Careful food planning for your next conference

Imagine living with a serious food allergy which may include gluten, peanuts, shellfish or other allergies, and realize that it can be a little scary when going to conferences or special events, always being worried that they may eat something risky and provide some social anxiety.

Attendees with severe food allergies can become self-conscious being the centre of attention as they sit down to dine and the topic of conversation turns to their dietary issues.

Food allergies are considered to be an invisible disability. As meeting professionals, I think we would all agree that attending any conference or event should be safe and inclusive, where everyone is able to eat!

We have a duty of care and responsibility to our attendees to remove barriers and risks for them. Some consequences if food allergies are not properly handled?

Your guests don’t get to eat. They eat, but get sick. They get rushed to the hospital. Or worse….they could die.

Plan ahead

  • Always ask for dietary restrictions when coordinating your conference – even if it’s only a small snack being provided.
  • Ensure your registration questions are clear so you can differentiate between preference and allergy. For example, the questions need to be specific.
  • When sourcing venues, ask specifically how they are able to accommodate food allergies and give your business to ones that have a good plan in place and take this topic seriously.

Questions to ask the guest

  • Contact the guest before the event to discuss their allergy and find out how severe it is. Some allergies might be mild and don’t need many accommodations while others can be extremely severe. Ask if it’s an airborne allergen and what level of risk it is.
  • Share the menu ahead of time. This will reduce anxiety.
  • If a guest has specific questions around food handling, they might want to speak to the chef themselves. At Granny Mouse we are also there to discuss and find alternatives.
  • We also need to confirm whether they are staying in the hotel. If they are, ask for the guestroom to be cleared of any allergens and disinfected, if necessary. We also have fridges in all our rooms so guests can keep their medication in there and we can also provide food that will not affect their specific allergy.
  • If the allergy is quite serious, we at Granny Mouse like to have access to emergency contacts and action plans so we can assist in the event of an allergic reaction.

Speak to the venue

  • If it is a buffet, we make sure there is a separate meal made, which is covered and placed on a separate table. They should never be told to eat from the same buffet in case of cross contamination (unless the food allergy is very mild). Their plate of food should have their name on it, not just “gluten-free” as other people might take it.
  • Food should also be labelled and clearly state what the food does, and does not contain? This can be lifesaving information!
  • Our chef is more than happy to chat about providing food alternatives which look similar to what the rest of the group is being served – for example, if everyone gets chicken, provide the guest chicken, but without the allergen. This will avoid the focus of conversation being on their meal.
  • For a reception of passed appetizers, ask for a plate to be created of foods that can be offered to the guest at the beginning of the event.

Prepare onsite

  • Meet the conferencing manager and do a walk-through of procedures together with our banqueting team.
  • When a guest arrives at the registration desk, we can also provide a dietary card.

With some careful planning, your guests will be able to enjoy the event knowing that the meeting coordinator and venue understand the severity of their allergy, are advocating for them and are fully prepared. It is our opportunity to protect the safety of our attendees and there is nothing more important than that!

Luckily at Granny Mouse Country House & Spa, their dedicated team is there to help you plan for every food allergy, to ensure that your next conference is stress free, and that everyone has something tasty to remember.



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