Meeting planners have a lot on their plates. On top of design, production and content, they have to take into consideration dietary restrictions and allergies of delegates. To help planners with managing food and beverage at events, IACC has released an official guide in collaboration with the World Obesity Foundation and other partners such as MPI, Events Industry Council and Thrive Meetings and Events.
“Last year, when I asked a room of 200 meeting planners if managing dietary needs was a challenge and 75% or more raised their hands, I knew immediately that we needed to do more as an association and industry,” said Mark Cooper, CEO for IACC.
The guide explains various allergens and emerging diets, religious requirements, and provides health and practical tips on how to emphasise delegates’ health and wellbeing without compromising the event experience.
The best time to collate information about dietary restrictions and requirements is during the registration process, the guide suggests. The information sought from delegates can be influenced by many factors, including the event destination, delegate origins and culture, religion and even organisational culture.
One advice for planners when gathering dietary information during registration is to not open a free text box for delegates as this will likely result in “a single category of everything from the need-to-have, to the like-to-have”. As an alternative, the guide proposes a more coherent structure so that delegates and the venue have a clear understanding of the process.
“As we conducted more research, we saw clearly that there was some valuable insights and best practice that if adopted, would help both our planner and venue community,” said Cooper. “This is just the beginning and we hope that in the near future we will see more training and certifications to support the competent management of dietary needs.”
One finding that surfaced from a separate IACC study on nutrition and delegate wellbeing was that 79% of meeting planners agreed that they now receive more dietary requests in comparison to two years ago. On top of that, only 75% of venues offer training to staff on serving people with allergies and only 33% of venues include basic nutritional information on their menus.