Christmas Parties – Are your food allergy customers a second thought?

It is the time of year when you are planning for the Christmas party season, menus are being developed, recipes tested and menu printing is in full production.  Either as a menu developer, or someone looking to plan a Christmas party for work – these are the things you should consider, to provide a tasty and equitable meal for your food allergy customers and colleagues.



If you take the time to consider the food allergy customer in your planning stages, you will receive social media love which money just can’t buy.

Believe it or not the food allergy customer wants to eat, where possible, the same foods as their friends and colleagues.  Just because they cannot eat, for example gluten and dairy, it does not make them vegetarian.  We called a few restaurants which offer Christmas menu’s with gluten free options (no mention of milk, eggs or nuts), the members of staff I spoke with could not be specific about how the menu could be adapted, they were vague when asked if part of the dish was removed e.g. stuffing and when asked about the dairy content – they were not able to respond in a positive manner.

The theme continues, that many businesses create a menu and then, as an afterthought, they would add the GF tag and consider later how the dish will be changed, or just omit many of the trimmings associated with Christmas dinners.

Social Media and how it can affect your business

I recently came across a post on social media, the person who was coeliac had contacted a London restaurant in July for their Christmas dinner, in December, only to be told she will have reduced options for starters and mains and dessert, the only option would be fruit salad.  Paying £50, the same cost as other diners, is that value for money?  With nearly 14,000 members in the group, this is hardly positive publicity!.

So how can you adapt or improve your menu and the service you offer?

  • Review your menu – check the contents of each dish.  Do you need to have nuts or flour in the recipe or can you substitute with another ingredient or garnish?

Did you know that Chestnuts are not nuts – they are latex – so no need to remove them if you are removing nuts.

  • Fish, shell fish and molluscs.  Do you have an option free of these allergens?  If they are on your menu, do you have a process for how they are prepared in advance to avoid cross contamination issues?
  • Gluten and dairy free.  Can you create a choice of desserts and starters which could be appropriate to cover these food groups. Check out Mortimer’s white and dark chocolate – free from gluten, dairy, soya and nuts.  Be creative!

Remember – Fruit is not a pudding!

  • Review your main dishes.  Can sauces be adapted to use reductions, cornflour, stocks and seasoning which are safe?
  • Create standard recipe templates and ingredient templates where information can be readily to hand.
  • Train your staff to understand how dished are created and how to avoid cross contamination.
  • Once your menu is created, take time to check dishes for the 14 main allergens and review where they could be eliminated and replaced.

There is still plenty of time to get this right, so lets make this a Merry Christmas for all.

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