With the Holidays just around the corner, you’re bound to encounter people who have many preferences and dietary needs when it comes to whatever you’re serving. Food intolerance and food allergies have made it more complicated for food caterers and restaurateurs to serve food to their guests. However, it’s a little known fact that there is a big difference between food allergies and food intolerance.

People with food allergies will not be able to tolerate even the smallest amounts of the food they are allergic to. On the other hand, people with food intolerance will be able to handle small amounts of the food they are intolerant to, depending on the level of their intolerance.

Nonetheless, for food caterers and those entertaining a lot of guests this season, here are some guidelines when catering for people with food intolerances:


Entertaining Guests 

When catering for people, it’s always a good idea to ask whether guests have any food intolerances, allergies, or any food preferences before agreeing to do all the cooking. You may need to do extra research on specific food intolerances to make sure that you’ll know what ingredients not to include in the recipe.

People who are lactose intolerant will not be able to tolerate any kind of dairy products including milk, Kraft cheese, butter, and even chocolate.

People with nut allergies will also be allergic with sesame oil or peanut oil as it may contain traces of nuts still in it.

Remember that compared to people with intolerance, people with allergies can’t ingest even the tiniest amounts of the offending food. Make sure that you will be able to prepare and cook the menu without cross contamination with the food causing intolerance. Do not agree to cater for the person if you are unsure whether you can do it safely.

When preparing the menu, make a note of the main ingredients in the recipe. Try to avoid recipes that require lots of ingredients which are commonly known to cause food intolerance to guests.

For example, avoid using nuts for garnish in salads or pastry, or cheese in meat recipes. If some of the guests are food intolerant you can opt to tweak the recipe for him only or for all of the guests. Sauces have the highest risk of cross contamination so you might want to allow guests to add the sauce themselves or offer a plainer variation which doesn’t sacrifice flavor.

Exchange fish stock with vegetable stock or replace shellfish with tofu or chicken. If you are having a large event, make servers are trained to ask guests whether they have food intolerances or allergies so they can point out which items in the menu are safe. Direct the servers to call for you whenever a guest has food intolerances and would like to confirm with the caterer or the cook.

When handing the menu to guests, your servers may be trained to ask whether they are intolerant or allergic about certain food and make sure that you have sufficient information regarding the dishes on the menu to be able to say whether or not it contains a particular ingredient.

When you put our your foods, make sure they have small signs describing what guests are eating. You may also choose to put small icons on the signs to signify to guests which foods are safe to eat.


Enjoy all that holiday cooking in the coming days and remember to always have fun in the kitchen!