An increase in health-conscious eating and a better understanding of dietary restrictions and allergies has meant event planning has become slightly more complicated. Catering to attendees’ individual needs now requires more preparation than in the past when a one-size-fits-all approach was still appropriate. Guests with allergies and other special dietary needs often feel slighted if they are unable to enjoy the great food at special events.

Monona Catering divides special food needs into two separate categories: allergy-based and dietary-based. Allergy-based dietary needs include specific allergens, including nuts, strawberries, egg, soy, gluten and lactose among others. It is vital to be aware of allergy-based dietary needs as these can be potentially life threatening. Dietary-needs are just as important and include gluten-free, meat-free, vegan, diabetic and more.

From the planning stages to the actual meal, it’s important to keep track of your attendees’ needs and preferences. Below are some helpful steps to take when planning your event.

1. Include options on your RSVP. If you will be serving a meal at your event, make sure to ask about any dietary restrictions and allergies up front. Include space on the RSVP to list specific allergens or dietary preferences. At this point, it is up to the attendee to indicate their needs.

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2. Provide a dietary special needs list to caterer.  Once you receive the RSVPs, type up a list of all restrictions and allergies, along with the corresponding attendee’s name, and send to your venue or catering provider. For attendees with  food allergies, the chefs at Monona Terrace will post a list in the kitchen indicating who has an allergy to what. This helps to minimize cross-contamination risks when preparing food.

3. Make sure special needs are indicated at the table. It is very helpful to have allergies or special dietary restrictions identified on the name card to ensure servers deliver the appropriate meal to correct guest.

Choosing a buffet offers more options for guests who have food allergies. Monona Terrace suggests a buffet menu that includes two salads, two vegetables, two potatoes or rice and two to three entrée options. This will provide a wider variety of options for guests with allergies or dietary restrictions.

Special dietary needs and health conscious eating is becoming increasingly mainstream. To help ensure your event’s success, you will need to take these details into consideration. Make sure you feel comfortable with the organization that will be catering. Monona Terrace feels strongly about ensuring all guests’ needs and preferences are met. With all of the increased and new dietary changes popping up, we are very aware of the importance of serving a meal that will be suitable for all guests. For instance, in 2014 we are looking into more vegetarian options that can be tailored to accommodate vegan, lactose free and other dietary needs. Your venue must be willing, and able, to work with you on developing menus that satisfy all.

To learn more about Monona Catering practices, contact Wendy Brown-Haddock, Senior Sales Manager with Monona Catering at 608.261.4025.