I have seen many post on social media over the last few weeks where coeliacs or dairy free diners have been placing comments on their disappointment and concerns of eating out with colleagues over Christmas, either at parties in house or at Christmas functions. So how can you make their life easier and stress free at this hectic time of year.
Event booking staff and chefs need to work closely together when providing for the free from customer, the chef needs to be able to provide an adequate choice to all their customers and the event team needs to communicate any requests in an safe and methodical manner.
Many event teams will roll out the standard “Yes we can cater for all diets”, but they need to go that bit further to state what is actually provided. It is not good enough to say we can cater for gluten free and then discover that half the dinner has then been removed and no alternative has been put in place.
When taking a booking where it is highlighted that customers have an allergy (anaphylaxis) within in the party, take the time to walk down to the kitchen and communicate this in person,emphasize the importance of ensuring the meal is free from Nuts for example, ensure it is highlighted in bold on the the function sheets to emphaize the importance of the request.
I was recently made aware of an event in Birmingham where a ‘Nut free’ menu was requested due to 3 severe nut allergy customers. Thanks to the original person booking the event picking up on praline in the cheesecake she managed to alert the three people very quickly. One however did have to go to hospital due to a severe reaction. This hotel part of a chain are now under close scrutiny by their local EHO and TS.
Work with the kitchen to understand what is practical and possible before promising the customer something which cannot be delivered. The food allergy customer will feel happier about you checking with the kitchen and coming back to them rather than a blanket yes we cater for all.
When you say you cater for special diets be specific – if you only provide a bread roll and a sauce-less dinner and fruit salad – at least be honest, nothing worse in building up your expectations to then have a plain salad!
Chefs – Pre Planning
Try menu planning way ahead of the festive season, look at the menu and see what provision or adaptations can be made for special diets. Gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian options could have the same selection of starters and desserts. The more items you create that are accessible to all customers the happier the free from customer will be and the less likely you are to have cross contamination issues.
- Remember the gluten free customer is not always a vegetarian and may also like a tasty sauce with their meat! If you buy in a gluten free sauce mix, have you done the taste test? You can adapt the sauce as long as the recipe is documented.
Think about your recipes, try to eliminate ingredients which are not required and where possible source every day gluten free products like gravy, pigs in blankets and stuffing. If you serve gluten free sausages ask your supplier for the gluten free sausage meat and adapt the stuffing to include gluten free bread crumbs – there will be no difference to the taste.
- If you are not able to provide the trimmings for the gluten free customer – think outside the box and provide an alternative solution so they do not feel left out. Create an alternative for example make stuffing tartlets which can be prepared and frozen and cooked as required.
When it comes to pudding don’t be surprised if the gluten free or dairy free customer give a huge sigh when you excitedly state “We can do a fruit salad” Again think out of the box and provide an alternative which caters for all diets and no one notices the difference. Take a leaf out Dominic Teague’s restaurant Indigo at One Aldwych who have gone gluten and dairy free and no ones has noticed any difference.
Check out Gluten Free B’s blog – ‘Fruit is not a pudding‘ for more dessert ideas. The blog was set up to document the gluten free adventures of coeliac, Carly ‘B’ Talbot, her gluten eating husband (GEH) and new arrival Baby A (who has a suspected cows milk protein allergy).
How does your business caterer for the freefrom customer? Let us know by adding a comment below.
We hope you have a safe and happy Christmas and if you have some tried and tested freefrom recipe ideas please do send them through to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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