More Insights on Attendees' Picky Palates

Planners comment on the rise of special meal requests

More Stats
Which of the following dietary needs will you typically meet if notified in advance?

Vegetarian                       94%
Gluten-free                      80%
Nut-free                           68%
Vegan                              68%
Kosher                             66%
Diabetic                           52%
Halal                                29%
Low salt                           26%
Low carbohydrate           18%
Low calorie                     14%
Organic                           12%
Raw                                 10%
Other                               11% (responses include nonalcoholic; dairy-free; MSG-free; sugar-free; pureed or soft foods, free of common allergens such as shellfish, strawberries, nuts, tomatoes, eggs; lactose-free; garlic-free; chocolate- and cocoa-free; pork-free)

Which of the following dietary needs will you typically meet without advance notice?

Vegetarian                     89%
Gluten-free                    38%
Nut-free                         36%
Vegan                            31%
Diabetic                        16%
Kosher                          12%
Low salt                        10%
Low carbohydrate         8%
Low calorie                   8%
Halal                              5%
Raw                               5%
Organic                         4%
Other                             7.6%

M&C surveyed meeting planners in late December 2012 about the prevalence of special F&B requests from attendees. More than three-quarters of the 262 respondents say such requests have increased in recent years. (See charts and analysis here.) Following are additional insights and verbatim comments from respondents.

If the number of special requests you receive has increased, for what reasons?

• We are a global company so we have attendees coming from around the world and more attendees with cultural dietary requirements.
• Group age is increasing, therefore more health issues.
• Kosher attendees are now asking for accommodation.
• Many more people report having food allergies.
• Need for kosher or kosher-style options remains steady -- not huge numbers, but still needed
• More people are choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
• I work in telecom industry -- large percentage of people are from India.
• Diverse religious requirements
• Increased international attendance
• Growing acceptance of alternative diets
• We rotate our events around the world. Different areas have different dietary customs.
• Usually people specified for allergies and vegetarian. Now people just want to get what they want to eat.
• In the past our mothers taught us if you didn't like what was being served, be polite and eat or pretend to eat it. There are no manners anymore.

What do you require venues or caterers to provide?

• I ask in advance for a list of gluten-free items that they will have.
• Always have vegan options
• Always be ready for 1% vegetarian
• Options for guests who have not indicated dietary restrictions
• I do ask that the servers or at least the banquet captain know what's in an item, but they never do.
• Always need a gluten-free and vegetarian option; sometimes need a vegan option
• I appreciate thorough labeling, but I have not required it.
• Kosher
• If a buffet, the ability to provide a variety of options while eliminating or isolating the high allergen items such as shellfish and peanuts
• Attendees are given a food-specific card to place at their table setting: "vegan" or "gluten-free."
• Preparation for numbers of vegetarian and gluten-free in advance. Any other severe allergies are on case-by-case basis.
• We use our own published cookbooks as the basis for all meals, ensuring a healthy, low-cal, low-fat meal for all.
• We require that ingredient and dietary information be available immediately upon request. We also discuss the possibility of having to address specific dietary requests without advance notice and, in the case of severe allergies, we always meet with the chef to ensure he was appropriately informed of the importance and impact if requirements are not met.
• We can't require any action if not notified in advance.

Which of the following statements best reflects your attitude toward attendees' dietary requests?

I will do my very best to accommodate any and all dietary requests at any time.        57%

I'll do what I can, but if I'm not notified in advance I don't feel obligated.                   41%

I'm not running a restaurant; attendees should expect to eat what they can of the meal provided.     2%