I manage a team in which some people have dietary restrictions, religious and cultural. These people are new to my team. I am located in France.

Senior management is planning a party for the newcomers, including the people who work with me. I'm sure that senior management have not thought about the dietary restrictions of the people I've mentioned, because I work in a relatively monocultural country.

What advice should I give to senior management about this? I am sure that if I don't mention it, the people who work with me will most likely have nothing to eat during that party.

Update:


Thanks to all of you, for your feedback. I sent an email to the organizer saying that it would be great to have some veggies for the people who have dietary restriction. The organizer replied that the veggie option was already planned. That's good.

To the few who experienced multi-dietarism in Paris or in France, you are lucky, plain, plain lucky to have such great companies that care about the well-being of the employees. Stay there as long as you can (I'm not ironic).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Oct 21 at 23:08
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I'm going to assume you have an idea already about how to communicate with the event organizers, and are primarily wondering what kind of information you should be communicating.

If you are pretty sure you know what the dietary restrictions are, you could pass these along directly. For a welcome party it's always nice if the welcome feels tailor-made for the guest(s) of honor. If it's possible or likely that there are specifics you aren't aware of, then having the organizers solicit dietary restrictions directly from attendees would be best.

If you will be the one communicating with the organizers, be as specific as possible about the actual food restrictions or requirements, but as vague as possible about the motivations for them. For example, "please make sure there are some dairy-free dishes" would be better than "Employee X is lactose-intolerant". This serves a couple of purposes:

  1. It is respectful of your employees' privacy (for example, some people may not want their underlying medical condition to be shared widely), and
  2. It eliminates any worry that the requirement will be wrongly-interpreted or cause unnecessary comment (for example, in some places if you just say "two of our new employees are vegetarian" that may be interpreted as a request for fish dishes, which is a problem if your vegetarians use a different definition).

If the dietary requirements go beyond just restricted food (for example, if the food needs to be prepared a certain way due to religious requirements) it may also be a good idea to have some suggestions ready for how to obtain appropriate dishes—the name and contact info for a good kosher deli or caterer, for example. This will be handy if the person you're talking to expresses any misgivings about how to handle the request. Use your judgment on whether to offer such suggestions spontaneously, though, as you don't want to give the organizers the feeling that you think they might not know what they're doing; you're just offering information which you know they'll want, as the highly-competent and thoughtful party organizers that they are.

  • 1
    This seems like something that can very easily go wrong. The motivations are much easier to work with that a list of restrictions for a caterer. – Erik Oct 19 at 15:23
  • How so, @Erik? The caterer is (presumably) an expert in food, not religion or health conditions. – 1006a Oct 19 at 15:25
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    They certainly should be experts in food-related religion or health concerns. – Erik Oct 19 at 15:25
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    But the OP has said that they live in a place where these restrictions are not common. If you were in Los Angeles I would expect that just telling the caterer "vegan" would work out fine, but there are many places where that could lead to macaroni and cheese and fish sticks. Similarly, in New York City it would probably be fine to just say "kosher, please" but there are places where that could cause a hostess or host huge anxiety. – 1006a Oct 19 at 15:26
  • 1
    @HagenvonEitzen - expecting a caterer to be a cuisine expert is a much bigger stretch. – Davor Oct 20 at 17:08

If they haven't asked, find out who is organizing this party and just drop them a message (or walk by, if they're close) and explain the dietary restrictions to them.

Since the party is supposed to make the new members feel welcome, having food they can actually eat is pretty important. If it's not a habit to ask the members or their team lead for dietary requirements, you might suggest to the organizer to make it one.

  • 6
    It's also important to note that this is not out of the ordinary, but a matter of course. – rath Oct 19 at 9:49
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    By all means. Take this as an opportunity to spread cultural sensitivity awareness in a country that is lagging behind in this matter. Be prepared for some resistance. If they resists you've done your job as a human being. If they follow your guidance, great. Nothing to lose on your side. – Thibault D. Oct 19 at 11:30
  • @rath - that is absolutelly not a universal standard, and is culturally dependant. – Davor Oct 20 at 17:08
  • @Davor Not for Western countries. If someone has a peanut allergy and I was hosting, I'd expect to hear about it. – rath Oct 20 at 17:48
  • @ONly if you define "western countries" as countries who do exactly this. – Davor Oct 20 at 18:09

You tell the senior staff exactly what the requirements are. What else would you tell them?

In any European country I have ever been, providing food alternatives is no problem at all. Unless you noticed severe weight loss and starvation on the new employees, there is plenty of food available to them. Vegetarian or vegan food should be no problem to provide, nor should be food avoiding certain meats.

  • 12
    You clearly never tried to get vegetarian or even vegan food in France outside of Paris. Some menus have only cheese as a vegetarian choice but these often contain rennet and are no real meal. – usr1234567 Oct 19 at 11:21
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    @usr1234567 And if you ask the waiter, they will most likely (all that I've met have) make sure you get something nice to eat, even if it's not on the menu. It's not like they generally don't have vegetables at the restaurant and would need to order such exotic foods in advance ;). – janh Oct 19 at 11:42
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    @janh They either suggest eating breat, cheese, fish or chicken, because they seem to be vegetarian. – usr1234567 Oct 19 at 12:19
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    @janh My experience of eating in France as a vegetarian indicates that your assertion does not hold very generally. My french is not great but I have enough to understand a menu and communicate that I am vegetarian. Many places seem to feel that a salad is 'vegetarian' if it contains only small bits of meat, or a dish with white meat in will be offered as vegetarian. It's possibly more like there is a different cultural understanding of the word vegetarian, but I don't really know. – Clumsy cat Oct 19 at 13:20
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    @DavidThornley that was his point. It's not vegetarian, but will be offered as such. – user87779 Oct 19 at 21:51

By simply doing it?

Literally, just tell them that some members of your team have dietary requirements. Either pass those requirements along or prompt the party organiser to extract that information themselves.

That's it.

Any office party that I have been invited to, the invite includes a message to the effect "Please email me (the party organizer) if you have any dietary requirements.

Having said that, the food usually includes for vegetarians by default.

Just get the organizer to do this. Then order as appropriate.

Best way to solve this is to ask for people to bring in a dish if they want. So the company caters in general, and people bring in small dishes. If they find they can't eat any meat like me on a Friday, then I just pick whatever I can eat and have my container of raw fish in coconut cream to eat as well.

But basic things like fruit punch and salads are pretty much universally acceptable and management should know enough to supply these sorts of provisions as a matter of course.

If you're vegetarian eat the salad, if you can't eat pork, stay away from the animal with the apple in it's mouth, allergic to peanuts? Don't eat the peanuts. If your meal needs to be kosher and prepared in a special way, bring your own plate of food. I'd try your kosher food if you let me, just to see what it's like.

  • 6
    To me, the first paragraph describes a different type of event. – Chris H Oct 19 at 9:22
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    If you're seriously allergic to peanuts, you might die from accidental contamination, and probably something a little more serious than "just don't eat the peanuts" is in order. – Erik Oct 19 at 9:33
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    Accidentally eating pork forbidden by your religion isn't nearly as big a problem as having a food allergy. Food allergies are deadly. If you're allergic to peanuts you also have to worry about dishes that have peanut oil, or if the ginger cookies next to the peanut butter cookies got contaminated with peanut butter cookie crumbs. Was the ladle being used to dip for peanuts used in the candy dish too? – MaxW Oct 19 at 9:35
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    This doesn't seem like a good solution. I don't expect a new team to react well if you walk in and say "Good news, guys, senior management is throwing a party for you all. Catering will be provided. By the way, Debbie, they haven't said anything about vegetarian food so you might want to bring a dish with you. Also, Frank, they didn't say anything about Kosher stuff either. What's that Bert? Peanut allergy? Well, you could just not eat peanuts...". Erik's answer of double-checking, then going back to the organisers and making sure they know well in advance of the party is far more sensible. – ymbirtt Oct 19 at 9:51
  • 2
    Hi @Kilisi, I see your point but it is a party, that senior management is building. However, I can raise that with them and see what they say. – Andy K Oct 19 at 11:06

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