How to Handle Special Meal Requests

How should dinner guests politely make special meal requests and how should hosts politely handle them?

Trent Armstrong,
March 22, 2010

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There are a wide array of things to consider when planning an event like a dinner party, wedding, or other gathering that includes a meal. Who should attend? Buffet or served? But one of the trickiest issues to deal with can be how to handle picky eaters.

It's not necessarily important for a host to cater to every whim of every guest, but it is important for both host and guest to understand the issues and work together to make the event special for everyone.

How to Handle Special Meal Requests

When inviting your guests to your event, offer an opportunity for each person to inform you of foods they cannot eat for religious, ethical, or medical reasons. Being vegan, gluten intolerant, or deathly allergic to peanuts are all serious dietary restrictions that any good host should want to be made aware of. Simple food preferences-- like someone just not liking green vegetables--are not serious and can be ignored. You may still fix your broccoli and let the fussy-eater just eat around it.

Request Dietary Information from Guests

For more low-key events, like dinner parties, I've heard of the dinner host offering a sort of "food veto power" to guests. The guests are not allowed to make broad, sweeping requests like "make the meal Lean Bodies-friendly" unless there is some major health risk at play. But it is within the veto rules for someone to mention an aversion to fish or that they have given up fried foods for Lent. As the party planner, you might accept one veto from each person, but being a complete pushover will likely ruin the menu for everyone. It is, in fact, your dinner party.

If you already know what kinds of things your guests won’t be able to eat or will like, then you won’t need to ask them; but if you’re having friends over for the first time, it might be a good idea to send a quick e-mail asking if they have any allergies or other food restrictions before you plan the menu.


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