I'm a pretty picky eater, and, though I'm not a vegetarian, I tend to prefer fewer meat-based dishes and more vegetable-based ones. Still, I don't usually have problems eating out because, not following a strict diet, I can easily find something to eat.
For vegetarians, vegans and others, it's probably much harder, especially when it comes to meetings and events. It's one thing to go to a restaurant and have some options, or to be able to specify to a waiter how you'd like your meal. At catered luncheons and receptions, you don't have that luxury.
Katja Morgenstern, a food and beverage specialist with Meeting Consultants, set to find out exactly how difficult it is. She became a vegan for 30 days only to find that the dining options at business events were pretty slim.
"At one point, [Morgenstern] ended up eating a half cup of plain lettuce after the vegetarian dish the waiter steered her toward proved decidedly unvegan," according to a press release from Meeting Consultants.
Though most caterers and planners are well-versed in the requirements of a vegetarian meal, vegan meals are more difficult. Morgenstern found a lack of education about vegan needs among most banquet staff, for example, when a waiter encouraged her to eat a mushroom-Parmesan ravioli with no sauce (vegans do not eat cheese.)
After her month-long experiment, Morgenstern recommends that meeting planners, as well as event chefs and staff, learn more about the differences among vegetarian, vegan, and macrobiotic diets.
What's your experience in handling special diet requirements of attendees at your meetings? Do you take it upon yourself to understand the ins and outs of each, or do you rely on the banquet staff and chefs?