Customizing Food Preferences

by Mark Beattie, PhD


Administrative professionals are called upon to plan or coordinate a wide variety of meetings. Food selection can make or break any event. Food preferences range stem from diverse needs of the participants and should be considered well in advance. Dietary requirements, food allergies and religious restrictions like Kosher meals are just a few items to be aware of. While many APs are well versed in planning food and beverages for meetings and events, for some this is new territory.

Being able to customize food and beverage requirements of event participants are important considerations of a successful meeting. Meeting planners are met with increasing variety and numbers of special dietary restrictions and preferences that need proper planning to meet guest needs as well as the event budgets. Recent articles indicated that special menu requests normally ranged within 5 percent of the participants; more recently that number has increased to more than 10 percent of participants requesting dietary accommodation. Special menus become even more challenging in small to medium sized markets where access to resources may be limited.

In addition, food allergies are serious and need to be considered when planning events large and small. The National Restaurant Association reported that half of all food allergy reactions begin outside the home (click here for more info). Foods like peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish, and fish cause most allergic reactions. These reactions can be fatal.

A little knowledge can go a long way. Knowing the possible food preferences of your participants is part of proper planning. When scheduling a meeting or event where food and beverages will be served, be sure to ask the participants if they have any dietary needs as part of the registration process. This might be as simple as adding a dietary restriction comment section to the online registration or a set of menu options with check boxes. Work with a reputable caterer or chef who is experienced in making these accommodations. More and more chefs are able to provide for all needs in creative ways. Being prepared can prevent last minute scrambling for a gluten-free sandwich or vegan meal.

Keep the conversation going by sharing ideas with each other. What has worked for you? What advice might you have for others?

IAAP works with the best trainers in the industry to ensure you have relevant, engaging, practical content at your fingertips. This blog is written by a speaker with a program in the IAAP Approved Programs database. Search by name or keyword to find their contact information and book them for your Branch or Region event.


One thought on “Customizing Food Preferences

  1. Fortunately, I work for a small enterprise. Yesterday we had an event with ice cream and I ordered double non-dairy ices for my known vegan and non-dairy folks. I got a huge hug from my vegan colleague. My experience has been demonstrative appreciation from folks with food differences when I include their needs in group meals. It’s worth the effort.


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