If meals are provided as part of your conference or event, you should make sure that, somewhere on the registration form, there is a place for attendees to notify you of their dietary preferences. The typical meal at a conference will include a protein (such as chicken, beef, or fish), a starch (potatoes or rice are most common), and a selection of vegetables – but that won’t do for everyone. Though there are plenty of diets out there that all planners should be aware of (and I don’t mean diets to lose weight…), the vegetarian varieties are among the most common. Here is a brief description of each type.
Vegetarian: At this point, I think everyone knows about this option. Essentially, vegetarians do not eat meat but will consume eggs and dairy products. Sometimes, this type will also be called “lacto-ovo-vegetarian”.
Pescatarian: This is a person who abstains from eating animal flesh (meat), with the exception of fish. Depending on the individual, they may or may not eat eggs or dairy products.
Lacto-Vegetarian: A lacto-vegetarian does not eat meat or eggs, but will consume dairy products (such as cheese or milk-based dishes).
Ovo-Vegetarian: This diner does not eat meat of any kind, nor dairy products – but does eat eggs.
Vegan: A vegan avoids meat, dairy, eggs, and every other animal-based food product. Most of the time, they will also avoid eating any food that contains an animal-derived ingredient as well.
The very short list above is hardly the end all be all of dietary restrictions. Add in food allergies such as nuts or gluten, and religious strictures such as those for the Jewish and Muslim faiths, and the list of diets that a planner may need to accommodate at their event can grow considerably. However, becoming familiar with the five types of vegetarians listed here will be a good place to start.
There was a time in our industry when the vegetarian option for a conference was just a plate of pasta in a cream sauce or steamed vegetables on a bed of rice. As diners (and Chefs!) have become more sophisticated, many more options have become available to planners for their conference menus. Use their expertise and let the Chef come up with something brilliant for you – but be sure to ask your attendees ahead of time what their preferences are…
~ Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises
Ed. Note: Check out these related posts for more event dining ideas.
Creating a Wonderful Dining Experience on a Budget
How to Lower Costs for Small Group Meal Functions
Healthy Meeting Options – Meals & Snacks