply with these regulations, and as an industry committed to provide excellent experiences we need to learn how to be smart about managing food at events.
Food allergies and intolerances are only getting more common, and we are also seeing an increase in other dietary requests – medical, cultural, religious, or philosophical related. If you understand the various needs, learn the similarities between diets and know how to prepare meals safely, you can learn how to better manage this extra layer of complexity.
Here are a few tips on how to improve your guest satisfaction without losing your mind.
1) Ask in advance
Use your registration software to ask attendees about their dietary needs well in advance of your event. Streamline the process by asking everyone the same information – this includes the speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and staff – and send the dietary requirements to your caterer by simply exporting the information from your registration system. Be specific when asking for dietary requirements (allergic, vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, halal, kosher and more) and ask to specify allergies.
2) Choose the right catering partner
If you decided to ask your attendees for dietary requirements, make sure your catering partner(s) are familiar with creating menus that fit different dietary needs prior to signing a contract.
Acknowledge you received attendees’ information and explain to them how their needs will be met at the event. Will they receive a special meal voucher, will buffets be labelled or should they contact the caterer on-site?
Take the time to discuss with catering partners how the needs of attendees will be addressed, how to provide last-minute options and how attendees will be communicated with.
4) Think outside of the box and provide alternatives
- Provide a lunch box with pre-packaged food (as seen on eg. planes).
- Try to see whether nearby restaurants/shops can accommodate your attendees and provide them with a list of placed they can eat when they check in at the event.
- Provide an all-day available corner with non-processed items such as fruit, nuts …
- Presentation given during the “Food Awareness & MICE” educational that took place in 2014.
- White paper Managing food restrictions in the MICE industry.
- Icons of the EU Top14 allergens icons you can use for your events: PPT or Illustrator.
- BBT Online’s article on MPI Belgium’s ‘Food Educational’.
- See the recorded EMEC 2015 session: Tracy Stuckrath “A Fork in the Road: The Impact of New F&B Trends and the EU’s Food Allergen Law on Meetings & Events”.