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Serve This, Not That!

Planning for Dietary Restrictions Without Breaking the Budget – in the USA it is estimated that 17 percent of the average diner’s plate goes uneaten.

When nearly $54 billion was spent on food and beverage for an estimated 1.83 million U.S. corporate meetings and events in 2012, according the Convention Industry Council, that equates to about $9.2 billion dollars of food, scraped into the trash.

Why do you think it went uneaten? Was it is too much food? Did it taste bad?

Or is it possible that your meeting attendees were unable to eat the food because of dietary restrictions or personal preferences? 

Approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies. One in every 133 people have celiac disease. More than 25.8 million Americans have diabetes.

Obesity affects 35 percent of American adults and 17 percent of children.

More than 30 million people follow a vegetarian or vegetarian-inclined diet, with 1 million of them being vegan.

And of the 11.2 million kosher consumers in the U.S., 86 percent are non-practicing Jews.

Nearly 35 percent of Americans follow a religious-based diet almost daily. 

Tallying those figures, close to 45 percent of Americans – close to 45 percent of your meeting attendees – follow special diets. 

In the past the special meal was usually vegetarian, sometimes vegan.

And your caterer had “something” for them – usually a bland pile of vegetables.

But with the array of special meal requests rising daily, figuring out what to serve event participants can be challenging for any planner.

Especially when budgets are already tight. 

Know the Needs

Managing the multitude of requests can be challenging to say the least.

But understanding the basic guidelines for the most prevalent requests can go a long way.   

  • – Food allergies can be fatal, so it’s important to take these requests seriously, and ensure your catering suppliers do too.
  • – There are many medical conditions that may not be immediately life-threatening – celiac disease, diabetes, Crohn’s, diverticulitis, heart disease – but require maintaining a specific diet for good health.
  • – Millions of people have specific lifestyle preferences that are food related – vegetarian, paleo, raw, macrobiotic or vegan – for personal, moral or health-related reasons. No matter what the reason, planners need to appreciate and accept those preferences. 
  • – One-third of the world’s population follows a religious-based  diet, so knowing attendee demographics is important, as is the characteristics of the religious practices.  

Planning is Critical

Managing food restrictions and needs can be cumbersome, but a little extra planning and forethought can go a long way.

  • – Asking your attendees about their dietary needs during registration is imperative. 
  • – Communicating with your food and beverage suppliers in advance allows for better planning and best food choices. 
  • – Talking to your attendees about their needs is valuable. They’re the experts of their own needs, so who better to ask but them?
  • – Labeling buffets and providing ingredient lists for plated meals allows participants to manage their needs discreetly, which is important to many. 
  • When you don’t plan for dietary needs, food goes uneaten by those with dietary restrictions, resulting in the wasting of not only food, but your budget. 
  • No Longer Just a Matter of Good Guest Relations

In 2008, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was amended to clarify and broaden that definition of the word “disability,” thus expanding the number and types of persons protected under the ADA, including individuals with food allergies, celiac disease, and other conditions that affect their ability to eat.

In Conclusion

As a meeting professional, you’re responsible for bringing people together from around the world to share an experience.

While at your event, they are under your care.

You have taken on the commitment to plan their activities, their meals and their experience.

And, as such, you’re responsible for their health, safety and well-being.  

By making a few simple changes to your food and beverage plans, you can potentially save yourself thousands of dollars of your F&B budget and wasted food all the while making guests feel welcome at your events.

Source : www.conventionindustry.org

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