Both event planners and caterers need to cope with the challenges of special meal requests, which are not always available on site. 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.

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. 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:

  1. 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..
  2. 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.
  3. Give clients deadlines for when the special requests need to be ordered so you can properly prepare.
  4. Make sure the details are mentioned in your contracts
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Work with planners on how to ask the what the delegates dietary requirements are in registration forms.

Source: Tracy Stuckrath, CSEP, CMM  (

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