Whether you’re developing a menu for 20 people or 2,000 people…navigating through catering options can be daunting. Especially considering that dietary restrictions and food allergies are alive and well. And not addressing these issues can create an uncomfortable (or even dangerous) situation for your guests. As conference planners, we understand that preparing for these restrictions is something that needs to be handled from the get-go. So how does one begin designing a catering menu while taking into consideration dietary restrictions and food allergies?

Dietary Restrictions and Food Allergies

  1. Ask guests for their food needs during the registration process (a conference planner can assist you with this task).
  2. Have an open discussion with your catering partner about potential concerns.
  3. Understand the differences between allergies and restrictions (oh look – a handy chart is featured below).


Common Food Allergies

General Food Restrictions

·  Peanuts

·  Tree nuts

·  Cow’s milk

·  Eggs

·  Fish

·  Shellfish

·  Soy

·  Wheat

  (Click here to learn more)


   ·  Vegan – A plant-based diet with no animal products

   · Ovo-Vegetarian – Eats mostly plants in addition to eggs

   · Lacto-Vegetarian – Eats mostly plants in addition to dairy

   · Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians – Eats mostly plants in addition to
dairy products and eggs

   · Pescatarians – Primarily vegetarian diet that includes fish

   · Gluten Free – Um…no gluten

   · Dairy Free – Um…no dairy

   · Keto – Eats no or low carbs (similar to Atkins)

   · Paleo – Eats only Paleolithic Era food

   · Raw Food – Unprocessed, whole, plant-based, and
preferably organic foods

   · Clean Eating – Eats “real” food that is unprocessed

   · Sugar Free – Eats prepared food but without additional

   · Carbohydrate Free – No carbohydrates

    (Click here to learn more)

Religious Food Restrictions

· Judaism – Avoid: Emulsifiers and stabilizers of animal origin, gelatin, non-kosher meat, birds of prey and non-kosher fish such as prawn, shellfish, turbot skate and sturgeon. Also, note the calendar for fasting.

· Judaism (Kosher) – Jewish dietary guidelines which apply daily throughout the year. These restrictions include pork, shellfish (fish is allowed) and mixing meat with dairy.

· IslamAvoid: Pork, lard or any pork substance, gelatin from animal source that is not halal, meat that is not slaughtered in the prescribed Islamic way, meat coming from a lawful animal which died before slaughter, blood, any food or drink with alcohol, all carnivorous animals and birds of prey and some non-halal additives. Also, note the calendar for fasting.

· Islam (Halal) – Islamic dietary laws which apply throughout the year. These restrictions include alcohol and pork. Occasional dietary restrictions for other religions are listed with the specific event to which they apply.

· Roman Catholic – No meat on Fridays during Lent.

· Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) – No alcohol, coffee or tea.

· Bahå’IAvoid: Alcohol, Also, note the calendar for fasting.

· Buddhism – Note the calendar for fasting.

· Christianity – Note the calendar for fasting.

· Hinduism Avoid: Meat, fish, poultry and eggs. Some people also avoid garlic, onion, alcohol, tea and coffee.  Also, note the calendar for fasting.

(Click here to learn more)

What should you do if a guest has an allergic reaction?

  1. Seek emergency care immediately.
  2. Inject Epinephrine (if guest carries the medicine with them.)
  3. Do CPR if the person stops breathing.
  4. Follow up once they’re in the care of medical professionals.

(Click here to learn more)

To sum up, food restrictions of any kind are important to identify and plan for in advance, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. As long as these restrictions are treated with the same amount of care and consideration at the start of planning, then your guests will be comfortable and safe. Oh…and they’ll still be able to enjoy items off your yummy catered menu.

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Need Help with Catering or Menu Preparation? We’d Love to Help. Tell us More Below.