Special dietary requirements – decoded

It’s a standard question on most event invites – ‘do you have any special dietary requirements?’ – but these days the answers you get back may need a little more thought than in years gone by. With the fusion of cultures in many places across the globe, particularly London, and the advancement in research about allergens and intolerances speeding ahead, people’s needs and wants in regards to what they eat are becoming more and more complicated. Make sure you know what your guests are talking about by reading our lowdown on what the most common responses mean.


A vegetarian eats no meat and that includes fish. This also means any animal products like gelatine and animals fats.


A vegan eats no meat, fish or any other food that has been produced using an animal, so this includes all dairy products, eggs and animal cooking fats. Less obvious exclusions in a vegan diet include gelatine (found in some desserts and sweets) and honey.


A pescatarian doesn’t eat meat, but does eat fish and all other seafood.


When used in terms of catering, Halal denotes the way in which an animal has been slaughtered. This information will have to come from your catering company’s suppliers.


There are varying degrees of strictness as far as the description Kosher goes. It generally means no pork, shellfish and that meat and dairy together aren’t to be served at the same meal.


Someone who describes their diet as gluten-free might suffer from celiac disease. You may therefore find people describing their dietary requirements as ‘celiac’. Gluten is found in wheat and other grains including rye, barley and oats. There are lots of food and drink products that contain gluten that might not be obvious to some including beer, soy sauce, some ice creams and lots of sauces.


Your guests might have an intolerance or an allergy if they request a wheat-free meal. Wheat is a cereal grain, often ground into flour and used to make bread, pasta, breakfast cereals, pastry and a whole host of other foods.


A nut allergy, particularly a peanut allergy, can cause a serious reaction called anaphylactic shock which can prove fatal. Someone with an allergy might be so sensitive that they could have a reaction without actually ingesting a nut. It might be best to avoid nuts in your entire menu if any of your guests have an allergy as it’s hard to completely guarantee there won’t be any cross contamination in the kitchen or while serving.


Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products, so a guest requesting a lactose-free meal will need a menu with no dairy.


The soybean is used in lots of food products, particularly in Asian cuisine. It tends to be found in processed meals, so might not be particularly common in your kitchen, but soy sauce and tofu are ones to watch out for.


Diabetics need to limit their sugar intake so make sure there are sugar-free and low-sugar food options available.

Special dietary requirements at W12 Conference Centre

Our in-house catering partner, Sodexo, is used to dealing with a huge range of dietary requests. Catering Manager, Grant Martin says, “We see more and more unusual requests these days and nothing surprises us anymore. Like any catering company, we understand the importance of using the appropriate ingredients for any guests with special requirements and ensuring that it’s produced in a way that meets with their beliefs.”
If you have any concerns or questions about the menu at your next W12 Conferences event, please don’t hesitate to call the team on +44 (0)20 3313 1606.