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do you ask guests about food sensitivities and allergies

Having a buffet gathering for 50 people and I don't know their food preferences or any allergies that they may have.

Would it be good form to send everyone a note to ask if they can identify any food sensitivities prior to the gathering?

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  1. That's a nice gesture as a host, but I would limit the requests to strictly allergies and diet based on religion because to go further than that and you'll be cooking individual dinners for 50. Barring those two questions, if you provide enough choices, the rest will find something that they can eat. Just my opinion

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cherylptw

      I agree with Cheryl. I'd ask about allergies or dietary restrictions (using that terminology precisely) but I refrain from using any word such as "preferences."

    2. you certainly can do that, but you may be deluged with special requests. allergies are the thing about which you must be most careful, since a severe reaction can be life and death.

      if i don't know everybody coming, i don't ever put nuts in something and if i make a shellfish dish it's clear what it is. those are the two most common culprits for adults, but luckily allergies are much less than common than people think. only between 2-5% adults have food allergies.

      as for intolerances/preferences, etc. label your dishes clearly and be on-hand to answer any questions if a guest has a private concern. if they have issues, they will come to you.

      1. as someone with allergies, my response may come as a surprise. it's a nice gesture to ask, but a party that size, i never expect special treatment. i figure i can have a small snack before, pick on what i can, and enjoy the company. that said, if you're doing a buffet, consider having one thing dairy free, one vegetarian, and maybe avoid nuts in some. have a good veggie platter and some fruit for dessert. and if you're making anything with a fancy sauce, or even the salad, reserve just a little for those that may be able to enjoy it plain?

        just my ten cents. you're already doing a good turn. the more you ask, the more you know, and the more you'll feel obligated to do...

        1. I would think that anyone with a serious allergy would be sure to either let you know or deal with it themselves.
          It is assuredly not the host's responsibility.

          1 Reply
          1. I agree with Cheryl. I have been astonished by some chowhound posts by dinner party hosts who seem to feel obliged to be clinical dietitians for the occasion---or else their guests feel awfully entitled to special treatment. How about if you know that eating shellfish is going to put you in the emergency room, you just don't eat it---take extra potatoes and salad and shut up about how special you are.