As many as 38% of people worldwide, self-identify as having a food allergy or intolerance. Whether running a catered corporate meeting, a dining experience out on-the-town for visiting colleagues, or a large conference at a hotel, a lack of trust in the food reflects poorly on everyone and can end up alienating guests. From the event host, to the servers, to the dining venue, lack of trust bleeds into the entire event experience. Food safety is important because it saves lives, but consumer confidence is a critically important goal in it’s own right.

From a public health perspective, consumers need to be able to choose a healthy, diverse and economical diet, without having the added worry of food safety. In November 2015, 36% of consumers found allergy information on labels, menus, and from food servers to be confusing and difficult to understand. Another 21% thought they were being given conflicting information and 35% spotted errors on allergen information, which did not give them confidence in the venue.

Governments worldwide are working to meet consumer expectations for food safety and to strengthen public confidence. There’s no reason the world of meetings and events, or the food and beverage industry can’t lead the way, rather than trailing behind the movement. Food and beverage can conquer the challenge with more preparation, better planning, well- informed menu design, and well-trained educated staff.

By creating a clear menu and properly labeling food, guests will be able to trust what they are eating. Learn about guest needs ahead of time and create meals that are healthy, balanced, and delicious, rather than resorting to preparing what could seem like kitchen scraps for the guests with dietary restrictions. Train staff to understand that communicating intelligently with guests about dietary restrictions is an important part of the overall guest experience, not just the attendee dining experience. When we consider 38% of attendees have dietary restrictions and allergies, missing out on these opportunities can end up alienating guests, rather than impressing them.