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Special Meal

Tips on Serving Clients with Special Diet Requests

There appears to be a dramatic rise in guest demands for meals to accommodate their special diets eg gluten free, halaal etc

Both Event Planners and caterers need to cope with the challenges of special meal requests, which are not always available on site and or at the last minute.

These requests are very often ignored or not actioned.

Many special meal requests need to be brought in from alternative suppliers who aren’t necessarily in the same town as where your event is being held.

A Special Meal request can prove to be quite costly as well.

The biggest headache for caterers about special diet requests is getting no notice beforehand, and then being expected to create custom dishes just before service and when they have limited resources on-site.

Meeting the dietary needs of guests is the responsibility of not just the catering chef but everyone involved in making sure the details are handled.

From the guest and meeting planner to the catering sales manager and entire culinary team, banquet captains and servers, everyone needs to be a part of the conversation.

Communication is key, and it begins when creating invitations and registration sites and selecting a caterer.

Some ideas on how to better manage the needs:

Determine, understand and communicate to all staff and your clients the level of service you are willing and capable of providing and then follow through with it.

When catering sales managers meet with clients for the first time, ask if there are any special dietary needs while explaining the importance of knowing the needs in advance.

As a caterer or event planner, your job is to help clients create a wonderful, delicious experience for everyone, but some of the needs require pre-planning and advance notice.

Let your client know it’s important for them as the host to find out the needs and communicate the needs to you as soon as possible so you can make it happen.

Give clients deadlines for when the special requests need to be ordered so you can properly prepare.

Make sure the details are mentioned in your contracts or are noted by email.

If a need comes in after the deadline, let them know you will do your best to accommodate the request, but can’t promise the same quality of meal.

Plan the menu with the special needs in mind.

Wouldn’t it make it easier to have all guests enjoy the same meal?

If it looks good and tastes fantastic, no one would know it was missing this ingredient or that one.

But, be sure you must communicate what you’re doing to the specific guests so they know they can have it.

Train your staff to know the menu items and the ingredients in them.

One of the most disappointing points of customer service is when a server doesn’t know what they are serving.

If not a certified gluten- or allergen-free catering kitchen, work with your legal experts to create a liability statement that says you take the utmost precautions, but can’t guarantee it.

The distinction between a food allergy, an intolerance, and preference or fad is definitely hard to determine, but the best philosophy is to treat them as if they are all allergies.

Work with planners on how to ask the question in registration forms.

Using just drop-down boxes limits the questions you can ask without going crazy, and open-ended questions leave a lot of room for interpretation.

Using a combination might work well, especially on registration sites.

Do you have a special dietary need we need to accommodate?

Have them select from a drop-down that allows them to select and comment.

Although the food-allergic and gluten-free community is growing fast, those with the needs are still apprehensive about making the requests because they don’t want to be a burden, they’re embarrassed or they don’t trust our capabilities.

Learning how to accommodate their needs properly, with respect and safely, can add a tremendous amount to the bottom line.

Learn how to meet the needs of your various guests, helping them enjoy the events and your meals and adding to your bottom line.

Source : Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM : http://specialevents.com

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