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Food for Thought: New Event Menu-Planning Guide Released

IACC dietary booklet for meetings addresses the needs of both attendees and planners.

Spurred by data showing that attendees have become more discerning—and assertive—regarding their food and beverage preferences at meetings, the International Association of Conference Centers led a group effort among event-industry experts and the World Obesity Foundation to produce the Guide to Managing Conference Delegate Dietary Requirements. Released in early November, the 12-page report aims to help meeting and event planners manage their partnerships with event venues when fulfilling the dietary requirements of attendees to better ensure attendee health and well-being.
Most of the research that demonstrated a need for such guidance came from IACC’s latest Trends in Nutrition & Delegate Wellbeing study. For instance, the study found that 79 percent of responding planners receive more dietary requests from attendees now versus two years ago, while only 33 percent of venues include basic nutritional information on their menus and only 75 percent of venues train their staff on properly serving people with food allergies. And from an anecdotal perspective, "last year I asked a room of 200 meeting planners if managing attendees' dietary needs was a particular challenge for them, and at least 75 percent of them said yes," notes Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC. "I knew then that we needed to do more as an association and industry in terms of offering insights and best practices to help both planners and venues."
The dietary guide covers a wide range of potential allergens as well as evolving and emerging diet styles, including those based on religious belief. It provides advice and practical tips on how to work with venues' F&B teams to place attendee health and well-being at the center of events without any compromise to the overall experience.
Tracy Stuckrath, CMM, CESP, founder and chief connecting officer of Thrive! Meetings & Events in Atlanta, was a member of the report committee. Once she discovered more than a decade ago that she was allergic to yeast, Stuckrath had a difficult time finding suitable food choices at events she attended. As a result, she started her meetings consultancy in 2010 to focus on improving the choices available to attendees with allergies while also maximizing their meal quality. “This new guide provides the steps for planners to start helping their delegates manage their dietary requirements and eat safely,” she says.
Cooper adds that the guide is just the beginning of a larger process. "We hope that in the near future we will see more training and certifications to support the competent management of attendees' dietary needs.” To that end, IACC will host two webinars in January 2019—one for meeting planners and one for venues—focused on food & beverage issues.

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