Today planning an event menu can be very challenging. You want to ensure everyone’s needs are met. However, there are so many more diet preferences, from gluten-free to kosher and vegan to carb-free, that it can seem impossible to plan a menu to meet everyone’s specific dietary restrictions. Many event planners aim to over-cater to those with rules to ensure they are happy while offering an opportunity for those without conditions to experience new foods. Here are ten tips to help you create an inclusive event menu.
1. Be prepared for uncommon requests
What these unusual requests might include can be anyone’s guess with today’s food preferences. That is why it is so important to tell your caterer to be prepared for something unique. Have a plan in place that ensures special plates can be prepared, how they will be prepared, how they will be served, and how you can ensure the dish arrives at the right place setting. In the case of a buffet meal, be sure the guest in question knows where to go and that the venue expects them and will provide their food served at the right temperature without a wait.
2. Prepare a menu with choices before the event
Prepare an invitation asking guests to not just RSVP but also make their meal preference selection. This helps streamline the menu, get an accurate count, and determine if there are further dietary restrictions to consider. Leave a blank space where people can note these restrictions so you can plan accordingly.
3. Consider a buffet
A buffet allows you to include multiple options to meet the needs of most dietary restrictions. This is an excellent way to cater to everyone and create a more inclusive event menu. Use menu cards listing the ingredients and highlight vegan-friendly, gluten-free, kosher, or low carb dishes to make it easy for people to select the foods right for them.
4. Taste everything beforehand
Make sure you have someone tasting everything to ensure that all offerings are at the same level and quality. It is not uncommon for some caterers to say they can prepare an inclusive menu and then skimp on the vegan or gluten-free choices.
5. Approve the menu
Once you discuss all your needs with the chef, have them send you the menu with a description of each item. You want to read over everything so you see that the specifics you requested were understood and that there is no misunderstanding between things like a vegan meal and a vegetarian meal. If you spot issues, be clear about the problem with specifics if the caterer doesn’t understand the differences between vegan and vegetarian or gluten free vs low carb, etc.
6. Conduct research
You might consider researching the different types of diets to understand exciting trends and differences between similar dishes. This is important to ensure everyone gets an actual meal and not just a salad or plate of grilled veggies. You want to understand what constitutes a nutritional and flavourful meal with high-quality plant-based protein prepared pleasingly. Plant-based proteins include a wide array of tasty options such as tofu, nuts and nut butter), beans, lentils and chickpeas.
7. Understand the difference between different diets
A lot of catering companies don’t understand the difference between vegan and octo-lacto vegetarians. The latter will eat eggs, cheese and other dairy products, opening up a broader array of foods you can serve. Your chef must understand that they can’t serve these ingredients to vegans who only eat plant-based foods. Here are some of the most common types or restricted diets and what they can’t include:
Vegetarian and vegan dish restrictions:
- Pork, lamb, beef, poultry/birds including stocks and sauces
- Fish and seafood, including stocks and spices, and flavourings such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, anchovy extract, etc.)
- Cheeses containing animal rennet (found in some hard cheeses)
Vegan dishes also can’t contain:
- Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, cream, butter, ghee)
- Many chocolates tend to have dairy
Gluten-free meal restrictions:
- Barley malt or extract
- Matzo flour or meal
- Wheat bran
- Wheat germ
- Wheat starch
Make sure all sauces are also gluten-free, including soy sauce which contains wheat.
8. Be clear on meals for allergies
Make sure you list the allergies or intolerances for special requests and that these dishes are kept away from dishes that might contain those ingredients. If you know someone with severe allergies, you might consider leaving that ingredient off the entire menu, such as peanuts or shellfish. You want to reduce the risk for cross-contamination as much as possible.
9. Be respectful of religious restrictions
Make sure you understand religious-based restrictions. Kosher meals should not contain:
- Pork or pork products
- Dairy and meat in the same meal
- Seafood such as shrimp
- Meat from animals that were not killed in observance with kosher law
Halal meals should not contain:
- Pork or pork products
- Meat from animals that were not killed in observance with Islamic law
Many people observing these religious restrictions will opt for vegan choices at events to ensure they are not eating local foods by accident. To ensure these guests enjoy a proper meal, consider seeking a venue with halal or kosher catering Vaughan offers.
10. Check ingredients lists
It is within your rights to ask for an ingredient list, especially if you are concerned about serious allergies. Inexperienced caterers might be willing to accommodate special requirements, but might not realize that soy sauce can contain wheat or chocolate is not vegan. You want to personally ensure there is nothing left to chance when creating an inclusive event menu.
These tips should make it easier for you to create an inclusive menu for your next event.