So you’re organising a works Christmas party? Have you considered how inclusive it will be

Party Season is fast approaching! Is your works party planning fully inclusive?

It’s that time of the year when nights are drawing in, the clocks have gone back and are thoughts are turning to the Christmas party season.  Many restaurants and venues will be gearing up for the onslaught of party crowds and businesses will be thinking about how they can provide a rewarding experience for their staff.

However, one group of diners who will be dreading the idea of a night out will be those who have a food allergy, coeliac disease or food intolerance’s

Traditionally a very busy time for caterers, some thinking that the addition of an awkward customer who can’t eat the same as everyone else can be a terrible inconvenience! But how can this be solved?  This article is highlights what an employer/party organiser should think about when choosing a venue as well as how a venue can be inclusive and embrace the FreeFrom customer.

How you can ensure that the Christmas Works party you are organising is a positive dining experience for all who attend?

Choosing where to go.

So are you fully inclusive when booking your Christmas party?  It’s a difficult task, so how do you manage it without offending any of your colleagues?   I have put together some tips to help guide you through the FreeFrom maze.

  • When organising a party, it’s advisable to send out a circular email to all those invited asking for any special dietary requirements prior to booking. Why?  Because some restaurants simply cannot cater for some special diets for example coeliacs struggle to eat in themed or ethnic restaurants where pizza, pasta or soy sauce is a key ingredient.
  • When deciding on a venue, ask those with the dietary requirements where they have eaten previously, get their recommendations and then check out the menu for the others within the group.
  • When reviewing options, know what questions to ask a venue to assess if it is suitable for all those with dietary requirements.
  • You may need to consider extreme food allergies and understand, for example, if nuts are handled within a kitchen. Try and get as much information from your colleague as possible, to understand the questions you need to ask the venue to ensure a safe dining experience.

Check and double check the venue – asking for written information!

  • When a venue tells you ‘we can provide for allergies’ don’t just take their word for it! Dig deeper
    • For example Christmas dinner without gravy, without sausages and without stuffing is just dry meat and veg and not a pleasant experience.
    • When meals are adapted for allergies, find out what is provided and if replacements for starters and desserts are required, ask the venue to specify what is provided up front. The FreeFrom colleague pays the same why should they miss out? For example:  starters and desserts, more often than not, drop off the radar for the FreeFrom customer.  Often all that is available is melon for starter and fruit salad for dessert.  Be ready to warn them that ‘fruit is NOT a dessert!’ and your FreeFrom colleague would like a choice too!
    • If chips are part of the meal, ask if separate dedicated fryers are in place and if they tell you that heat at 175o will kill gluten, look for an alternative venue! Some venues may dip roast potatoes in the fryer to coat in oil before roasting so it is worth asking the question.
    • If you have someone with a nut allergy, request a menu excluding nuts in any format throughout the menu. In addition, ask how they manage nuts and will any nut products be handled in the kitchen during service. Note: Chestnuts are NOT classed as tree nuts, rather they are part of the latex family!
  • If petite fours and chocolates are served after the meal, ask the venue to supply ingredient information.
    • If they not suitable, source a small pack as appropriate and this will give your colleague a real surprise.
  • If a colleague has multiple allergies, once you have chosen where to go, allow the FreeFrom colleague to call the venue and discuss his/her options direct so it is clear if the venue is able to accommodate their requirements.
    • Confirm in writing all options discussed so both you and the venue are aware of their obligations.

I called several venues to day to understand what they mean by gluten free options on their menus, out of the three I spoke with none were very clear what adaptions and items would be suitable for the gluten free customer, many have written the menu but have not yet taken the time to analyse the ingredients in a way that they can explain to customers so ensure you get a clear understanding and request confirmation of what can be provided in an email it avoids any mis-understanding when making the booking.

Give the venue a call a couple of days before going to double check with the manager to ensure that the information has been passed onto the chef.

Researching the venue and understanding what is contained within the dishes will alleviate a lot of anxiety for the FreeFrom colleague and prevent any awkwardness at the time of the event.  Providing this information will enhance your rantinclusiveness and enable the FreeFrom colleague to feel part of your team.  See the quote below as example of where this hasn’t been done and how it impacts the individual.

In-house Buffets

If you are organising an American Supper type event, be aware of those with allergies, again talk with them individually and ask how they feel it can be managed.  It maybe they could advise on safe foods which could be on the list for colleagues to supply.  A top retailer does amazing party foods which are naturally free from fish, gluten and dairy.  Ask staff to bring in packaging to enable those with allergens to be reassured of the food contents.  Alternatively arrange for a caterer to deliver appropriate foods, specifying dietary requirements, and get staff to chip in to a kitty.

Here are some further tips to help you get the best out of your Christmas party to ensure a problem free event, as supplied by The HR Dept. Ltd


  • Remind everyone about their behaviour – you aren’t a horrible boss for doing so, you’re just making sure you reinforce the rules.
  • Make sure everyone is included and invited. They can be great team building events and a good way to say thank you for staff efforts over the previous year.
  • Ensure under 18’s aren’t drinking.
  • Be aware of religious sensitivities.
  • Drinking the bar dry shouldn’t be the stated objective of the evening.
  • If there is an issue, use common sense. Note down what’s happened and take appropriate action. Regardless of the situation, don’t sack someone on the spot!
  • Be mindful that Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many people.
  • No mistletoe, it just asks for trouble!

Have a safe FreeFrom Christmas, and watch the smile grow on your colleagues face when you give them the opportunity to join in at this festive time.

If you know of venues which are great at providing a safe meal for the FreeFrom customer leave us a comment below so we can let other know.

If you need any further assistance give us a call on 07732637292 or email

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