Catering for Guests with Special Dietary Needs

Catering for Guests with Special Dietary Needs

Food is such an important part of every event, and, when it comes to menus, no one should ever feel excluded. With an average of 1 in 10 people in Canada identifying as having food allergies it can make it difficult for the organizer to choose a menu that will suit all of your guests and not make anybody sick.

It is important to establish if guests have an allergy/intolerance or just a preference against certain foods. Ensuring that the menu at your event does not make any guest sick has become an important part of your menu planning process.

Various food allergies: lactose-intolerance and gluten-free dietary requirement are becoming extremely common. Special dietary needs can make menu planning a bit more difficult, but not impossible. Accommodating dietary needs for those attendees who have food restrictions helps make them feel appreciated and contributes to the overall success of your event, you certainly do not want anybody feeling left out.

One good way to determine whether special dietary options are needed for your event is by directly asking your guests about them on your invitation. This allows sufficient time to communicate any specific food requirements and restrictions to your caterer giving them time to plan and prepare alternative options.

Understanding common dietary restrictions:

· Food allergies and intolerances — such as dairy free, fish and shellfish allergies, nut free and gluten free.

· Special dietary requirements — vegetarian, vegans.

· Religious reasons — halal, kosher.


Aside from vegans, vegetarians and religious beliefs, it is important to remember that food allergies are hugely different to dietary preferences. When declaring a food allergy catering staff will ensure that the dish is made completely separately to limit any cross contamination that could lead to a guest’s allergic reaction. Simply disliking or being on a special diet that may limit what you can or cannot eat is much different than saying that ingredient could kill you.

Weight loss diets are not allergies! Keto, paleo etc. are all to common now a days. The big difference here is that dieting is a choice, not life or death. The important thing to remember here is that when your catering team arrives to your event, they bring the food that is pre-ordered and it is therefore near impossible for them to accommodate last-minute requests. Catering staff need to take allergies very seriously, and event organizers are advised to do the same.

Allergies and Intolerances

Food allergies and intolerances are especially important to accommodate because of the very real health implications involved. If a guest informs you they have special dietary needs for food allergies, it is vital to take those needs seriously and details passed on to your caterer.

There are eight major food allergies to be aware of:


· Peanuts – Generally, if a guest has a peanut allergy you should avoid any kind of nut but be sure to inquire about their specific nut allergy dietary requirements. Be mindful of dishes that may be cooked in peanut oil. Some unexpected sources of peanuts include egg rolls, hot sauce, pesto, salad dressings, pancakes, specialty pizzas and some meat substitutes.

· Tree nuts – A tree nut allergy is among the most common food allergies. It is best to avoid any kind of nut.

· Shellfish – There are two kinds of shellfish: crustacean (shrimp, crab and lobster) and mollusks (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops). It is also best to avoid all shellfish if there is an allergic reaction to any of them.

· Fish – Common allergies include salmon, tuna and halibut, although it is advised to avoid all fish. Some unexpected sources of fish include Caesar dressing, Worcestershire sauce, imitation fish or shellfish.

· Milk – A milk allergy is different from a dairy intolerance. Cow’s milk and products should be avoided, though best practice is to avoid all types of dairy.

· Eggs Chicken eggs and eggs from other birds should be avoided.

· Soy – Beyond obvious soy-based products like soy milk and tofu, some unexpected sources of soy include canned tuna and meats, cereals, cookies, crackers, protein bars, low-fat peanut butter, processed meats, sauces, and canned broths or soups.

· Wheat – A wheat allergy is different from a gluten intolerance. Many people with wheat allergies can tolerate other grains, but best practice is to avoid wheat and grains entirely.


Major food intolerances you may encounter include:


· Lactose – A lactose intolerance occurs in people whose bodies cannot properly process lactose, a sugar present in dairy. Avoid all foods containing all types of dairy. Unexpected sources of lactose include wine and beer, canned tuna, gravy, sauces, sweeteners, potato chips and soy products.

· Gluten – Gluten is a combination of proteins commonly found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. Breads, cakes, cookies and pastries all contain gluten and should be avoided, as should pastas, couscous, cereals, imitation meats, beer and soy sauce. Remember that anything containing or prepared with or around flour may contain gluten.

Preparing for attendees with food allergies

People living with food allergies have learned how to avoid any offending foods and ingredients or are able to take medication to limit bad reactions. When people with food allergies attend events, they rely on responsible planning by the catering staff for their safety.

At PigOut Catering, we have years of experience in accommodating dietary needs and providing allergy free menus. Contact us at catering@pigout.ca and we would be glad to discuss our menu options while helping you plan your next special occasion.

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