By Alison Wallington, Event Centre Manager, Kent Event Centre
From gluten free to vegan, no nuts to vegetarian, we have seen a steep rise in special dietary requirements at Kent Event Centre. Is it because these diets have become trendy? Are people just much more aware and conscious of what they are eating? Or are there generally more people now than ever before with a food allergy? We believe the rise in special dietary requirements can be attributed to all of these things. While some people have a need to eat in a certain way for their health, for others it’s a lifestyle choice.
As a large venue catering for hundreds of visitors each week, we must be mindful of special dietary requirements and able to cater for them accordingly. We have mainly seen a rise in vegan and gluten free special dietary requirements, yet on the other end of the scale we have seen a rise in clients with delegates who have airborne nut allergies, which requires even more stringent planning.
In the past these special dietary requirements were met with scepticism from venues and caterers but with more information on food and allergies available to society than ever before, there is no excuse for venues not to treat special dietary requirements in the same way they deal with non-dietary requirements by treating every delegate the same.
These are the key things we believe event venues can do to ensure their delegates with special dietary needs are catered for:
Communicate with the client
We always ask the client a week before their conference if their delegates have any dietary needs. We discuss with the client what we can provide for the dietary but if the delegate wants something specific then we would try our best to cater for their needs.
Depending on the size of the conference we tend to cater for a few extras just in case we have people changing their minds on the day, which happens a lot! We also provide vegan, gluten/dairy free snacks and biscuits for refreshment breaks.
Communicate with staff
When there are delegates attending an event that have serious food allergies, their safety depends on effective communication and partnering between the event organisers, the caterers (any staff responsible for any of the food eaten by guests with food allergies), and guests. Always labelling all food offerings and encouraging staff to confirm/double check for food allergies and cross contaminations can help with the communication.
Launch a healthy package
Offering a wide variety of food to accommodate all allergies and restrictions and providing simple options that can be made from scratch for specific guests is a great way of catering for all. We have seen a rise in clients requesting our Healthy Package option or adding fruit platters or bowls of fruit to other packages.
Alison Wallington is Event Centre Manager at award-winning Kent Event Centre. Alison has worked at the venue for over 15 years and is extremely passionate about events and the communities they serve.