Have you ever attended a meeting or office event only to head over to the food and refreshment table to find out you cannot eat any of the food that is presented? Even if you have not experienced this first hand, unfortunately, many people have and continue to every day. Allergies and dietary restrictions often create discomfort, and you may find that this issue can is easily overlooked. In our society today, with the increasing prevalence of diets that are entirely different in nature, it is important to understand the needs of your guests.
Negligence towards this can quickly become a needless pain point in your workplace. It is especially important to consult your guests beforehand, but this may not always be possible. In this case, you must be proactive to ensure that you have some quantity of alternative options that can accommodate most people. For example, simply having a quality vegetarian choice will still allow individuals who do not eat meat to be able to enjoy the food.
If people are excluded because they cannot eat what is available, they may feel left out, and it will not resonate well with them. Being excluded or overlooked causes detriment to the positive team environment that should exist in the workplace. This is why it is critical to take the time to be inclusive if you plan to have meals catered. Your caterer will advise you of this if you haven’t brought up the concern yourself.
As you start to think about your catered event, think about what types of foods you want to serve. While making sure that everyone’s dietary needs are met, you cannot go overboard and serve too many different meals either. It is important for there to be some type of balance.
Working with a professional caterer can ensure that you will be able to meet the needs of all employees while still enjoying a nice meal in the office. Below are some tips to help you accommodate dietary restrictions.
Allergies and Dietary Restrictions
While many different dietary restrictions and allergies can surface, it is important to aim to cover the most common ones by offering some foods that will not initiate a reaction. If there are foods that people may commonly be allergic to, these foods need to be clearly labeled, or it should be clearly explained to your guests. If you plan to have a catered event and you have a small handful of staff members, you could simply ask everyone if they have any allergies or dietary requirements.
Some of the most common dietary restrictions you should try to accommodate include:
- Seafood allergy
- Nut allergy
- Lactose allergy
- Gluten free
Hire an Experienced Caterer
There is no alternative to experience, and this is what you should look for. An experienced caterer will be able to help you identify the best options for your catered event. If you leave the food to someone inexperienced, for example by asking an employee to pick up food, they may miss some of the details and may not realize they might have to accommodate others. This could mean that someone at your event does not get to eat at all as a result.
Caterers who are experienced in alternative cooking will also make sure that there is no cross-contamination of the food and they can even package food separately and mark it to ensure that it makes it to the proper person. This is an especially important point that is often overlooked. For example, if someone is vegetarian or vegan, they cannot simply be expected to pick out the “meat” or ingredients they do not consume from the meal. The ingredient has been mixed with the rest of the food and there is cross-contamination. As a result, most people would prefer not to eat the food in this scenario.
In addition, you may want to make sure that your caterer is able to work with ingredients that allow them to make additional items. For example, if you want to have a cake at the end of the night, but you have employees who have a gluten sensitivity, then you may want a caterer who can make a traditional cake and also a cake made with rice flour or another ingredient to make it gluten free. The main lesson here is to provide options.
Have Alternative Food Options
You should make sure that you offer a good selection of alternative menu items. If you plan to have a buffet-style event, then you will need to have different sections of food where guests can approach and choose what they want. If you plan to have a catered sit down meal, choose options that are easily made and can be made with a variety of ingredients.
For example, if you want to host a catered Italian night for your employees, then you could offer spaghetti squash and traditional pasta noodles. This way, you cover the needs of those who have a gluten allergy.
In addition, if you have some employees who are lactose intolerant, consider choosing one or two desserts that meet your needs and then one or two that are made without lactose. This provides a variety and it will keep your guests from feeling left out. A simple and easy option can include freshly cut seasonal fruit.
Consider Boxed Lunches Instead
One great way to avoid any dietary issues or allergies is to utilize boxed lunches catering. With this option, you will be able to find out what the caterer offers and then you can present options for selection by all staff. This way, all employees have the option to choose exactly what they want, and everyone can make sure their needs are met.
For example, if you plan to have sandwiches catered and someone is lactose intolerant, they can choose to not have cheese on their sandwich. If someone has a gluten allergy, they can choose a lettuce wrap instead.
Your employees will be able to make the choices that they know they need and it will limit accidentally including an ingredient or two that will make someone’s tummy ache.
Don’t Leave Anyone Out
This can be the hardest part if there are a lot of restrictions to accommodate, but it is crucial that you do not leave anyone out, as they may feel singled out. If you have someone in your office who does not eat meat or does not consume one type of meat, then options need to be available to them as well.
If you cannot accommodate everyone’s needs and come to an agreement on what to serve, then you should reconsider having your event catered. Remember, you do not want to make your employees feel like they are a burden to you and you do not want them to feel ousted because they simply choose to, or are required to, eat differently than others.
Final Thoughts on Accommodating Dietary Restrictions
It is important that you remain positive and supportive of all of your employees, no matter what their dietary restrictions are. If you choose to hire a caterer, you will have the best success, as long as that caterer is experienced in serving guests with dietary restrictions and allergies.
Remember, you do not want to make anyone feel left out and you do not want to simply provide food that only one group of people can eat. Keep your options varied and always offer alternatives, so that everyone can enjoy the food!