Stop and take a mental tally: how many people do you know who are gluten intolerant or have Celiacs Disease? Who are lactose intolerant? Who swell up horribly if they eat nuts or shellfish? Or, worst of all, who are allergic to chocolate? Then, add in the folks who are vegetarian or vegan for health or medical reasons and you may run out of fingers and toes on which to add up your numbers. These days, it probably feels like everyone you pass in the street has some sort of food allergy or dietary concern. While scientific studies are inconclusive about whether food allergies are on the rise or not, it may certainly feel that way as medical information improves and people choose to be more vocal about their health issues. So, when it’s time to cater your wedding reception, family reunion, or even a working lunch for your company, how do you go about choosing a menu and keeping all those food allergies in mind?
Catering to Food Allergies and Dietary Issues
The good news is that any caterer worth the title is going to know how to handle food allergies and they will be able to apprise you of the best way to arrange catering for your event based on size, location, and the number of different food issues. Party catering for a group of two hundred may feel impossible when you’re staring down a dozen different food issues, but it should still be possible! Simply ask your catering company how they handle allergies. However, a caveat here: if a catering company does not offer menu alterations for food allergies, you may want to find a different company to take care of your event catering.
Many caterers are accustomed to working around a variety of different food allergies and most will prepare separate options for those with allergies. To make this easier (and be sure no one suffers an allergic reaction during the meal), do what you can to gather a comprehensive list of all the different food concerns—and, for the benefit of your catering company, know which are potentially life threatening so you can give sufficient warning about cross-contamination worries. With your list in hand, your catering company can tell you whether they’ll simply prepare a separate set of dishes for everyone with food allergies or if each individual will get their own different dishes. This will depend on the allergies in question as well as the kitchen available to your caterers.
Single Out the Special Diners
No, we don’t mean you should make everyone with a food allergy wear a ridiculous hat or stand at the microphone and introduce themselves to the crowd. However, you will need a way to ensure the special foods go to those with allergies. Generally, this means brightly colored name cards or something that everyone with a food allergy can put next to their plate, if the event catering is a seated dinner. Or, if the catering is a buffet, they will generally just need to tell the catering staff when they go through the line.