Food allergies and event planning

Food allergies and event planning

They say that food is the way to anyone’s heart, so a hungry or happy guest can either make or break your event. It’s no surprise that food plays a very important role in the overall success, but as events and conferences become more and more international, diet trends gain more and more momentum. Between lifestyle choices, allergies and religious restrictions, delivering meals that satisfy everyone’s needs is becoming a complex part of event planning. Here are a few tips on how to accommodate these dietary restrictions.

Find out in advance

Provide a list of food choices and an option for your guests to add their allergy. This way, you’ll have a general idea of their dietary requirements once they RSVP. You could also conduct surveys before the event to find the general consensus and preference. Make sure to give multiple choice questions rather than the guest deciding themselves. Open ended questions could cause a nightmare, so keep them closed to avoid ambiguity.

Talk to the chef

The first thing to do when booking a restaurant or catering company is to ask the chef how they accommodate allergies and restrictions. They generally like to know in advance to prep and prepare, so don’t leave it to the day before. If they need to plan a full menu covering guest restrictions, they’re going to need some time. If you’re dealing with a large crowd it’s probably best to have your event in a restaurant or hotel rather than using an outside catering company as it will give you a little more flexibility with last minute options.

Show and tell

Make sure to showcase the planned menu ahead of time. Add it to your invitations and event website too so your guests know early. If you’re planning a buffet, list all the food options available. You may be serving something a guest has a high allergy to, so this will prevent any confusion. (Or take it off the menu altogether.) Labelling food for catering staff will avoid any mishaps. Knowing what’s in the meal and the contents of every ingredient they use will ease your guest’s hungry minds.

Strategic seating

Not everyone is going to have an allergy or restriction, but you still need to take care of the ones that do. If a guest has a life-threatening nut allergy, try not to serve nuts. If the majority can’t live without them, make sure your guest is seated far from the danger zone. Keep them away from contact. If the desert table starts overflowing with coffee cake, chocolate almonds or apple pecan cake, consider putting hand sanitiser on all the tables to avoid cross contamination.


If your guests have dietary restrictions or allergies, your average hamper basket of cheeses, wines and meats is not going to do down well. (Well, maybe the wine.) You might want to think about changing the prizes to something they won’t have to consume. So keep alcohol, meat and dairy away. It’s time to roll out the vouchers and weekend tips.

Here’s a quick basic breakdown of the most popular dietary requirements:


Plant based. (No meat or fish)

Lacto Vegetarian  
Plant based with dairy products. (No meat, fish or eggs)

Ovo Vegetarian
Plant based with eggs. (No meat, fish or dairy products)

Lacto-Ovo Vegetatian
Plant based with dairy products and eggs. (No meat or fish)

Plant based diet with no animal products. (No meat, fish, dairy or eggs)

A vegetarian diet with fish. (No meat)

Asian Vegetarian
A vegetarian diet with a spicy influence


Pork and shellfish are not allowed. Complex guidelines of how meat is slaughtered, what meat that is, and what parts can be eaten.

Pork and alcohol is forbidden. Meat must be slaughtered under Halal guidance.

Beef is prohibited. Lactovegetarian diet. No meat, poultry, fish or eggs. Milk products are allowed and encouraged.

Lacto vegetarian diet.

Prohibits alcohol, tea and caffeine.

Strict belief in the protection of all life forms. No meant, poultry, fish and sometimes milk. No root vegetables or alcohol.

Permitted to eat food that is lightly cooked. No red meat, certain shell fish or processed foods.


Celiac (Gluten Free) 
Eliminates any gluten based products. No wheat, rye, barley or malts.

Low fat, low salt, high in fibre and low/no sugar.

Lactose Free   
Eliminates all foods with lactose. (Not all dairy products have lactose)

Dairy Free
Eliminates all dairy products.

Monosodium Glutamate
Eliminates MSG found in processed foods.

Low Sodium  
Low in fat and salt. High in fibre.

Nut Free (Allergy)   
No nuts.


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