As event professionals we’re diligent in submitting lists to our venues, caterers and hotels showing special meal requests knowing that these important catering requirements will be taken care of. We are cognisant of the additional costs involved in supplying these food items and duly add to the event budget without questioning the menu detail much further.
More and more we’re being asked to cater for Halaal meals, but do we really understand what Halaal catering is all about? Do we really understand the needs of our Muslim guests and are we offering them reassurance that they will be able to eat, and eat well, at our events?
I recently had the privilege of meeting Faizal Sheik at Elegant Hiring Services, a provider of decor and Halaal catering to a variety of venues along the N1 Limpopo corridor. A fascinating half an hour chat over an interactive Halaal catering station (which I haven’t seen elsewhere in all my travels) brought me up to speed on what we should know and how we should prepare for our Muslim guests.
Herewith are Faizal’s top five tips for guests with special Halaal meal requests:
Knowledge – Understanding the basics of Halaal catering. Halaal diets do include milk, eggs, chicken, fish etc. No alcohol should be used at all. Meat has to be prepared and slaughtered specifically according to Muslim beliefs – the animals have their throat cut in a particular way to allow for the blood to drain from the body so eliminating any possible disease. This is a fine art and implemented as quickly as possible to minimise any distress. A special prayer is said simultaneously. The meat is then sent to a Halaal butcher to ensure no cross contamination.
Starting at Registration – Win over the hearts and minds of your Halaal delegates – preferably arrange to meet and greet those with special catering requirements. This will be a welcome and immediate reassurance: “It’s great to know that you have specifically made a point of meeting me to let me know that my particular diet has been taken care of and filled me in on how I will be catered for.”
Signage – Don’t’ hide special meals away in a dark corner hoping that whoever ordered them will happen to see them. Make large clear signs and have a list of names to accompany those requests.
Delegate badges – Make it easy for the waiters and catering staff to quickly identify your special meal guests. Faizal suggests badge stickers eg green for vegetarians, yellow for Halaal, red for allergies and or diabetes etc.
Interactive cooking station – And why not for Halaal catering – especially for breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, as demonstrated by Faizal at a recent event? However, the food does need to be prepared by a Muslim chef and all utensils / catering equipment, including the food, needs to be prepared under Halaal catering requirements i.e kept separate from any other equipment so there is no cross contamination with meat products. This may sound complex, but is actually easily done as proved by Faizal.
Organisers pay a lot extra for these specific meal requests and how many times at the end of a function don’t we notice plates of covered food abandoned and wasted? It really is time to make Halaal stations fun and part of the event – not just a bleak back table with miserable signage.
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