Successful catering: Navigating the challenges around dietary requirements

Leading Venues sat down with Chef Gareth Lee from Chef 2 U to discuss how to ensure a smooth and successful catering experience for groups with diverse dietary requirements. 

Leading Venues sat down with Chef Gareth Lee from Chef 2 U to discuss how to ensure a smooth and successful catering experience for groups with diverse dietary requirements. 


 Commonly requested dietary requirements 


“I have learnt that the term I’m a vegetarian can mean a lot of different things to different people,” says Gareth who explains that the term can range from anything from strict veganism to a diet that occasionally includes fish or chicken. Gareth believes that because vegetarianism is so common delegates often neglect to advise venues of their preferences, expecting them to automatically cater for them. He says that while most chefs can whip up a vegetarian meal on short notice, RSVPing in advance about these requirements will result in delegates being served better thought-out and nutritionally balanced meals. 

Halal and Kosher 

Kosher and Halal meals are generally outsourced to a caterer with a certified Kosher or Halal kitchen. Gareth explains that this is why these meals tend to be more expensive and why venues will rarely refund a company if a guest with these dietary requirements does not show up. It is also difficult to cater for these guests if a venue is notified of their requirements at the last minute due to the time delays involved with outsourcing. 

“These meals are delivered covered and displaying a sticker of the Kosher or Halal kitchen’s certification. While it doesn’t always look particularly appetizing to serve a meal covered up like this, it is essential to train waiters that the packaging must not be removed. Unfortunately it can also be difficult to heat the food correctly, particularly if covered in foil which cannot be microwaved. 


According to Gareth the most commonly food allergies are nuts, seafood and bananas. He stresses the importance of flagging these requirements to a venue due to the serious consequences should the incorrect food be ingested. He says that while very few kitchens are entirely nut free, a chef will take great care to prevent contamination in the preparation and serving of a meal to someone with an allergy. While contamination is extremely rare, Gareth cautions that a kitchen should have a first aid box, including anti-histamines, on hand in case anything goes wrong. 

Banting and gluten free 

growing number of people are following a banting diet or identifying as gluten intolerant, advises Gareth. He says that both of these requirements are very easy to cater to, with the venue generally removing the starch items from a standard meal. 


Chef Gareth Lee 

Chef 2 U 

064 790 8215 


Tips for successful catering 

“RSVP, RSVP, RSVP,” says Gareth who believes that notifying a venue of dietary requirements in advance is key to a successfully catered event. He advises that most kitchens start preparing for large events a week in advance and says that most venues require at least 36 hours of warning for particular dietary requirements. If the venue is in a remote location it is wise to give the venue more time to prepare. 

Gareth also highlights the importance of not swopping seats at an event. He explains that waiters will serve according to a table – bringing out 6 x meats, 3 x fish and 1 x vegetarian meal at once as an example. “If people swop places it is difficult to get warm meals to the right people at the right time. This is also a problem if a halal meal is opened by the wrong guest of if someone with a serious food allergy is served the incorrect meal.