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CMP SERIES CERTIFICATION MADE POSSIBLE There is even a term for those last-minute


changes of mind: order envy. And it’s not confined to people who see food that looks more appealing, Rasmussen said. It’s not uncommon for a high- status person at a table, such as a CEO, to request a low-fat, low-salt meal and cause a domino effect, with everyone at the table then requesting the same thing. Although chefs are prepared for last-minute requests, “I have to be honest,” Beauchamp said.


“It’s not an easy situation. It can take as long as three days to go through all the steps to prepare [some allergen- or gluten-free] food.” Even know- ing a couple of hours in advance “would be very difficult.” Planners might consider making sure that


attendees know how much more difficult it is to accommodate special-meal requests at the last minute. “The most important thing is to be straightforward,” Beauchamp said. “Don’t create a food allergy where one doesn’t exist. And make sure the kitchen knows in advance, so we can have the food prepared.” Finney and Beauchamp both advocate a system


where attendees are issued tickets at registration; and then hand them to wait staff at mealtime. It doesn’t work perfectly — even when planners will commit to managing special meals with coupons, Finney said, sometimes not all of the attendees check in at registration. His staff anticipates such things, Finney added.


“For all groups, ‘Planning 101’ is crucial, as well as working with an open mind and compassion,” he said. It’s a business of “detail, details, and more details.”


BACK TO THE FUTURE Technology has been a tremendous aid to serving attendees with special requests, said Prell, who spoke with Convene in the midst of overseeing meals at a five-day, 11,000-attendee tech confer- ence in New Orleans. Special meals made up about 6 percent of the total — more than 650 meals in all. Prell started in the business 30 years ago, he


said, when a “special meal” meant removing pro- tein, or serving a fruit plate. With registration pro- cedures identifying delegates with requests far in advance of the meeting, it’s now possible to know within a reasonable margin of error how many and what types of meals will be needed. The New Orleans meals were organized so that attendees


56 PCMA CONVENE JULY 2013 PCMA.ORG


Gary Prell ‘Regardless of how we have gotten here [with diet-related requests], we have arrived.’


Test Time Once you finish reading this CMP Series article, read the following material:


› “Gluten Freedom,” an article from the December 2010 issue of Convene that outlines the basics about serving gluten-free meals at events, at convn.org/ gluten-freedom.


› “Gluten-Free Diet,” a guide to gluten-free food, including lists of frequently overlooked foods, from the Celiac Disease Foundation, at convn.org/gf-guide.


To earn one hour of CEU credit, visit pcma.org/ convenecmp to answer questions about the information contained in this CMP Series article and the additional material.


› Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) offers a variety of resources, including a 60-page training guide, “Welcoming Guests With Food Allergies,” at foodallergy.org


Additional resource


The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) is a registered trademark of the Convention Industry Council.


who had ordered special meals could go to a par- ticular location where staff had lists of their names and checked them off. A majority of the custom meals were vegetarian, with gluten-free a close second, Prell said. He expects to see more requests for diabetic meals in the future. Although Prell said he is proud to work for Cen-


terplate, a company that embraces customization and attention to detail, he doesn’t see the ability to deliver meals that fit varied dietary profiles as something to tout, but rather as an expected norm in a professional hospitality company. He said: “It’s the price of admission.”


. Barbara Palmer is senior editor of Convene.


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