Education in Hospitality

I work in the hospitality industry. I attend several events throughout the year at various hotels, conference centers and restaurants, who provide hospitality. Ever since becoming vegan/plant-strong, I’m amazed at the number of venues that don’t know how to accommodate dietary preferences. This seems to be a basic aspect of hospitality – providing meals to your guests.

This morning, I attended an event. I won’t name the venue because this isn’t a rant against them, it’s more of a rant about the education that needs to take place for in-house caterers (and hired catering companies) on dietary needs.

This was a breakfast event. The main plate was a quiche, bacon, and home fries. I asked a server if they had a vegetarian option, and she asked “are you vegan?”

I told her “yes, I am” and she replied “o.k., I’ll see if they can prepare something for you.”

Well, to make a long story short, I ended up with a plate with an egg quiche and plain potatoes. But I was assured that there was “no cheese” in my version.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t have assumed that she knew what “vegan” meant. I foolishly took her question as a sign that their kitchen was prepared to accommodate the needs of a vegan. I also should know that breakfast is a hard meal to veganize in the mass meal world of in-house catering.

It’s frustrating sometimes though. It’s socially acceptable to have dietary restrictions based on allergy and religious preference. But when you make a choice not to eat any animal products, you enter a world of mass-confusion. The server assumed that “Vegan” just meant no cheese. I assumed she would know that “Vegan” meant no dairy and no eggs.

To be fair, she did bring me a plate of fruit before the quiche came out. From now on, at a breakfast event I’ll just ask if they can bring out a fruit plate. It will probably save time and confusion. If I had known that I was going to receive a plate of eggs, I would have just stopped at the fruit plate and saved some embarrassment.

A few months ago, I attended another PR event, and the server pretty much laughed in my face when I asked for a vegetarian option. I was stuck with a huge chicken thigh and plate of rice that I’m sure was cooked in chicken broth (needless to say, I didn’t eat that night. I paid an $80 ticket to attend an event without a meal, shame on me).


But, as a hospitality industry, shouldn’t we educate our catering companies, servers and waitstaff on the differences between vegetarian and vegan? As more and more people adopt this lifestyle, shouldn’t our hotels, convention centers, and venues be prepared to serve this audience?



4 thoughts on “Education in Hospitality

  1. Ughhhhh. I’m realizing how little people know about things we expect to be obvious. A vegan coworker was discussing her diet one day and someone said, “but you eat fish, right?” No! I actually just booked a tour to Yosemite for our vacation and it asked about any special needs, using “vegetarian diet” as an example, so I wrote that I was vegan. I’m assuming/hoping they know what that means. Speaking of…I’m also started to stress about weddings…what do you do/say when your dinner options are chicken/fish or beef? If I knew the person well enough, I used to write in “vegetarian,” but that’s pretty rude, probably, for people you don’t really know.

  2. I second that vote on educating the hospitality industry. Last year, I started eating more healthy and more recently, a non-processed lifestyle. Whenever I go to restaurants and events, I skip right over the menu and tell the waiter exactly what I want (like sauteed mushrooms and onions). You’ll get use to the challenge. You learn to adapt. Good luck on your next request! 🙂

  3. I don’t even know where to start on responding to this – – simply because I’m SO familiar with this frustration. I could write many, many paragraphs about my feelings and experiences. I’ll just say that I’ve “been there” and will probably be back “there” again and again!

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