An open letter from a guest with a difficult diet

3 min. read
Published 14 Nov. 2018

How to make sure your restaurant caters to everyone.

Dear Accommodation Owners,

I have a confession to make. I’m vegan.

You know, one of those pesky people. We turn up at hotels all over the country and demand quinoa salads, tofu miso soup and gelatine-free cheesecake.

The problem is that being a vegan is often as difficult for me as it is for you. I'm not trying to be a pain. I don’t want to substitute this for that. All I really want is to order some food.

But I’m not here to complain. The real purpose of this letter is to offer a few well-meaning pointers on dealing with awkward dietary dilemmas that guests might throw at you. Gluten-free, vegan and low cholesterol diets are all on the rise – so it’s no longer simply a case of whipping up a mushroom risotto for the occasional veggie. 

B&Bs and small hotels often have a limited kitchen team, so here are a few simple tricks to avoid any tricky situations.

Do some revision
Did you know that dairy-free and lactose-free aren't the same? Were you aware that strict kosher meals can't be made in pans that have been used for restricted foods? If both of these facts are news to you, a bit of brushing up will come in handy.

I’d recommend keeping a couple of cookbooks close by: Complete Vegetarian by Rose Elliot, Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm and anything by Michelle Berridale-Johnson, who outlines cooking for allergies, and wheat-free or gluten-free diets.

Ask in advance!
Inn Style makes it easy for you to keep track of dietary needs in your booking system as well as your kitchen.

You can add the relevant question into the booking process, include it in customised emails, and then jot down notes in their reservation (which they won't see). This attention to detail shows your guests that you care about their specific needs. 

Keep it natural
Although some dietary difficulties will be needs – peanut allergies, religious guidelines, etc – others will be requests. For example, some guests appreciate free range, organic and lowfat foods. One way to avoid tantrums in this department is to use largely organic produce – particularly for dairy and fresh vegetables – as well as free-range meats and eggs.

Not only will this please picky guests, but it'll show them that you have genuine passion for good food and animal welfare.

Forget the fat
Low fat is another thing to bear in mind. Offering muesli, porridge or wholegrain bread is great for health-conscious holiday makers who might panic when faced with a Full English.

Little people
If you allow under-16s at your accommodation (something you can easily indicate using Inn Style’s policies section), it’s a good idea to provide a child-friendly menu.

The days of a few old crayons and some end-of-the-pier chicken nuggets are disappearing – so be prepared for fussy little ones. It's good to have fruit toast, Weetabix and natural yoghurts on hand for last minute mini-person breakfasts. Pasta recipes and baked potatoes are great for lunches and dinners, although a simplified version of adult meals can also be easy fixes. 

Many parents will bring suitable food for very young children, but sometimes it's worth checking first. Inn Style's booking process distinguishes between infants, children and adults, making it possible to ask early if any baby-friendly food will be needed.

Lastly – don’t worry!
Most people with specific dietary needs are used to explaining them, and they'll be grateful if you’ve made a conscious effort to cater for their requirements.

But if all goes wrong and a vegetarian is anxiously eyeing the chicken you've just spent hours roasting, the world isn’t going to end. An awkward apology, nervous laughter and plate of potatoes and veg will do just fine.

We’ll be over it by the morning, I promise.