let’s discuss terrible food at conferences and other work events

Let’s talk about terrible conference food — or hell, we can broaden to terrible work event food in general.

Some stories readers have shared in the past about culinary failures:

  • I have attended several conferences that were bad, but nothing beats the time the group was served chicken on a bed of lettuce. The vegetarian option was just the lettuce. One singular lettuce leaf. The vegetarians assumed they just forgot another protein, like tofu, but no, that was the entire entree.
  • I went to a conference and had specifically told them I was vegan (this was about ten years ago, when that was pretty unusual). For lunch on the first day, I was presented with a bowl of undressed salad leaves and a single cherry tomato.
  • Worst conference food I ever had to deal with was the conference that didn’t think about the need to accommodate those that can’t eat seafood. Three day conference, lunch and dinner provided and every single meal was shellfish of some variety. No vegetarian options, no shellfish free options (though with the quantities of shellfish they were prepping I wouldn’t have trusted the kitchen anyways) – just scallops, crab, shrimp, crawfish, lobster as far as the eye could see. I had to leave for every single meal because of a lack of food.
  • The first day, the afternoon snack was hot items you needed a fork to eat … so everyone figured the next day’s “afternoon snack” (as it was listed on the agenda) would be similar. Nope! The next day’s snack was coffee and tea. No food, and no indication that it would be different. Then the lunch items were kind of all over the place, with the veggie options being the worst – like a limp lettuce sandwich as the only veg option, while everything else was hot plates. They were also frequently running out of food, and people had to go into the city to eat.

Let’s hear your stories of bad conference food/bad work event food.

{ 1,489 comments… read them below }

  1. Queen of the Introverts*

    Undergraduate research conference. The vegetarian option was a sauteed vegetable sandwich. Not bad…once. It was a three-day conference, and they served it at every meal. We quickly realized we could just go through the “meat” buffet line and have our choices of sides, salads, etc.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      I went to a large three-day writers’ conference – 1500 attendees. The first day, dinner was a chicken quarter with red sauce. The second day, it was the same chicken quarter with green sauce. The third, it was the same chicken quarter with white sauce. I think the sides were the same two of the days, too. The vegetarians got the exact same meal three days in a row even without different sauces :-\

      1. MT1980*

        Omg! I went to a conference with the EXACT breakfast every day for 5 straight days! Nothing else. It was a god awful breakfast burrito (spinach, cold scrambled “eggs” and hash brown potatoes—in a spinach wrap) and fruit I would serve as slop to a hog.

    2. Sloanicota*

      A coworker had do a lot of conferences in the Deep South (in casinos, which was a weirdly common venue for conferences in that job despite our work having nothing to do with gambling) and reported that every time she ordered vegetarian a) the server was extremely flummoxed and b) they would bring her wedge salad with bacon on top, every time. When she pointed it out, the salad was whisked away and then returned … and they had clearly just brushed the bacon bits off, with a few having fallen down between the lettuce leaves. One time it was still served pre-dressed in bacon ranch dressing and they seemed puzzled by the request of any other dressing or at least dressing on the side. She wasn’t even vegan! And this wasn’t like the early nineties, either – this was mid 2010s.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I worked for a company that was based in a major west coast city and had satellite locations all over the US. They had an annual in-person training where they flew everyone out. It was 3 days long and 100% mandatory that you stay in the hotel it was at, even if you were local.

        Somehow despite it being 2017 and the company being in a major west coast US city where vegetarianism and veganism are very common, they straight up did not bother to provide ANY special diet meal options. No vegetarian much less vegan, no gluten free, no kosher, no halal, nothing.

        There was an all-company dinner at a restaurant where they did a set menu and the options the company had chosen for it were meat, chicken, or fish. I was at a table with a vegan colleague and she basically ended up asking the waiter if the kitchen could make her something she could actually eat. It was ridiculous. And it wasn’t an issue with the restaurant because they were SUPER NICE ABOUT IT and made her a vegan dish special. The company were just idiots.

      2. Jen*

        Years ago when I was vegetarian I was at a deli in Wisconsin and ordered “old world vegetable soup,” which consisted of potatoes, carrots, cabbage and … sausage. Because, Wisconsin?

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            My 95 year old mom made her vegan neighbor some vegetable soup…. with chicken stock! Mom didn’t realize that stock counted. The vegan noticed it at first sip.

        1. Never Boring*

          I once spent 36 hours on a chunk of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and my entire group decided to order vegetarian meals on the theory that they would be less likely to give us food poisoning. One “vegetarian” meal consisted of cold boiled spaghetti with chunks of hot dog-like sausages and ketchup.

          1. Food is love*

            I went to a Hungarian restaurant in Poland in college as a vegetarian studying abroad, and our professor had preordered all the meals. The vegetarian option was a SLAB of deep fried cheese the texture of tofu and about 7 inches x 7 inches, with a side of fries

        2. Crooked Bird*

          Haha I’m suddenly reminded of my college cafeteria serving (at least they served it on the side-dish table!) “Asian Noodle Soup” that was very clearly random leftover pasta & leftover sweet & sour chicken thrown into a pot with some water.

      3. Lynx*

        I went to a networking group’s retreat last year that had literally zero options for me (vegan at the time, now vegetarian) and one other vegan who was there. It was just… not factored in. Nobody asked anyone when planning. Super awkward when the non-eggs & breakfast meat breakfast option was… yogurt or cereal with dairy milk only.

        When we went out to the restaurants for group dinners, the restaurants were great and accommodated us. The food served during the day sessions though was… not good. We had to make do with some very sad sides (even the salad had cheese one of the days!) and the clif bars we went to a nearby convenience store to get.

        When they sent out an anonymous feedback survey post-retreat, it’s something I mentioned, and I’m happy to say that on this year’s registration form they asked about dietary restrictions!

      4. Anna*

        Ya the South is weird about that. I moved here recently-ish after previously living on the West Coast for a while . . . have literally seen “if you don’t eat meat go home” style signs in some restaurants, in todays day and age.

        1. Dogmomma*

          qhere?? we live in a small rural town in the south and have never seen that. Course Olive Garden is considered real Italian here,and everybody’s all excited about the brand new built one that’s opening next month.
          I’m not Italian but come from 2 different cities with excellent Italian restaurants and do pretty well in the kitchen. I just roll my eyes.

          1. Queer Earthling*

            …my rural town is also opening an Olive Garden next month, making me wonder if we are in the same rural town or if there’s a sudden Olive Garden epidemic. (We’re just happy because my partner can’t eat wheat and Olive Garden has gf pasta, and sometimes we’re tired of cooking. We’re aware that it isn’t authentic, doesn’t make it inedible.)

        2. Queer Earthling*

          I live in the deep south and there are plenty of veggie and vegan restaurants in the cities, and even some in my fairly rural town (and many more that aren’t strictly veggie but have actual options available). But if you’re going to a barbecue place or something, yeah, I think you can go ahead and expect them not to have non-meat options, because their whole thing is pit barbecue; that is what they specialize in and what they focus on. The apparent hostility is meant humorously I think, but I don’t think you can expect Bubba Joe’s Pork Shack to accommodate for everyone. (Though obviously, you shouldn’t have business meetings at Bubba Joe’s for that same reason.)

        3. Shakti*

          I grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Tennessee and then Florida and honestly it’s so much easier to be a vegetarian in the south than the north! When I asked for vegetarian options in Massachusetts for work events one time the option was mashed potatoes that was it and another time I was given 5 round slices of glazed carrots for dinner I was very very hungry. Here it’s pretty easy there’s always something and people ask more too

      5. Princess Sparklepony*

        If they were bacon bits, then they are vegetarian. They are made out of soy and have been for decades. Calling them bacon is a misnomer, they usually put an apostrophe in to get out of trouble – bac’n.

        “The main ingredient is textured soy flour, a protein-rich meal made from ground soybeans. The soy flour is mixed with canola oil and salt for texture and seasoning. The “bac’n” is dyed with caramel color and red 40 dye.”

    3. Alex the Alchemist*

      Oh god this wasn’t conference food but I was at a conference during a big winter storm and aside from attending the day of events that didn’t get snowed out I was effectively stuck in the hotel food-wise. The only vegetarian option was sauteed balsamic vegetables. I was there for three days.

      1. Pat*

        Did they think that vegetarians need less protein than meat eaters? I guess they actually weren’t giving it a moment’s thought.

    4. Richard Hershberger*

      I have for many years attended an annual early baseball history conference. It includes a catered lunch with the same menu every year. You wouldn’t think you would get tired of something eating it once a year, but it turns out to be possible, and indeed something of a running joke. It doesn’t help that the food is just OK, rather than actually good.

  2. ursula*

    Extremely stoked to see how well-represented my vegetarian/vegan cousins are going to be in this discussion.

    1. ursula*

      Mine is every conference that accounted for the vegetarians and vegans by just putting out a few veg sandwiches on the general buffet, grossly understimating how many non-vegetarians will happy grab a veg half-sandy to mix up their own meal. The number of times I have not ended up being able to get “the vegetarian options” and compiled a meal out of greens and a muffin should be embarrassing for all involved.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I operate on an 80:20 rule for buffet as soon as there’s one vegetarian present (80% of the food will be vegetarian, 20% max contains meat).

        To date I haven’t had to cater for vegans so I’m not sure what ratios would be involved in that case but even putting dressings and proteins separately from salads and carbs probably gives 40:40:20.

        1. Polar Vortex*

          This is my rule too, both when I worked catering and when I order it now. My theory runs on: meat eaters can always eat veggie but veggie eaters can’t eat meat. And honestly you’re not wrong on the vegan thought either, a lot of the vegan options now a days can be really great and people default to them without realizing they’re vegan.

          But once you put GF or Nut Free in the mix it gets real interesting. Or regions, India catering vs US catering. US catering in cities vs in the middle of nowhere… My ratios adjust then.

          1. Zoe Karvonopsina*

            I once ordered my manager a vegan gluten free sandwich for a meeting, and handed her her special labelled gluten free plate.

            “This has…chicken?”

            Apparently they thought I meant a vegan sandwich and a gluten free sandwich.

            1. Paulina*

              Our institution’s special-food labeling system is similarly nonexistent and seems to be based on passing information verbally. We’re sometimes left to guess which special meal is really for whom. Additionally, they don’t label the “for everyone” dish so that we know whether it’s supposed to be safe for those who have restrictions. Is that chicken breast with an unidentified coating gluten-free? Are the salad dressing and soup non-dairy? Turns out they are, hence the lack of alternatives provided, but my colleagues aren’t taking chances on something unlabelled.

          2. Never Boring*

            I once successfully fixed up an Indian-American friend with a Sicilian-American friend. The Indian-American friend had a chunk of the family who were orthodox Jains who don’t eat onions or garlic. Let’s just say there were two separate wedding buffets (I happily tried both!).

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              I never knew that there were religions that eschewed onions and garlic. Those are my food groups!

              1. Yikes Stripes*

                Strict Jains don’t eat root vegetables at all both to prevent the entire plant from being killed and also to avoid killing small bugs and soil microorganisms. If I recall correctly, it’s the strictest form of veganism out there.

        2. Kit Kendrick*

          I helped a friend do catering for convention volunteer staff once and had hardly any responses for dietary restrictions. She made a large batch of homemade hummus for snacking because we have good access to the raw ingredients and it’s suitable for most people. It turns out there were a lot of vegetarian volunteers but they’d gotten used to being fed two sad slices of white bread with a Kraft single between them by the previous caterer and had just decided they’d fend for themselves. We ran out on the first day of a three day convention. My friend said she could have cried, because once you are making that much hummus, doubling or tripling the batch would not have been that hard. At least we got more accurate responses on the food survey the next year.

          1. Observer*

            My friend said she could have cried, because once you are making that much hummus, doubling or tripling the batch would not have been that hard.

            Yeah. Hummus is really easy to make if you have a decent food processor.

            At least we got more accurate responses on the food survey the next year.

            I can imagine. I can also imagine the vegetarians’ pleasant shock of “Oh, wait! She really meant it!” on seeing the hummus.

        3. Paulina*

          In my experience, part of the problem is caused by the order of the food on the buffet line: it always seems to be in order of most restrictive to least restrictive (vegan, then fish/chicken, then beef). So the stuffed eggplant looks good and a lot of people take some and then continue on to the more meaty dishes loading their plate up more and more.

          1. Mack*

            I think that’s generally because the less costly food is set out at the start! Salad, bread, potato foods, and vegetables are much less expensive than meat.

        4. Quill*

          Yeah, many people will take the vegetarian option because it i the only way to get an edible vegetable. Or because someone only asked about vegetarians and the meat option comes with something that they can’t or would rather not eat. Always get extra vegetarian.

      2. ThatGirl*

        I have to admit, I am not a vegetarian, but I’m not a huge meat eater and largely avoid red meat – so I’m definitely someone who would choose, say, a caprese sandwich over roast beef. I agree that most organizers seem to underestimate that.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          I am also one of those. I don’t eat piggie productions (no everything is not better with bacon on it). So sometimes my only choice is the vegetarian meal. Sorry about that.

          1. AnonORama*

            Ha! I call myself a fake-a-tarian because I eat vegetarian 95+% of the time but occasionally have chicken or fish. But if I do, it’s not gonna be at a conference buffet! My current job doesn’t involve ordering food, but when I did, always figured there were more folks like me and over-ordered the vegetarian meals.

            1. Tai*

              Right? I am an omnivore, but I do not want to fall asleep at work so I am not going to eat a burger or a cheesesteak: that’s for when I am out with spouse or friends! I will choose the spinach wrap every time.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Deathly allergic to seafood – and I’ve long since gone to telling convention catering that I need a vegetarian meal (or taking the vegetarian option) because I lost track of how many times I would fill out the forms and still be served “Mystery Processed Fish Patty” as a main course.

              No – the mystery fish is still seafood y’all, and I still can’t eat it without having severe trouble breathing…….
              I don’t get why that’s so hard to understand.

            3. Caramel & Cheddar*

              I’m the same and if pressed, will just label myself as vegetarian for the purposes of numbers so they aren’t caught short on my account.

            4. Indigo a la mode*

              I refer to myself as a “social carnivore.” I’ll eat meat out, but I typically cook vegetarian because it’s cheaper and the ingredients stay fresh longer.

          2. LilPinkSock*

            Fellow non-pig person as well. It’s actually why I usually check “vegetarian” if I can specify preferences during event registrations—I’ve been to way too many conferences where hot entrees and boxed lunches featured pork medallions, ham, or bacon!

            1. PieAdmin*

              Ordering food in the Deep South, I’ve noticed that they usually understand the concept of vegetarian well enough but cannot understand avoiding pork products. Bread products and green beans are made with bacon grease, sausage is made with pork and there is just no other way to prepare food.

          3. Other Alice*

            That’s my mum as well, she’s not vegetarian but has been eating meat less and less because of her digestion. It also depends on how the meat is cooked, she might eat a slice of pot roast but pass on the heavily spiced and greasy sausages. Many times, she goes for the veggie option because it’s that or an upset stomach. Luckily for her she somehow can get by with just a sandwich or a salad, because many times that’s the only veggie option provided.

        2. Corrigan*

          I would too. Just because I do eat meat doesn’t mean that I eat it or want it for every meal!

          1. Zelda*

            This is me. The joke is “I’m not a vegetarian; I just eat like one.” I’ve been known to tell event organizers that they should count me as a vegetarian if it will make critical mass and result in the “real” vegetarians having a better quantity and variety of options, or count me as an omnivore if they already have a balance of veg options and veg eaters and need me to keep my mitts off it.

            1. Sorrischian*

              Same! Part of it is that there’s a conflation between ‘eats meat’ and ‘ wants meat as the primary component of the meal’ for some reason? For example, I haven’t eaten a steak in years because it’s just too much meat all at once, but a couple of weeks ago I made steak salads with figs, feta, and toasted walnuts over home-grown salad greens and it turned out fantastic. But event food always seems to assume that you want a whole chicken breast or whatever with some sides to fill space, instead of having just enough meat to be an accent to everything else.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            I’m an omnivore but there’s a local sandwich place where the veggie sandwich is straight up the best thing on the menu. I also hate cheese on my sandwiches, which becomes a problem if the sandwiches are toasted, so sometimes if work gets catered sandwiches the veggie option is the only one without cheese on it.

            1. Pat*

              I found out from the AAM comments that cheese very likely is NOT vegetarian unless it says it is. I had no idea. Now I look for “vegetarian” on the package. Cabot brand is always safe, and also Amy’s for frozen meals.

          3. Random Biter*

            Being the survivor of many an “employee” option meal at functions (non-profit worker at fancy schmancy events for donors) I learned early. At a high-end gala held at a large art museum, I warned my fellow worker bees to always go with the vegetarian option. They laughed me off figuring meals at such an upscale venue would be outstanding even for the help until our worker bee meals were served. I had a fabulous pasta primavera, they all had miniscule chicken breasts with mystery sauce and the tail end of the baked potatoes. Lesson learned.

            1. bishbah*

              I was once a volunteer worker bee at a religious conference where we needed to be on site from 4–9pm. It took place on a Friday during Lent. The only food provided to us was a party tray of ham and turkey Subway sandwiches and some bags of potato chips. One vegan volunteer had anticipated that there would be nothing suitable and had packed in her own food. The vegetarians ate mainly the potato chips, so those quickly ran out. Those of us who were meatless for Lent but otherwise omnivores either ate the meat anyway or picked at the sandwiches. I went back to my car and unearthed some peanuts and granola bars. Very irritating that the priests who organized the event failed to anticipate the majority of the volunteers wanting a vegetarian meal! I wonder what the banquet dinner that they all attended served…

        3. Charlotte Lucas*

          I am a vegetarian. My non-vegetarian SO has pointed out that once you get enough food/people involved in a buffet, the vegetarian option often ends up looking best to most people. (He comes from a large extended family & literally has a lifetime of buffet experience, which translates to: when ordering for a crowd, always get more plain cheese pizza than you think you need.)

          1. Ukdancer*

            This so much. Processed meat doesn’t agree with me. I prefer not to spend all evening in the loo so if a buffet has a choice of cheese pizza or pepperoni I go for cheese every time.

            1. Don’t Die*

              I teach high school and in my first few years at my current school I volunteered to chaperone some overnight trips that had been contracted out to travel agencies to plan.

              The first year, we had a student with 20+ food allergies and we were scheduled to eat at a restaurant that was basically a buffet of raw ingredients that were then cooked by an employee on a communal grill as you watched. (TBH that seems hazardous for a lot of reasons but it was a cross-contamination nightmare!) When I told the staff we would need an allergy-safe meal they brought out an already prepared meal…with peanuts right on top! Nuts were one of this student’s main concerns and I had mentioned them specifically. At that point I told the staff we would be going to the bodega down the block and bringing in food for the student to eat. They did not object. (Honestly I was just glad that being inside that restaurant was not enough to make that student ill.) The sad part was that the student was VERY vocally grateful to me for…making sure she did not die? I asked what she had done on the trip her class took the year before and she said that she just didn’t really eat.

              The next year we left at midnight, arrived at a diner at ~5:30 am for breakfast (pancakes which had 100% been prepared in advance and microwaved, plus very greasy sausage), given lunch that came out from under the bus (slimy turkey sandwiches), and stopped for dinner at a pizza place where all the pizza was inexplicably wet on the bottom. There were another two days of the trip and the lunches were identical and I have always wondered if they were just in coolers under the bus for three days. No one died so maybe they refreshed them each day and they just seemed worse each time?

              After that I made the rule that I only chaperone trips that I plan. The person planning the meal should always be a person who will be eating the meal. (I also collect dietary needs in advance, plan menus around them, and try to send out the menus to the people traveling with me in time to make changes in case I missed something!)

              1. I bow down to your wisdom*

                “The person planning the meal should always be a person who will be eating the meal.”
                Ohmigosh – SOO true!!!

          2. alienor*

            I’m also a vegetarian, and I think a lot of meat eaters imagine vegetarian food as being something different to what it really is. They don’t expect to want the vegetarian option – or maybe don’t realize they’re taking it in the moment – because they’re picturing something gross or weird, like a 1970s hippie concoction of unseasoned tofu chunks on a bed of bulgur wheat with alfalfa sprouts. It doesn’t even register that “normal” foods like cheese pizza, bean burritos, caprese sandwiches, etc. are all vegetarian.

            1. Worldwalker*

              So how is an omnivore to know that they’re not allowed to eat the cheese pizza, and have to eat a variety they don’t like because the cheese pizza is secretly reserved for someone else they don’t even know?

              1. Lenora Rose*

                I don’t think cheese pizza is ever “reserved”, it’s just an option vegetarian people can use that nobody thinks of as vegetarian.

              2. NerdyKris*

                I don’t think that’s what they meant, just that people don’t consider those things vegetarian.

              3. Ali*

                That’s a bit of a hostile overreaction. They’re just saying a lot of people take things that happen to be vegetarian/vegan, not thinking about them being vegetarian/vegan. It’s on the event planners if they don’t make enough food for people to eat.

              4. Kwebbel*

                I’d say in a large enough group, there’s a very good chance there are a few vegetarians. If cheese is the only vegetarian option (i.e., there’s no veggie pizza), it’s fair to think of it as being something to leave for people who are vegetarian, just in case.

                1. Emma*

                  That assumes that everyone is looking over all the options first to see what’s there, which is not how most people do a buffet. Most people just go through one item at a time, thinking “oh that looks nice, I’ll have a bit of that”, without considering what else is on the table until they get there.

                  The solution to this problem, as others have said, is to provide a more balanced and realistic selection of food types.

              5. Chilipepper Attitude*

                I’ve been to events with separate tables that are clearly labeled and by the time the vegans/vegetarians got there the food reserved for them was gone! So if you are supposed to know, it will be labeled.

              6. RC*

                That’s the point of the 80/20 ratio above (love the idea). There needs to be a larger fraction of veg-friendly food than the fraction of vegetarians in the group, because there will always be omnivores who would rather the veg option.

              7. alienor*

                Not saying they’re not allowed or have to eat something they don’t like – it’s just a common cause of running out of vegetarian options when the venue hasn’t planned well enough. People aren’t taking the cheese pizza to be jerks, they just don’t see it as something vegetarians eat because they think vegetarian pizza is, like, eggplant on a cauliflower crust.

              8. Nina*

                That’s actually the point – an omnivore isn’t thinking of it as ‘The Vegetarian Option’, they’re thinking of it as ‘cheese pizza, which is normal food that I like’.

                Organizers should know this and be prepared for it by having way, way more vegetarian-friendly food than they expect to have vegetarians. Even in a crowd of all omnivores (unusual where I come from), having an option with no meat in it doesn’t hurt.

              9. Michelle Smith*

                It’s actually pretty easy! Did you have an option when registering to specify dietary restrictions? If so, then the vegetarians, vegans, pescatarians, celiacs, diabetics, observant Muslims, observant Jews, etc. put that information in their registration forms and the venue (hopefully) prepared accordingly. If you didn’t put down any restrictions and you can comfortably eat the pepperoni, grab a slice of pepperoni! Likewise, if you were given the option to preselect an option for your meal and you selected a meat option, that’s what you should take. Even if you aren’t really feeling like meat day of, be kind to someone who will go hungry if you don’t.

                Also, if you see one pizza is labeled cauliflower crust – gluten free and you are not celiac or did not ask for gluten free accommodations, grab one of the 500 standard slices and leave the 8 specialty slices alone. If after everyone has been served and they’re starting to shut down it looks like no one is going to finish that pizza off, by all means, have a slice. But if you eat something that is required for someone else’s diet just because it seems tasty, you should make sure that everyone from that group already got a chance to grab some. You might be equally fine to eat the gluten free pizza as the regular one, but those 3-4 people who specifically need the celiac friendly option will hate you when they’re violently ill because you couldn’t be bothered to just take the slices for the general population.

                Hope that helps!

                1. Frieda*

                  Yep, as a person whose vegetarian meal has been eaten by an omnivore because it looked tasty more times than I can count, this.

                  I can eat a roll and some side salad for my dinner, and I can even be gracious about it to the waitstaff because Lord knows it’s not their fault but if you’ve chosen the only food I can feasibly eat instead of thinking about what you (didn’t) put on your “dietary restrictions” response? I grind my teeth at you.

            2. Jackalope*

              This reminds me of a restaurant visit back in the day when I got the vegetarian option. I did so because I like veggies and it looked good. Apparently that restaurant thought that only people on diets would eat a vegetarian meal. Ugh. I can get leaving off butter and maybe even olive oil (although people on diets often eat olive oil), but they also didn’t bother to add any seasonings or anything and just gave me a sad plate of tasteless steamed veggies. So sad!

          3. Snowflake*

            Once the person who ordered pizza for lunch got “fancy” pizzas instead of making sure there was a plain cheese option – we had some picky eaters, others who didn’t eat pork – always make sure there’s a simple option!

            1. Pizza Pizza*

              This reminds of the time I was at a board meeting for a group I volunteered with and they ordered pizza without asking people’s preferences. Once everyone arrived they said “oh, we ordered pizza, hope everyone’s okay with that.”

              I said, “I love pizza! I’ll eat anything except olives and artichokes.”

              Dear reader, they had ordered one pizza with Kalamata olives and one pizza with artichoke hearts.

              (Thankfully these are not allergies, just preferences, so I ate the pizza and picked off as many olives and artichokes that I could.)

              1. Lynx*

                These are… such weird choices for a group pizza order! I say this as an artichoke lover but an olive hater. I just feel like both are foods that are likely to have a clear love-it-or-hate-it response with no “meh, I’ll eat it” middle ground.

                1. Sorrischian*

                  No kidding! I love both of those but the only time I’d suggest them for a group order was if it was one out of several options AND I knew for sure there were at least four or five other people who also liked them enough that we’d eat that whole pizza and leave the other options for everyone else.

            2. LifeBeforeCorona*

              I’ve learned when ordering pizza for groups that the veggie option goes fast and first because it looks so much better than the pepperoni. Also, people often use it as a chance to try a slice of something that they don’t normally eat.

          4. Mongrel*

            Even when dealing with groups of friends I’ll always throw in a cheese pizza as hard to be offended by it (barring lactose intolerance)

        4. cabbagepants*

          I’m an omnivore who generally prefers a good vegetarian option and it’s such a bummer! I’d much rather have mushroom pizza than pepperoni but I don’t want to eat up all the veg food so I take the pepperoni.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Your consideration for others is refreshing and greatly appreciated as someone who has had to order Uber Eats to a conference venue because all the plain pizza I could actually eat was taken by others.

          2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Feel free to lie on the pre-registration forms and say that you’re a vegetarian even though you can technically eat meat! Then, you can reluctantly take the meat option if the veggie one ran out, and take the veggie option that you ordered and they planned for you to have if it’s available. This increases flexibility for the whole group (since one of the “vegetarians” can give up their veggie meal if truly needed) and increases the likelihood that you get the veggie meal you’d prefer (since there is one planned for you specifically), so it’s a win-win.

            Vegetarian meals aren’t like accessible parking places, where there can only be so many at a given venue because there are only so many spaces close to the door so it’s important not to ask for one if you don’t need it. The caterer could, given sufficient notice, make enough vegetarian meals for the entire conference to eat. They just need an advance headcount of how many to make.

        5. Tau*

          I was this person in my prevegetarian days, and one of the great things about going fully veggie is that I no longer have to gauge if there’s enough food for the vegetarians and for me to have some too, or whether I need to take a meat option which I can eat in theory but don’t like much.

          1. Phlox*

            i had an omnivore colleague who at staff retreats would take charge of making sure the actual vegetarians had the first pass on the veggie stuff – it was a small act of love and I so appreciated it

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Also send anyone with allergies up first, way ahead of anyone who doesn’t understand cross contamination and uses the same spoon for every dish.

              1. BeachMum*

                Thank you. I’m severely allergic to shellfish, so will avoid large parts of a buffet (even, sigh, the salad bar) because people aren’t careful about using the correct spoon and/or dripping stuff into other containers. I’d rather not have a (so far non-serious) allergic reaction because it makes me sick for a few days. I’m willing to eat virtually anything that won’t kill me, but have been to meetings and conferences (and parties) where I ate chips because that’s all that was safe.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Deathly allergic to seafood (basically if it lives its whole life in the water I can’t eat it – and I also can’t eat anything cooked with or plated up with it either). Thank you – cross contamination is such a real and dangerous risk.

              2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                Yeah, I’m severely allergic to a specific vegetable, which means the whole salad bar is probably off-limits if I’m not the first one through since people use one set of tongs in multiple bins and things from back bins get dropped into front bins and then picked out. (And I may have cross-contamination issues even if I’m first if they cut all of the raw veggies on the same cutting board with the same knife.)

                I miss Sweet Tomatoes. They’d always get a new bin of any veggie placed near my allergen on the salad bar out from under the counter so I wouldn’t have to worry about cross-contamination. It was pretty much the only salad bar I trusted.

        6. Quite anon*

          I will eat meat… but I can’t stand the texture of fat or gristle, and don’t like seafood or shellfish, so when the meat options contain any of those things I will happily snack on veggies instead.

            1. Ms. Carter*

              I usually eat vegetarian, but indulged in a fancy duck breast while out at dinner last week. I took one badly cooked bite, threaded through with long strings of connective tissue and unrendered fat, and nearly gagged.

              1. Lynn*

                Oh, that’s so sad! A fresh duck breast provided by a hunter friend, that I sear in butter at home, is one of my favorite treats.

                ~Another Ms. Carter

        7. SpaceySteph*

          Yeah I am a meat eater, but my favorite sandwich at Panera is the Mediterranean veg. Especially if I’m sitting in a conference all afternoon, I’m going to choose a lighter lunch and that probably skews vegetarian.

          Either keep the vegetarian stuff separate for those who ask, or overbuy it.

        8. Nephron*

          I end up grabbing vegetarian options because you realize by day 2 of traveling that you have not had your normal amounts of fruits and vegetables. This is why so many feel unwell after conferences and conventions, you are not going to do well if you eat nothing but starch and meat for three or four days.

        9. Freya*

          I’m dairy free diabetic, on the registration forms (it’s much more complicated than that, but that description is simple enough for catering people to get it right) and that means for morning tea, afternoon tea, and dessert I always get given fruit.

          Turns out, a lot of people like fruit and will eat that along with their cake. And then I don’t get any between meals snacks at all to help my blood sugar…

      3. Jezebella*

        THIS! The non-veg*ans will eat up all of the veg options before we can get to them. SO ANNOYING.

          1. zinzarin*


            If it’s buffet-style, I’m going to grab what looks best to me. I’m an omnivore and often choose a vegetarian or vegan dish because, well, vegetables are yummy! If there’s not enough vegetarian or vegan food on the buffet or in the food line, that’s the organizer’s fault, not the diners! I think the 80-20 rule (80% vegetarian) someone else illustrated is just perfect for this very reason. Put the imbalance in the vegetarian’s favor and it becomes nearly impossible for them to go unserved.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              Same. And often the mass produced meat option just doesn’t look that appealing, and the meat will be overcooked, so people who may normally choose meat will just skip it.

            2. SpaceySteph*

              This is largely true, but I think it is inconsiderate. Yes the organizer should have ordered better, but once the food is there, that ship has sailed. If you look down a buffet and its mostly meat, it would be considerate to steer mostly away from the veg options to leave those for people who don’t eat meat.

              1. Someone Online*

                If I’m really looking forward to the vegetarian option, I tend to stay back and get my food toward the end of the line to gauge if there will be enough for me.

              2. NoMarie*

                If you’re not the organizer, you don’t know if that veg option is supposed to feed 2 or 200.

                1. Michelle Smith*

                  But the omnivores can eat the meat options or the vegetarian options. The vegetarians can only eat one of the two. Yes, it’s on the organizer to plan accordingly, but it takes so little effort for omnivores to just be thoughtful when selecting what they’ll eat when there are limited options.

            3. ShanShan*

              I do agree that the 80-20 rule is the best choice, but do you understand how irritating it might be for someone who is facing having no meal at all to hear “well, if it’s buffet-style, I’m going to grab what looks best to me!” as if eating something that isn’t your absolute top choice or waiting longer before getting exactly what you want is such a difficult thing?

              Like, I understand that people sometimes aren’t aware of these situations, or make mistakes, etc., but that’s not the same thing as refusing to even try.

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            If this is an event where they asked ahead of time whether you want the vegetarian option, and if you did not check it, then do not take the vegetarian food.

            1. Worldwalker*

              So omnivores *must* take options containing meat, even if it’s something they hate? For example, if there’s cheese pizza and pepperoni pizza, they have to take the pepperoni pizza even if they utterly hate it?

                1. Not a Real Giraffe*

                  In most circumstances, you will be asked ahead of time if you have any dietary requirements, and conference organizers will take that into consideration when planning the menus. But you’re not going to be asked, “On Day 3 of the conference, we’re serving pizza. What topping(s) do you want and will eat?” So it’s not like you’re committing to a particular meal selection, you’re just answering whether or not you are a person who will eat meat.

                2. Quite anon*

                  Not mistranslated, just doesn’t get granular enough. If the meat option is spicy jalapeno steak burritos, and the vegetarian option is non spicy bean burritos, I’m taking the non spicy, vegetarian or not, because while I am a meat eater, I’m also NOT a spicy jalapeno eater, and I am not making myself sick from eating jalapeno food because the event organizer was a fool. Most food surveys just ask “do you eat meat” and don’t factor in people who eat meat but not fish, or people who eat meat but only if it’s fish, or other more nuanced dietary restrictions.

          3. desdemona*

            One solution that used to work at scouting events when I was a teen – the vegetarians and vegans and other allergies get to go to the buffet first. Then meat-eaters know they can take veggie meals without putting someone out.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              This is the same solution used in my SO’s extended family. Anyone with special dietary needs goes first.

              I don’t mind sharing, but it’s a two-way street.

            1. Not a Real Giraffe*

              This is simply not practical at a conference with a large number of attendees, especially when lunch may be on a “flow” for 90 minutes and people can pop by the buffet as their schedule allows. Event organizers just need to plan for far more vegetarians and vegans and other diets than they typically might.

          4. Boof*

            This kind of reminds me of bathroom wars; ie, the disabled stall counts as a bathroom stall, it’s supposed to be INCLUSIVE of people with disabilities, not EXCLUSIVE to people without [??] disabilities.
            Unless everything was preordered individually in an advance and people are grabbing things they didn’t order, I see it as a failing on the conference meal planners to not provide enough vegetarian food (it’s healthy for everyone + tastey and looks good, why not max it out??) rather than on non-vegetarians trying to guess at whether someone else “needs the food more”.

            1. BubbleTea*

              The issue with both these examples is that the impact isn’t the same. Someone who needs the accessible toilet is much more impacted by that single bathroom being occupied than someone who can use any of them.

              1. Quite anon*

                Except when it comes to food, it’s much more nuanced than “the handicapped person can only use that stall, therefore it should be left free for a handicapped person”. When it isn’t a case of each individual person has their own, clearly labelled meal, it’s not right to tell a meat eater who can’t stomach seafood to choke it down anyway because the tofu is for vegans, or a meat eater who gets sick if they eat capsaicin that the not spiced up bean dish isn’t for them. There are lots of people who will not mention a bunch of sensitivities because they’re sensitivities, not life threatening, and don’t want to make a fuss because they know they will be able to scrounge something, and you generally don’t know none of the meat dishes will be things you can eat until you arrive.

              2. Boof*

                @-@ If there is only one bathroom, it needs to be accessible to everyone and people can’t avoid using it because someone might come along! I mean, if someone is waiting in line let them through if they indicate they need it but there’s no point in avoiding an empty bathroom
                Same thing with food; can’t guess who in the line behind you is vegetarian?? Solution is to provide more vegetarian food? / more accessible bathrooms?

                1. Yumyum*

                  I think the solution is that, unless it’s a labelled plate situation where everyone chooses a specific menu option in advance, you have to cater for about 20 percent in excess. Also make sure the majority of the food is plant based, as other commenters have suggested.

        1. MandaPanda*

          Not a convention, but I was on the activities committee for my organization and we had a few vegans/vegetarians on the team. One time, we had a catered ice cream social and a small tub of sorbet off to the side for the three or four people with dietary restrictions. It was AMAZING how suddenly half the employees were obsessed with the sorbet, even jumping out of the ice cream line to ask if they could have some–before our vegan employee had even come downstairs to partake!

          1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

            Yes anyone who can’t eat certain foods and gets a special dish (gluten-free, veggie, etc) will often find their dining companions are desperate to “try a bite” even though the person has that special dish because they literally can’t eat any of the other food options …

            1. many bells down*

              Oh the number of times my spouse’s company has ordered lunch in… and he’s found someone else happily chowing down on his (labeled, with his name) gluten-free meal.

            2. Babbalou*

              When my niece got married, the night before the wedding there was a large party in a State Park shelter with a pizza food truck. Because I’m GF, and the niece’s twin sister is GF, there were a few GF pizzas being made.

              I cannot tell you how many times I heard people ahead of me in line say, as they looked at the single GF pizza and the large amount of regular pizzas, “Oh, I think I’ll try the GF pizza – I’ve never had it before.”

              1. LifeBeforeCorona*

                I run into that a lot, because we generally serve only 2 or 3 gluten free students, their meals tend to be different and look delicious. The number of times I’ve had to stop non GF people from grabbing the GF option is a lot. It got to the point where the GF option was held back and still people will try to access it and on several occasions when my back is turned, outright steal it and consider it a compliment because it looked so good they couldn’t resist. Meanwhile my poor GF students end up with nothing that they can eat.

            3. Middle Aged Lady*

              I made salmon for a gluten free guest whom I found out at the last minute could not eat my delicious, world-famous lasagna I had made for the others. It was good! It always gets compliments! But boy did they all cast longing glances at his plate.

          2. Dragon_Dreamer*

            We had an ice cream social at my college once, and I’d mentioned I’m lactose intolerant. The dean who organized it got me a special tub of lactose free ice cream. He had to hide it, to make sure I (and anyone else actually intolerant) got any! Apparently folks were convinced that it was “healthier.” In subsequent years, they ordered water ice as well.

            During the beginning of the plague, ALL the specialty ice cream at the supermarket, the gluten free, the lactose free, and the diabetic friendly ones were the first to sell out. People in my area decided those had to be “healthier” and even bragged about eating it for that reason online. I shamed a few of them by reminding them that those kinds were for those of us who COULDN’T have anything else without Consequences.

        2. Worldwalker*

          I try not to do that, but when the omnivore option is something that, say, involves spicy Italian sausage, my options are to eat the vegetarian option or go hungry. And that example in Allison’s post involving the shellfish? It triggers my migraines; I couldn’t eat any of that.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Yeah – that one was me. What made that convention a really bad fail:

            The convention was three days on religious, allergy, and disability accommodations in the public school system – yet they completely failed to accommodate any allergies or other dietary restrictions for the attendees at said conference.

            I spent three days having to leave and go to McDonalds because it was the only close food option that wouldn’t kill me. Annoying was an understatement.

        3. Laura*

          I really see the responsibility here with the planners resp. the kitchen.

          A guest at a buffet is sufficiently conscientious if they do not take more than one serving of something at a time, (looking at you, five-steaks-guy!) and put serving spoons and the like back to where they got it from.

          Serving only four schnitzel for fifteen guests or only one veggie dish on a buffet of twelve dishes, that’s a planning issue and while it is great if the guests somehow manage to fix this among themselves, but expecting them to solve it is like expecting your coworkers to solve a management issue.

      4. Lynn*

        We had a work lunch where a non-vegetarian tried to grab the last vegetarian meal because “he tries to eat less meat on the weekdays”. It was passive aggressively suggested that he let real vegetarians have first pick, by multiple people

        1. cabbagepants*

          ? his behavior seems reasonable. The blame for having too many meat options and not enough veg should be on the organizers, not the person who wants to choose his own sandwich.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yeah, how is not wanting to eat a lot of meat a bad look? You’d think vegetarians/vegans would want us to reduce our meat consumption…

            1. Excalibur*

              It sounds like there were vegetarians waiting for food, so taking the LAST vegetarian meal, this guy was leaving them with nothing to eat whereas he had other options (though maybe they weren’t his first choice).

              1. ferrina*

                Did he know that there were vegetarians waiting for food? If he did, then yes, this is a total jerk move. But it’s also reasonable that he didn’t know. It’s more up to the organizer to make sure that if there’s a limited supply of resources for people with restrictions, that the people with restrictions get priority.

          2. Ukdancer*

            I think it depends if it’s a buffet or a pre-order situation. On a buffet have what you like but if you pre-order then have the decency to eat what you ordered.

          3. SoloKid*

            “organizers” for a work lunch are often office staff, not professional caterers that should know the ratios better.

          4. Vegetarians eat more than lettuce*

            Both of these things are true: have more meat and dairy free options, sure, but if you see there’s one last vegetarian option on the table and you usually eat meat, be courteous and leave it be so your vegetarian co-worker can have lunch, too.

          5. Lenora Rose*

            His behaviour is only reasonable in a buffet situation, not in a situation where only enough vegetarian options were ordered to cater to the actual vegetarians. Think individual plates or wraps brought in by a meeting planner.

            I took a vegan meal once, but:
            – It was a leftover from a prior crew who had all either taken their meals or departed an hour before, so we had actual genuine extra of everything (except gluten free).
            – I made sure all of my crew who needed to eat at all, much less who needed the vegan option, already had their meal.
            – It was one of two vegan ones left over so someone else could even get seconds.

          6. Storm in a teacup*

            No it really doesn’t because he *can* eat the meat but the vegetarian cannot.
            Honestly some of these responses show such a lack of common courtesy it’s shocking.
            Don’t blame the organiser for being an a** to justify your AH behaviour.
            My worst experience as a vegetarian was as a 12 year old on a school trip to France.
            Coming from a multicultural London school about 25-30% of the students didn’t eat the pork (veggie or Jewish or Muslim) served for dinner on the first day. What did we get instead? A pot of yoghurt! And a second pot for dessert. Our teachers ended up running out to buy some chips and salad for us.

            1. cabbagepants*

              It doesn’t make him an asshole to think that he could take and eat a portion of proffered food. Not everyone is constantly thinking about everyone else’s dietary restrictions! It would not have been bad or hard for whoever set out the food to communicate that the vegetarian portions were to be reserved for people who were dedicated vegetarians. If I were grabbing a lunch and there were 3 ham sandwiches on a plate and 1 turkey sandwich, and I went for the turkey instead of the ham, I wouldn’t deserve my colleagues’ passive aggression for taking the last Kosher meal unless it was specifically labelled and set aside as such.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          I mean…then you shouldn’t be ordering *just enough* vegetarian meals to cover vegetarian coworkers? People who eat meat may end up liking the vegetarian option more! Or they don’t like the meat options on offer! Or they want to eat less meat and are planning on having grilled chicken at dinner! It would be one thing to politely say “oh I’m so sorry but X is vegetarian and they haven’t been through yet and this is the last one”, but to be snide about it is just unnecessary, and speaks to your ordering process not being sufficient.

        3. Nusuth*

          As a vegetarian, I’m a little baffled at how many people (in this thread and others) are defending their ABSOLUTE RIGHT to take the last vegetarian meal if they are a meat-eater who feels like veg, because it’s the office’s fault that there’s not enough meals for people who might want them, not theirs. I guess you’re technically right… but wouldn’t you rather one of your coworkers be able to eat?

          1. SoloKid*

            I’m with you. Large conferences are one thing, but in an office situation the budget is often tight and there’s only one meal per person ordered, usually by office staff that doesn’t have time to ask everyone “we know you’re not vegetarian, but are you ok with this specific meat option”.

            1. Quite anon*

              I think there are two situations that are getting confused. There are the office lunches, where food is ordered for specific individuals, and there are conferences where food is set out and people are invited to help themselves. In an office setting, taking the vegetarian food that was specifically ordered for one person is downright rude. In a conference setting, the organizers of the conference really should have planned for this, and people shouldn’t have to choose between eating something they hate that is technically meat and taking a veggie dish because vegetarians “might” need it, if there isn’t enough for all. Because ensuring everyone gets enough food is the event planner’s job.

          2. AngryOctopus*

            But our point is this: if you have 4 vegetarians and you order 4 vegetarian plates, you’re not accounting for 1-people liking the vegetarian option more, 2-people who maybe can’t eat an ingredient in the meat option and think the veg option is just fine 3-the fact that MOST people going through your line aren’t going to know that you only have 4 vegetarians and some haven’t been through the line yet, so they don’t know the veg option is off limits because you didn’t get enough of it.
            There are several solutions: 1-speaking to caterers and learning how ratio your orders, as discussed above, 2-ordering everyone their own meal that is labelled with their name (many places do this for you, esp if you order online and use the ‘notes’ section), 3-holding the veg option separate and having the veg people come to you directly to get it.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Any and all of these make sense.

              Having people have to guess whether they’re allowed to take the food they like, or if it’s been secretly reserved for someone else, does not make sense.

              1. saskia*

                Seriously. We can’t second-guess every single situation we encounter in the world. The conference organizers/lunch-orderers should plan better.

            2. BubbleTea*

              4 – make all the catering vegetarian by default as that serves the largest possible collection of people.

              1. Angry socialist*

                This is always what I do. When doing the meal options for our wedding, everything was vegetarian. When I ordered food for a large meeting at a previous job, I made sure to announce, “This dish here is made of chicken. Everything else is vegetarian.”

                This approach means you have to pick a caterer who has good vegetarian food! The meeting food was from a Middle Eastern place and had lots of protein like hummus and falafel. It was all delicious.

              2. cabbagepants*

                It’s interesting, isn’t it, where the default is. An omnivore “only” having available a grilled veggie and hummus sandwich, rather than the ham they might prefer, is considered worse than a vegetarian only having available the ham sandwich.

                1. Kwebbel*

                  Oooops, I mean the former. Definitely the former. An omnivore being given a veggie and hummus sandwich even though they wanted ham is absolutely better than a vegetarian being given a ham sandwich that they can’t ethically eat.

                2. Quite anon*

                  I’d say what makes it “worse” isn’t the meat eater having to eat veggies, per se, it’s that a lot of the protein options in vegan food are also things a lot of people have sensitivities or allergies to. Thinking specifically soy, mushrooms, tree nuts, and peanuts, and it’s specifically a problem because basic non vegetarian food is generally meat on bread, with possibility of gluten free bread or lettuce instead of bread, but basic vegetarian food tends to have a ton of ingredients, increasing the probability of triggering a food sensitivity. It’s not always immediately apparent that tasty veggies are tasty because they were marinated in sesame oil, for example.

                3. Anna*

                  Wanna second Quite Anon here: the issue isn’t “what if we made it vegetarian and then someone who would have liked meat better is sad .” The issue is that vegetarian is not the only food restriction or sensitivity that exists.

                  Vegetarian-centric dishes are actually *more* likely to have ingredients that will make me ill (celiac). It’s more frequently bread or pasta-based, and a lot of meat substitutes and salad seasonings have gluten as well. And there is, unfortunately, a decent amount of caterers who think that “yes-meat or no-meat” is the *only* thing they need to worry about, to the extent of mocking or shaming people for not being able to eat something because “it’s already vegetarian.” (There are a bunch of threads in this comment section about this phenomenon.)

                  I’m not going to play pain Olympics and try to make a case for whether “vegetarian is left only with a meat-option” or “celiac is left only with gluten-containing food” is “worse” – but at the very least let’s be honest the situation is more complex then “meat eater sad .”

                  Like, people like to shame those who grab a vegetarian portion if they’ve seen that person eat meant before, even when “are you vegetarian/vegan?” was the only thing the caterer bothered to ask anybody. And they forget the existence of things like:
                  – Dairy, egg, or shellfish allergies
                  – Religious restriction that allow some types of meat but not others
                  – Migraine triggers in spices or marinaded used in the meat option
                  – Caterers that will only do gluten-free cross-contamination procedures for their vegan food because they don’t want to make multiple alternative meals
                  – etc.

          3. DataSci*

            Sometimes it might be that they aren’t vegetarian but don’t eat every kind of meat – they may not eat pork, or red meat, or fish. So if the choices are veggies or a ham sandwich, some non-vegetarians may feel justified in taking the veggie option.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Yeah. The ham sandwich would be off-limits to anyone who needs kosher or halal food, too. And most conference ham sandwiches, at least that I’ve eaten, seem to be made of some material that feels like gelatin and tastes like smoke and salt and leaves you longing for a good deli sandwich. Even if the vegetarian option was a sorrowful salad, it would probably be better than those things.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              This is me at family dinners eating only side dishes because the entree is a ham.

              I like the suggestion to just do all veggie, or 80% veggie.

          4. Storm in a teacup*

            Exactly this! As I said above it’s shows a lack of common courtesy / politeness.

          5. Anna*

            I mean, I agree someone is being an asshole if they take food they *know* was specifically ordered for a person with dietary restrictions and only in the amount required for the number of people with declared dietary restrictions. (I.e., any case where they order one meal per person and ask you to declare relevant restrictions beforehand.) Or in cases like offices that are small enough for “okay we are starting to run low on vegetarian food, has anyone vegetarian not gotten food yet?” is something people could reasonably verify.

            But the vast majority of “blame the caterers” comments are *not* talking about this situation- they’re talking about buffets in large catered events (given, you know, the question was about conferences), in which case people getting their food have no way of knowing how many people with X-food restriction are present or have eaten yet. And a lot of times people getting their food don’t even realize if something is the designated Halal-option or gluten-free option or shellfish-free option or nut-free option etc. if it’s not labeled as such.

            So yes, I do indeed blame the caterers in that context, because it’s not reasonable to expect people getting food in a buffet to predict how much there is for [insert dietary restriction here] when we are talking about the scope of hundreds or thousands attendees.

            And even more than that, I would like to point at the thread in this comment section about caterers conflating various dietary restrictions (e.g., things like assuming “gluten-free” means “vegan”). Because being vegetarian is not the only form of dietary restriction that exists, a lot of different people’s dietary restrictions conflict with one another, and sometimes caterers like to have one “food sensitive” dish so they don’t have to prepare multiple alternatives. As in, if there is a meat option and a vegetarian option *but the meat option contains ingredients that will make me sick*, I’m obviously going to take the vegetarian one.

        4. ToDoList*

          Yes, that’s totally understandable. It’s great that meat-eaters want to grab the vegetarian / vegan option! I love that! But — if , as a meat-eater, you’d like to have the option to grab a vegetarian / vegan meal, then please tell the organizers so that they have the information they need! If non-vegetarians don’t let anyone know that they might want the veggie option, then that runs the risk of leaving vegetarians / vegan with no food, which I think we can agree is not okay.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I don’t know if I want the veg option at a buffet until I see what’s available and what’s in each dish. The real way to deal with this is to either learn how to order (discussed by those who know above), or to make sure everyone gets individual meals with names on them. I don’t want to be yelled at for grabbing egg salad when the other options are roast beef with horseradish (no thank you) and chicken salad that has celery in it (barf). You want everyone to be able to have something that they WANT to eat as well as CAN eat. So again, because a lot of choices are not known until you’re actually there, it would behove you (not specific you, but really a more “your company” generic you) to make sure you’re ordering good ratios of veg to non veg.
            I’ll will say that vegan and/or gluten free is generally so different that it may be put aside with an organizer for the vegan(s) to grab personally (like if you have sandwich trays, the meat and veg will all be out, but they’ll bag the vegan/gluten free lunch to assure no cross contamination).

            1. Quite anon*

              Meanwhile I’d shudder in disgust at the mayo in the chicken and egg salad, try to eat the roast beef with horseradish, and possibly throw it up an hour later depending on how easily removed the horseradish is. Horseradish does not agree with me, but mayo agrees with me even less.

              Having a variety of dishes which don’t have overlapping ingredients is a good way to make everyone happy.

            2. UKDancer*

              Definitely. I’ve been to buffets with 3 options (meat, fish and veggie) and haven’t liked the meat or fish options but the veggie one is something like tomato pasta or veg lasagne which I do quite like. I’m not going to have the meat one I don’t like because I’m an omnivore. Caterers should make sure they have a good amount of each option when it’s an open buffet. Otherwise do something with individual dishes.

      5. ursula*

        I don’t blame the non-vegetarian attendees for this, btw! I totally get it, and lots of people are generally kinda trying to eat less meat or more vegetables or just like the variety. The salty tone here is purely directed like 90% at the event organizers and like 10% at the catering services.

        1. Tau*

          Honestly, one of the contributing factors to me going completely vegetarian was that drastically reducing my meat consumption did not work well with office catering. Either I ate the meat thing that I was really actively trying to avoid, or I risked being a rude omnivore eating the vegetarians’ food so they didn’t have any. It’s a really frustrating situation to be in if you’re serious about only eating meat rarely and/or from trusted sources. At some point I decided that I was eating so little meat I might as well go all the way and be the vegetarian complaining about my food getting eaten instead!

      6. Forkeater*

        Yeah imagine that! Meat eaters eat vegetables! Who’d a thunk it? Sorry for the sarcasm, frustrated vegetarian here.

      7. WheresMyPen*

        My best friend was on a flight once, and had requested a vegetarian meal in advance as she really was vegetarian. Problem was, loads of passengers fancied the look of the veggie meal and by the time they got to my friend they’d run out. The stewardess did feel really bad and kept plying her with bread rolls the whole flight.

        1. Mockingjay*

          In my experience, it depends on the airline. The large, “name brand” carriers usually reserve and label specific meals that were requested in advance by that person’s seat number. Low cost carriers – you’re probably better off bringing your own food. Of course it also depends on the length of the flight; anything under 3 hours and all that’s offered is a snack no matter what airline you fly.

          1. Juli*

            I recently flew and indeed when meal time came around the stewardess brought me a specially labelled vegetarian meal and I was like uh?

            It caused a momentary kerfuffle till they had confirmed that they got the right person and I had merely forgotten that I have set my meal requirements as vegetarian in the airline profile to assure I have something to eat on a flight.

            And, yes, it was a brand name one.

            On the return flight I was even happier with that decision since what I got was a lot more interesting than what the other people got.

        2. Nina*

          My experience with ordering vegetarian meals in advance on planes has been –
          Singapore had about half the cart full of vegetarian options (plural! more than one!) and it was meat meals that actually ran out first
          Qantas wrote my name and seat number on the lid of the food to make sure I got it (caught a glimpse of the rest of the warmer drawer of vegetarian meals and yep, all labeled)
          I have no experience with getting meals on US airlines lol

          1. Meerkat*

            qantas was the airline that refused to let me preorder a vegan meal and also stocked approximately two of the vegetarian option for the entire cabin! it turned out they had vegan options for purchase but every other airline I’d flown had never done anything like that so I hadn’t expected it.

        3. Storm in a teacup*

          If anyone is flying out of the UK I highly recommend ordering Asian (ie Indian) vegetarian. Often made in Hounslow (near Heathrow) and as it’s got a large Indian community the food is authentic and really tasty.

      8. Snowflake*

        At my sisters college graduation we preordered vegetarian sandwiches. Day of, they let people take sandwiches first-come first-serve without checking what people ordered in advance – they only made a handful of vegetarian sandwiches and I’m sure lots of people preferred veggie over the meat options that day. It took us an hour to get fed…

      9. Artemesia*

        I can’t believe that people still haven’t figure this out. separate the food for vegetarians or have enough for everyone. Get cheese pizza for everyone, because all the meat eaters will take at least one slice.

      10. Nonanaon*

        I was lucky enough to be friends with the people who coordinated catered lunches at one of my old jobs. It was great specifically being able to request “vegetarian option; Wakeen, if anyone tries to take my vegetarian meal, slap them away and tell them no”
        …we OBVIOUSLY never had to do this but I did always get my veggie meal

        1. Dragon_Dreamer*

          Obviously, I’ve been playing too much Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 because I had the immediate image of the Goddess of Trade (tall, literally glowing blonde lady named Waukeen) slapping someone upside the head for touching a salad.

      11. Jack Russell Terrier*

        This is an issue with a pizza party too! Often they have plain and pepperoni pies. Omnivores pile both on their plates … and all too often vegetarians are left staring at a pepperoni. I’ve taken to putting a sign saying ‘Please leave enough for vegetarians, thanks’.

        1. Dahlia*

          Kinda just sounds like you need to order a lot more cheese pizza? How is anyone supposed to know how many vegetarians are left?

      12. Lulu*

        I remember an event during my college orientation many years ago. You had to request a vegetarian option in advance so they’d have enough, and by the time I got to the line, they were completely out of the veggie burgers. They had also collected requests for vegan options, so since they were out of vegetarian, I asked for the vegan instead. They initially refused because “that’s for the vegans,” and tried to convince me that I would just have to take one of the regular burgers. Nope, that’s not how that works. You can get more restrictive, not less. Whether people had taken the veggie burger by accident, or by preference, I’ll never know. But it just doesn’t work well when catering to assume that everyone has the one standard thing, and then collect specific numbers for the restricted things. I’m sure some people weren’t vegetarian but don’t like beef, or missed the sign-up window, or had an iffy stomach that day, or whatever.

    2. Queen of the Introverts*

      The funny thing is, IT’S NOT THAT HARD. Caterers, at least until a decade or so, seemed so think “vegetarian” meant “must serve an entirely different meal” even when the meal they were serving was entirely meat-free aside from the main meat.

      Thankfully last week I was at an event and “veggie lasagna on the left, meat lasagna on the right” was just a matter of course.

      1. desdemona*

        I experienced this on an overnight flight once, apparently because the veg meal was supplied by a different company. Dinner was fine, but my breakfast was a fruit cup consisting mostly of honeydew (blech). Everyone else got a croissant.

        1. Jezebella*

          It’s like they think we’re on a no-carb low-cal diet just because we don’t eat meat. Every veggie plane meal I’ve ever gotten involved fruit as dessert. It’s not like there’s meat in the cookies, people.

          1. FrivYeti*

            No, but there is butter. It wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of those alternatives default to “vegan” rather than “vegetarian” in order to avoid the work of a third alternative.

            1. cabbagepants*

              yes, it’s clear that some places have a “regular” option and a “food restrictions” option, with the latter covering vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, low carb, peanut free, etc etc. Not much is left in this latter category!

              1. AngryOctopus*

                Yeah, I attend a conference each year with ~14K attendees. They have a regular option and a vegan/gluten free option. With that many people they need to limit what it is they’re preparing. I think they even say that certain allergies can’t be accommodated due to the sheer number of meals being prepared (but you do get fair warning).
                That same conference led to one of my most fascinating moments where I followed 2 women into the keynote/lunch setup and they looked at the tables, already set with lunches (box lunches, you have assigned table numbers and your box has your name on it) and said “OH….they’re serving BOX lunches???” in an absolutely shocked tone. Not sure how they thought a kitchen would be able to put out 14K hot meals in the 75′ keynote time. I wish I had asked them though.

                1. Tau*

                  And then one of my relatives comes and tells you she can’t have fructose and the whole system explodes. (Although admittedly that one is both unusual and so restrictive I think she just always brings her own food.)

          2. Lalaith*

            Or when, like, a restaurant offers a veggie sandwich with a side salad instead of fries. I still like fries! I don’t always want to be healthy! XD

              1. Al*

                In the U.S., at least, that’s usually a unique selling-point, not the standard. I’ve never encountered duck-fat fries or schmaltzy potatoes where that aspect wasn’t vaunted and much discussed on the menu. Most fries are fried in vegetable oil (often peanut oil).

          3. Hosta*

            It’s because they lump together vegan and vegetarian. Other restricted diets sometimes get thrown in there too, like no pork or beef. There’s only one extra set of food to make and keep separate, so I guess it makes sense if you don’t think about what peoplre actually want.

            It’s the same reason why so many restaurants neglect cheese in vegetarian dishes, which, as a cheese loving non-vegetarian, I think is bullpucky.

            1. Tau*

              Sudden forceful reminder of how we had catering for a family event a few months ago and somehow my mom telling them that there was a vegetarian (me) attending so could there please be a vegetarian option ended up with us getting vegan food (and only vegan food), including vegan cheese.

              I can eat cheese. I love cheese. Please do not deprive me of cheese :( :(.

          4. Storm in a teacup*

            This exactly!
            I always get Asian Indian vegetarian meals when I fly if they’re available. Way nicer than the average vegetarian option

        2. She of Many Hats*

          As the person who arranges the office catering and deals with dietary needs ranging from vegetarian to gf to finned fish allergies and everything in-between, it’s challenging. Breakfast is hardest because most breads used by vendors are enriched breads containing eggs and/or dairy.

          1. desdemona*

            I understand that! My main frustration was that when I asked if I could have a “non-vegetarian” breakfast, they fully refused. They didn’t say they were out of the “meat” options – it came across like the person I asked either didn’t believe me or they would get in trouble? Or some secret 3rd option I’m unaware of.

            Further confusing this was that the meat-eaters were offered choice of meals for dinner – veg, fish, or chicken – and I had only listed myself as veg so I could guarantee they didn’t run out of veg before getting to me.

          2. Sloanicota*

            I agree, as the person who often ends up ordering the food (and this is in no way my background or interest, just something that gets dumped on my – heh – plate) – I do have a lot of pity on the organizers. This is an entire comments section of people who are some combination (one or more!) of GF, vegan, vegetarian, halal, kosher, allergic to tomatoes, allergic to onions, allergic to peppers, must have CHEESE on vegetarian, want meat but not meat they don’t like, no seafood, paleo, on a diet, or not on a diet, is annoyed their vegan option is also GF, or thinks the food at meetings is too boring and repetitive. It’s really, really hard to plan a meal that will make everyone happy, especially on a budget! I try to pick “disassembled” things like taco or salad bars where people can add or subtract their own ingredients, but that doesn’t resolve cross-contamination issues.

            1. Hosta*

              If I’m the one you’re referring to as demanding cheese on a vegetarian meal, I’m actually not. But it blows to get raw fruit for breakfast when everyone around you is enjoying eggs and delicious pastries, or sliced lettuce and tomato when they could have just left off the ham from a ham and cheese sandwich. Or getting another dish of raw fruit instead of the pear and brie in puff pastry. (All examples I’ve seen or heard about in real life)

              It’s frustrating to be the only one with additional limits imposed on your diet when everyone around you gets something you actually could have eaten.

              1. Certaintroublemaker*

                Yes! Totally agree. When I went vegetarian back in the Dark Ages, SO many times I’d go to an event at a nice hotel where people were served steak with a beautiful baked potato, creamed spinach, rice, gorgeous mixed vegetables on the side. Then my vegetarian plate would be a small pile of leftover crudite tossed into a steamer for a couple of minutes and dumped onto the plate. No seasoning, no oil or sauces, nothing. I would think, just give me the steak plate without the steak!

                1. Birdle*

                  Yes! The best thing would be to have an actual real vegetarian meal, but if that isn’t going to happen, why are they making more work for themselves? Send the vegetarian plates down the serving line first and double up on a side.

                  Oh my gosh I’m having flashbacks to the time lunch was a roast veggie wrap with vinegarette and feta, and my vegetarian friend got plain roast vegetables and carrot sticks instead of chips. I thought she was going to pop.

      2. Lulubelle*

        I’m always surprised at the lack of knowledge by caterers. Food is their business !!! and it’s not excusable when they think they can just brush off the bacon bits. Or think chicken isn’t meat. Or don’t know that soup with a meat stock is not vegetarian.

        I called many caterers when planning a big event and always asked them “what are your options for vegetarians?” If they said things like “we can give them a nice plate of steamed vegetables” my reply was always “ thank you, I’ll think about that, good bye.”

        I worked at a place with an absolutely clueless receptionist who ordered all the food for meetings. Even when people asked nicely about making sure vegetarians were accommodated, she couldn’t get it right. 25 pepperoni pizzas and one cheese pizza. Sandwiches: chicken-lettuce-tomato, ham-lettuce-tomato, and lettuce-tomato (this vegetarian option with the same single small leaf of lettuce and one slice of tomato so thin you could read a newspaper through it.).

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I’m thinking of my wedding (reception at a famous hotel) where the kitchen moved heaven and earth to make sure that every combination of requirements was met, with as few visible differences as possible so strangers weren’t having to discuss their diets to nosey seat neighbours. The chefs absolutely cared that every guest was getting an equal culinary experience that day.

        2. Never Boring*

          I am always boggled by this. A vegan friend of mine was hospitalized for a completely non-dietary issue and the hospital would literally give her an apple as an entire meal. I have better vegan meal options than that in my desk drawer on an average day (granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, multigrain crackers, etc.) Don’t hospitals typically have dieticians on staff? How can they be so clueless?

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I had the best food experience of my life in the hospital, but I think I hit it just right with a new dietician who wasn’t burned out yet. They were able to give me soy-free vegetarian meals that contained foods I actually wanted to eat, and I think back on that hospital menu fondly whenever I’m trying to find something I can eat in a hotel.

            (It probably helps that I genuinely love broccoli, so was happy to order a side of it at each meal and eat it plain, and prefer drinking milk to soda, so I’d be saying things like “I think I could use a little more protein with dinner – is it possible to get a glass of milk?” or “Is there any way I can get a side with more fiber? I like broccoli if you have it”, which are the kinds of things a dietician as opposed to a chef is pretty happy to hear after getting yelled at about the lack of bacon cheeseburgers by the last 5 people. My dad had a great experience on the “gut” floor of that same hospital, because they’d let him live on chocolate nutrition shakes for all of his meals, and a lousy experience on the heart floor, which did not believe in chocolate milkshakes of any kind and kept everything low-fat even though his issue was caused by a pathogen rather than his diet.)

        3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          My favorite was my college cafeteria, where I once asked if a dish contained soy. The worker stirred the big pan of whatever-it-was and told me he didn’t see any, so it should be fine. I really wanted him to draw me a picture of what he thought he was looking for…

          1. Mosquito*

            I had something similar in the work canteen. “Does the lasagne have mushrooms?” “Of course not!” with a look of, ‘Who the hell puts mushrooms in lasagne????’

            Yeah, there were mushrooms.

            Yeah, I had to go home, dose myself with antihistamines, and sleep for two days.

    3. The Prettiest Curse*

      I went to a meeting industry panel discussion earlier this year and one of the panel members said that he’d been to an event where the default menu was vegan or vegetarian and you had to opt in if you wanted meat. Apparently, some conference organisers are doing this for environmental / sustainability reasons.

      I thought it was a pretty interesting idea, and according to the panel member, a lot of the conference attendees didn’t even notice that the food was vegan until the organisers pointed it out.

      1. alienor*

        I sometimes go to a coffee shop where the default is plant milk and you can opt in to dairy milk if you want, and I LOVE IT. I’m not vegan, just vegetarian, but dairy milk upsets my stomach (I don’t like the taste either, but that’s secondary), so if my drink gets made with dairy milk I’ll either have to get it remade or throw it away.

        1. ferrina*

          Former barista and current coffee snob here. I’m all for this as long as they post that this is their policy. Beyond the taste, the different types of milk froth very differently. Whole milk can hold the most air in the froth; soy milk doesn’t hold much at all. One of my proudest accomplishments as a barista was making a dry soy cappuccino (a dry cappuccino has a lot of froth and very little liquid milk)- it took me several minutes and very specialized techniques to get enough froth.

          1. alienor*

            They do have it posted and will also let people know when they’re ordering unless it’s someone they recognize as a regular – just a quick “our default is plant milk; is that ok or would you prefer dairy?” I’ve also been to a different shop where I asked for almond and the barista let me know that the almond milk wasn’t frothing well that day, and would I like oat instead, which I appreciated.

        2. Dragon_Dreamer*

          I got my community college to stock lactose-free milk in the cafeteria… and it got to the point where they were selling MORE of that than the regular stuff! After that, you had to specifically ask for milk containing lactose. (Pretty sure it was related to the “lactose-free must be healthier” thing I mentioned above, even though the incidents were 15 years apart and at different schools/towns.)

          Fun fact: Lactase is a “use it or lose it” enzyme. I lost most of my ability to produce it by not drinking milk for most of a year. So those folks drinking lactose-free milk who didn’t need to were shooting themselves in the foot!

      2. AngryOctopus*

        This is a really great idea. There are so many ways to make great vegan and vegetarian food, and it has to be more sustainable and cost effective for the caterers.

      3. Minimal Pear*

        Ooh I love this idea and will remember it in case I’m ever in a position to do the ordering for an event like this!

      4. Sloanicota*

        Oh man, I remember somewhere (Slate?) there was a letter about a vegan or vegetarian bride who wanted her wedding to be meat-free but was inviting her meat-eating extended family and people in the comments were FURIOUS! It was really strange. People felt it was a failure of hospitality and were opining they’d have to swing by McDonalds on their way to the reception or whatever. I suspect it has changed a bit since then, but perhaps not as muc as I’d hope.

        1. Kwebbel*

          My husband and I celebrated our joint birthday this year, and we decided to make it half-meat half-veg even though we’re both veg*ans. We just figured it would be more comfortable for our guests, who always accommodate us, since many of them are from a place where veggie meals are a rarity. We were blown away: Almost everyone came up to us at the end of the party and said, “hey, you know, that was kind of you, but you could have made it all veg. We really would have been happy with that.” So people are more open than I think I was giving them credit for!

        2. Her name was Lola, she was an intern*

          My wedding was vegetarian Italian food, because my husband and I wanted to be able to eat everything! A relative decided to tell me that people were upset there was no meat. We know that others stopped to get burgers on the way, because apparently meatless lasagna, bread, potatoes and vegetables simply would not be filling!

          1. Jackalope*

            Related, but I’ve read in AITA on Reddit that there are people who are beside themselves with anger at being going to a wedding and then learning that it’s dry (no alcohol). I read about this in multiple thread there; people saying they arrived at a reception and were so furious that there was no alcohol that they left, in some cases huge numbers of guests, or people who asked whether there was even a point to going to a reception with no alcohol (apparently celebrating the new couple was not enough), etc. I was shocked. Maybe my region doesn’t do alcohol at weddings as much, or maybe it’s my subculture (used to be evangelical). But most of the weddings I’ve attended, including my own, were dry weddings, and as far as I could tell no one cared. Maybe some people went out afterwards to get hammered, which is fine, but they didn’t complain or storm out or anything. This issue seems even weirder to me than refusing to eat a vegetarian meal (our wedding had mostly vegetarian food with a couple of exceptions); alcohol is not an actual need, unlike regular meals.

      5. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

        I was thinking this. We need to reduce the amount of meat we eat, and I bet if all catered food events like this dropped meat it would have a massive impact! And most people probably wouldn’t even notice.

        1. anon diabetic*

          I’d notice.

          Most times, I walk away still hungry from buffets, because I’m only allowed so many grams of carbs per day – and that’s about the same as two slices of bread. Per day, not per meal.

          It’s shocking how high-carb beans and legumes are. Same for a lot of common vegetables, like carrots. Most plant-based proteins are quite carby.

          And I’m pretty sure you don’t want to be stuck in a buffet line behind me where I’m frantically trying to figure out if that appetizing tan dish is eggplant (low carb) or lentils (super high carb) and whether, if I split the bunless impossible burger with my husband, can I eat one baby carrot, or two?

          Truth is, the profit margins are far better on starches than they are on proteins, so you’d think it would be easier to make veg meals standard – but it’s not always practical to do so, unfortunately.

          I absolutely sympathise with the vegs and vegans, for sure! But if there’s no main that’s carb-free, I’m going to need to stop for burgers on the way home.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            You can absolutely still get meat at events that are catered that way, though – you just have to ask for it in advance.

        2. Dragon_Dreamer*

          I’d notice. I’m an obligate carnivore due to gut issues and a sulfur allergy, which results in an intolerance to sulfur-rich foods. I CAN eat veggies, but soy makes me sick, and if I eat too many veggies I’ll get sick also. Especially if they’re veggies high in sulfur, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, most beans, etc. Meats are easiest for me to digest and NOT get sick. Except egg yolks. (Though eggs in baked goods seem to be fine, eggs by themselves are a Bad Idea.)

          I *love* pasta, but due to my diabetes, I can’t live off that, either. I can have some seafood, but not all, and it can’t be prepared with fresh garlic or garlic oil, both of which are common. At weddings and the like, I usually get the pasta (requesting no garlic), whatever it is, and then make sure to have a ham sandwich or something when I get back to wherever I’m staying.

          If you think about it, meat is pre-digested veggies anyway. :P

      6. Language Lover*

        I went to a local conference a few years ago where the meals were all vegetarian (or maybe even vegan.) The food was the best conference food I’d ever had. And since the food was limited to things you’d even find on a meat eaters’ plate (vegetables, nuts, cheese as opposed to tofu or replacement meats), I don’t think most attendees didn’t realize how the organizers decided to make it easier on themselves.

        1. GarlicBreadAfficianado*

          On the surface I love this idea.

          In reality, I would hate this. Because everything in there will have been tainted by avocado. People put that on EVERYTHING nowadays.

          And I have a latex fruit allergy and within 30 minutes of ingesting something that has even touched an avocado I’m in the bathroom praying to shuffle off this mortal coil. Same with tomatoes.

          And heaven forbid I ingest kiwi or banana (at least usually you can spot that) but now I’m in itchy mouth central and I look like a dog with a mouth full of peanut butter. My allergist has warned me that the next step is anaphalaxis land… though I do wonder if you’re poisoned at a conference.. is that workers comp?

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I mean…you can’t accommodate EVERY food restriction ever. If you’re food allergies/sensitivities are that severe, then just bring your own meals or make other arrangements. It’s like how there’s not a universal company gift that everyone will like. Sometimes you have to acknowledge that when serving 600 people, they’re not going to be able to make YOU food you can eat.

            1. Dahlia*

              “Just bring your own meals” is kind of difficult when we’re talking about conferences where you have to travel.

            2. Anna*

              I find this “well obviously big conferences can’t accommodate *weird* dietary restrictions” attitude fascinating, when it’s in the same thread as a bunch of people talking about how they have to go without eating for long periods of time when conferences don’t provide food they can eat. Like, the barriers stopping, say, vegetarians from “just bringing their own meals” are the same for people with allergies.

              A lot of conferences don’t *let you* bring in outside food. Some conference centers or companies try to charge you for the “provided meal” even if you cannot safely eat it. If there’s a meeting expected to happen during the meal or immediately before/after, there might not be time for a participant to go find a store or restaurant to prepare food that’s safe for them.

              Now, to be clear, accommodating allergies doesn’t always mean “caterer must personally prepare something everybody can eat.” Giving someone with a complex allergen a heads-up that they won’t be able to eat the provided food + a small stipend for ordering externally so they can obtain outside food to eat in the conference ahead of time would be a reasonable accommodation. But the conference center should absolutely accommodate complex food restrictions in the sense of “ensuring they have a way to eat while attending the conference.”

      7. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        There are several government organisations in the UK doing this as standard. It’s partly because it’s easier, I’m sure, but it’s also for ecological reasons.

        My youngest child’s school has at least one meat free day per week (I think it’s five in the three-week menu cycle). I’ve heard of some schools going fully meat free.

    4. I exist*

      on the opposite side, I was a vegan at a large conference in DC several years ago and the vegan option was always great and based on what some people said, better than the non-veg meals. Always sad the desserts weren’t considered, though.

      1. Upset-Vegan*

        At a plant science conference with 4k people the vegan option was two bags of potato chips and an apple. Why ask for dietary restrictions if you are going to ignore them?

      2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        My university (in the 90s) was stuck in a time warp (midwest 50s) and had terrible, terrible food. Everything was glop out of a can and we had no alternatives, no grills or food court like most schools. A few years in, they piloted “specialty lines”, and my dorm got the vegetarian one. It was great! Because they had no industrial supply chain yet for it, everything was actually fresh — while the regular line was serving chef boyardee ravioli out of 10 gallon drums, we got the good stuff. The breads were heavenly. I ate vegetarian all year.

        1. Quill*

          My brother’s first college roommate was jewish, and the “hack” that my brother learned from him was that the kosher and halal stations at their university usually had better food.

    5. Prof*

      I just want to mention that the BEST conference food I ever had was one of those all-inclusive academic conferences in the UK, where every meal was provided by the event, and it was also all vegan. As a non-vegan with a deep love of dairy I was pretty skeptical, but the food was delicious! 10/10 conference food experience.

    6. Unlucky in Lunch*

      Earlier this year I was at a conference for environmental professionals who work in California. You’d think that, in this field and location in particular, the organizers would have estimated a pretty high percentage of vegetarians.

      You would be wrong. At lunch the first day the conference organizers had apparently told the venue that they would need about 30 vegetarian lunches for a conference of 600 people. I ended up with a plate that contained only a handful of mashed potatoes, while the luckier vegetarians got mashed potatoes with a small piece of tofu.

      My company’s CEO and I skipped the next session to buy lunch in the hotel pub.

      1. Birdle*

        At a California environmental conference it would probably less paperwork if you asked people if they ate meat.

        1. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

          These days that applies to most things. One IT user group I attend they last surveyed members a few years ago and everyone was happy to have vegetarian food at meetings and conferences. The most recent announcement had a tiny note at the end saying “if anyone wants non-vegetarian food please contact the organisers”. They definitely cate to my no-beans vegetarian diet so I haven’t really paid attention.

    7. Lucy*

      I once attended a training event and the vegan lunch was a potato “burger” (mashed potato pattie in a bun, no salad/sauce) with boiled potatoes and a side of chips. Quadruple carb fun times!

      1. Frickityfrack*

        I feel vaguely better about my employer’s annual bbq thing. A few years ago, the only mains were hot dogs and burgers, and everyone acted like it was crazy that I might not want to haul myself on a 10 minute walk in August heat to eat the world’s worst salad (iceberg, grated carrots, tomatoes that I have to pick off). Last year, they swore they had a “vegan” option – it was an impossible patty and non-vegan buns (and sides with no ingredient info and no one could tell me what was in them). I can’t wait to see what happens next week.

        But I guess at least no one is like, “Hey you people eat potatoes, right? Here are ALL OF THEM,” so I got that going for me.

      2. Quite anon*

        Was the potato “burger” at least fried on each side to make it delicious? or was it a literal glob of mashed potato.

    8. RC*

      Conference in Paris! France! in the near-beforetimes, they had a “banquet” dinner on the last day. Price was fixed at 50 euros, no wiggle room. For those 50 euros I got essentially naked spaghetti noodles, with I’d guess maybe 1/4 of a carrot grated in. I’m still salty (heh) about that.

      On the other side, I had some AMAZING dining at a summer school in Kiruna, Sweden. Like actually thoughtfully-composed and delicious vegetarian entrees. I guess if you’re in polar night for half the year, you want to make people happy with food. Would recommend.

    9. LowBloodSugar*

      My favorite is when the conference says “vegan options!” and the vegan option is a side of brussel sprouts. What?

      I also received a lunch box with normal Mayo and a butter cookie. Box was labeled Vegan when they really meant dairy free.

      1. RC*

        My “favorite” is when they ruin the brussels sprouts option with bacon bits… or the deviled eggs with salmon, or… sigh.

    10. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

      The caterers for our wedding tried to pull stuff like this with us, after saying that we wanted a vegetarian menu. The “very special”vegetarian dish was “the vegetable pyramid”. This was plain “roasted” (clearly squished into a pan so steamed really) vegetables in a pile on a plate next to a bit of plain rice. It was also the sole vegan, gluten free, sodium free, allergy free, fat free, texture free option. Luckily, I’d been to one of their events before (they were inhouse to the venue) so I said no dice and we had a lovely buffet.

    11. Bethany*

      My office always provides vegetarian options when they cater lunch, but they’re not separate or labelled. It’s up to the vegetarians to magically know what is in each sandwich/wrap (without opening it up and looking inside, since that is gross), or to know whether the croissant has ham inside or if whether the quiche has bacon in it.

      In one particularly egregious example there were little pies (I live in Australia, so pie = savoury filling), some of which had a plain top and some of which had a little mushroom on the top. Everyone assumed that the mushroom ones were mushroom pies….nope, same beef pie, just with a mushroom on top for decoration.

      I work in the environmental space, so we have a LOT of vegetarians. Just make two different trays!

    12. Laura*

      I had a variant of the common “no, or no useful vegan options” on a student convention back in the early 90s:

      The convention took place on campus on a long holiday weekend. Every food outlet on campus was closed, none of the few eateries within walking distance served lunch, and for most days the shops were closed.

      Catering was done on-site (probably DIY, not by a company) and was vegan. Which makes sense: It’s inexpensive, unlikely to poison anyone when done in less-than-optimal conditions, and suits vegans, vegetarians, lactose intolerants, and many people who follow religious food rules.

      Unfortunately whoever did the food planning regarded “vegan” as “standard plate, minus animal products, minus carbs”. So, not only no potatoes, no pasta, no rice, no bread, and not even tofu, but portions were about the size of a small salad.

      No one complained about the quality of the food, but I have never encountered so many hangry people in one place.

    13. ClaireW*

      Hah I had the opposite issue – went to a conference in Berlin, every provided meal option (for breakfast and lunch each of the 3 days) was vegan and at least one was gluten free. Great idea and perfect for most people because there were 2 or 3 options for each meal and nobody had to worry about not being able to eat anything. Except me… because I’m allergic to citrus fruit, and somehow every single lunch option included citrus (I assume lemon was squeezed over everything to keep it looking fresh). So my only lunch option every day was the childrens’ option from the daycare – cold tomato sauce on pasta (the same every day). I had a huge dinner at my hotel every night because it was so disappointing and non-filling.

      I think the vegan only meals idea was good in theory, but given we’d all provided allergy requests in advance I was pretty disappointed that there wasn’t one option I could have of the adults’ portion sizes.

    14. Hungry Vegetarian*

      I think it’s important to point out that conference food is often just meant to be fuel to get you through the meeting, survival meals. There are other times when you can try something new or more exciting—maybe even later that day on your own time. Many times I have been left without anything to eat at professional events because I was helping to host the event and couldn’t get to the food until it was mostly gone—including my vegetarian meal. It really stinks to be presenting and hosting when you haven’t eaten all day. Plus, many of these locations weren’t in veg-friendly cities where I could just pop out and grab a snack somewhere close by during a break. (I think that’s also something omnivores don’t always get.) I didn’t always get time for a break in that role. That being said, I have been saved by instant oatmeal packets many, many times!

  3. sequitur*

    This was university rather than work, but at a formal dinner where folks who ate fish got a fish course, as the only vegetarian at the event I was presented with AN ENTIRE CROWN OF MELON stuffed with frozen berries. And only given a fish knife to eat it with.

    1. ursula*

      Omg I had forgotten about this, but one time the “vegetarian option” was A Squash. It was a plate containing one (1) acorn squash with the top cut off and a fork. Unseasoned but for a light sprinking of, oh let’s say nutmeg, across the top. So steaming hot as to be untouchable for at least 10-15 minutes (must have been cooked top-on), so everyone else was done their meal by the time I was starting mine. Fortunately this became a conversation piece, even if it was a little embarrassing.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        I would wonder if it was just shoved into the microwave and super-heated. I can tell that type of heat a mile off … .

      2. Anonintheuk*

        I was once served an artichoke. I’d eaten artichoke before, but cut up as an appetiser/on a pizza/whatever. not a whole thing.

        Initially I thought it was a table decoration

        1. Hosta*

          Artichoke that’s intact enough to look like a decoration is a terrible thing to eat in a formal group, especially if your portion size is small enough that they expect you to scrape the base off the leaves with your teeth.

          1. Tau*

            Yeah, my family sometimes does whole artichokes as a starter, and it’s yummy but NOT something for a formal dinner. Finger food! Sucking at the leaves! Dipping!

            …….ok, so I’m buying an artichoke and dip tomorrow.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      At an all-employee meeting that included a “catered meal” – really burgers & hotdogs served in an outdoor tent & clearly provided by our normal, awful cafeteria vendor, I ate a lettuce & mustard sandwich, because no vegetarian option or cheese was provided.

      Reader – If I named my state, your first thought would be “cheese.”

      1. Polar Vortex*

        I suspect I used to live in that state myself if I guessed correctly. Honestly surprised there was no cheese!! (Sadly not surprised there was no vegetarian option depending on what part of the state this happened in.)

      2. Chirpy*

        There are many times in The Cheese State where I have thought about the odd lack of cheese.

        While I am not a full-time vegetarian, I don’t eat a ton of meat, and I have a particularly low tolerance for hot dogs. I did once have only ketchup on a bun. (This was largely due to trying to not let kids notice I was eating something different, but why didn’t we have cheese as an option??)

        1. Cheese Glob*

          Not a work thing, but when I was younger my husbands family did a LOT of picnics, almost entirely with processed lunch meat. Yuck.

          I generally ate what my father in law called a “jam sandwich” —2 pieces of bread jammed together :) or 2 pieces of bread with Miracle Whip. Hot dog buns with ketchup worked, too. I just wanted t eat something without being called weird for not wanting lunch meat.

        2. Hosta*

          I, too, know the sadness of filling a bun with condiments and nothing else. Relish, ketchup, mustard and chopped raw onions doesn’t make for balanced flavor.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yeah – similar style cookout – sauerkraut and mustard on a bun. Please – we don’t all eat hot dogs, give us options.

      3. Quill*

        Granted I lived in one of that
        state’s most urban areas, but I’m really surprised at the lack of an attempt at a veggie brat (if this was 2010 or later) or at least a very cheesed up side.

    3. BubbleTea*

      I was the contributor of the undressed salad with a single cherry tomato, and your comment has reminded me of another experience in a different place. All the non-vegetarians had some kind of elaborately confectioned cake with meringue and jelly and chocolate. I got a bowl of sad fruit salad with precisely half a strawberry. I laughed so much I was crying. People at the table were taking photos, the contrast was so stark.

    4. Rob aka Mediancat*

      At a work event I went to, the hors d’oeuvres were awesome, the dessert delicious, and the salad fine. The vegetarian option was a plate of unsauced tortellini surrounded by oversteamed vegetables. I took two bites and pushed it away in disgust. An odd misstep.

    5. Rob aka Mediancat*

      I was at a work event and got a vegetarian man course consisting of a plate of unsauced tortellini surrounded by oversteamed vegetables. The dessert was delicious, the salad was fine, but I could only take a couple of bites of the main course before giving up.

    6. I Have RBF*

      At my last university job, they regularly had catered all hands, and asked if you were meat, vegan or vegetarian. That was all well and good, except about half of the people who specified vegetarian/vegan actually grabbed and ate the meat sandwiches.

      So I, who properly signed up for a meat sandwich, was stuck with a pathetic vegan sandwich thing that I could hardly eat, because it had a soy “meat substitute”, ie soybeans, which I am allergic to. I had to try to strip the tofu substance off and hope I didn’t miss too many crumbs, because the sides? All had soybean oil in either the dressing or as margarine.

      I was very hungry by the time it ended, and miserable, because apparently they put soy margarine on the sandwich, too. I was very angry, too, because I had ordered the right thing, but it got grabbed out from under me.

  4. Kelly*

    There was a recent veterinary conference that used to be AMAZING before they sold out. Last time they offered highly discounted registration (75% off) and it was a madhouse. Registration wasn’t working, people missed their prepaid extracurriculars and they RAN OUT OF FOOD at lunch. Absolute horror show.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, that’s sheer incompetence. I always make sure we have more food at our events than we think we’ll need. (Leftovers get donated or saved for future events as appropriate.) If you run out of food or don’t accommodate dietary requirements, you have badly failed Event Planning 101.

    2. noncommittal pseudonym*

      Oof. I had largely forgotten about something similar that happened. It was a large scientific conference, and they had some mixer event at a local natural history museum. You had to pay separately, and it was listed as having “light appetizers.” Apparently, there was some sort of massive miscommunication between the museum and the conference, because people who arrived early got food, but they ran out completely within the first 30 minutes into a 3-hour event. People who arrived later got nothing. I don’t know what happened, but it was like they planned for 1/10th of the people who paid for the event. The conference ended up apologizing profusely and refunding money.

      1. Artemesia*

        I learned the hard way that when organizers say ‘light lunch’ will be provided and the venue has said light appetizers to them — that people expecting an adequate small lunch will be getting 3 crackers and be very surly.

        1. Lynn*

          I have an event coming up that promises a “light breakfast.” I imagine that will be coffee, a bottle of OJ, and a box of grocery store donuts, and I will eat before I come.

      2. Tau*

        I went to one conference where they somehow calculated 1 sandwich per person for lunch, but neglected to mention to attendees that you weren’t supposed to take multiple. I was in the back half of the queue and got no food.

        Although I did give the organisers more leeway since this was a conference for and organised by PhD students, so none of them had any experience or really knew what they were doing. Still. Most people are multi-sandwich when it comes to lunch.

    3. The Starson Princess*

      There’s nothing worse than running out of food. Some years ago, our social committee was chaired but a young, newish employee who was tasked with organizing a catered lunch for the whole company of about 150 people with some speeches from management and games. She worked with the catering company and ordered 150 portions of lasagna and salad as a buffet, figuring that would be plenty as not everyone would eat. However, it turns out that the portions of lasagna were about 2” x 2”, completely minuscule, and they completely ran out before half the people had gone through the line. Chaos ensued as about 75 hangry people figured out they weren’t getting anything for lunch. Fortunately, our managing director is a pretty smart guy so he kicked off his speech announcing that he ordered pizza for everyone which quieted the mob down considerably. But for weeks afterword, the poor committee chair heard about that lasagna lunch and everyone’s profound disappointment in almost every meeting she was in – that may be the reason she left the company shortly afterwards. There’s nothing like free lunch to get people riled up.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Portion control can be really difficult. A box of rice or pasta will list a serving size as either 1/2 or 1 cup. Then the first people through the buffet line will pile the equivalent of 4 cups on their plate.

      2. dawbs*

        oh i worked/ planned an event where we order pizza for high schoolers and i said 2 slices until everyone had been throb and we RAN OUT.
        the (new) lead of catering (had to use their services- camps rules) was a nice guy but could not grasp my level of fury when i learned that when ordering, he said each pizza would be 12 slices, but day of they were cut into 8 slices…
        “we gave you the number of pizzas you ordered… what’s the problem? ”
        (everyone got fed. Boss & I ALWAYS made sure everyone got fed- this was one of a few times when we just went around rules and i drove off campus and trusted biss to make sure i got reimbursed from petty cash. i always got reimbursed but i think boss ate the cost a few times)

  5. Wordnerd*

    It’s not the most egregious, but a conference hotel lunch that had brownies and blondies for dessert – but both had nuts in them! Why????

      1. Rob aka Mediancat*

        Yes! For a period in college our dining hall decided all the desserts went better with walnuts: chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies, brownies, rice krispie treats . . . pretty much everything but the Jello.

        1. Dragon_Dreamer*

          I’ve had an excellent walnut studded Jello, years ago, with a light white sauce. Sadly, the restaurant hasn’t made it in YEARS.

      2. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

        I didn’t realize there were so many of us. Nuts in brownies are very unpleasant even when I’ll happily eat those same nuts on their own.

        1. Lynn*

          A friend of mine just made me some date muffins with walnuts, and she put two halves on the top of each one, none inside. They got lightly toasted as they baked, and I got to experience them as their lovely selves, rather than as odd bits hiding in the muffins. I thought it was an excellent strategy.

      3. OMG, Bees!*

        Same. I love brownies without nuts, and used to buy them from a store that would only casually list the nuts. No allergy mention; on an ingredient list larger than your thumb, it would list nuts somewhere in the middle of the small font. But sometimes their brownies didn’t have nuts, so I would be surprised every time I bit in and found a nut!

    1. Tess McGill*

      Years ago my office wanted to have a going away party for me. Organizer asked me what type of cake I fancied. I said, “I really love chocolate cake, but I’m highly allergic to nuts.” On the day of the event, I walked into the conference room to find an enormous chocolate COVERED with nuts on all sides. WTH? I turned around and just walked out, went back to my desk and kept working. It was such a dysfunctional place to work and I am equally perplexed and amused to this day.

    2. Zoe*

      My mum can’t eat chocolate, which she deals with, it’s fine, except the amount of places that don’t offer a non-chocolate option for pudding is astounding!

      1. Jackalope*

        Yup! And if they DO have a non chocolate dessert it is usually (at least in the US) either: a fruit crisp, a slice of cheesecake, or crème brûlée. I’m not a fan of cheesecake (too rich), and I’m tired of fruit crisps by the point, so I usually only get dessert if it’s the crème brûlée (or the rare pie). I love going to Asian restaurants where they have a wider variety of desserts and most of them have no chocolate!

    3. .*

      And both have chocolate! White chocolate is still chocolate! Don’t offer two choices that are fairly similar.

      1. Libellulebelle*

        Blondies don’t typically have white chocolate, at least in my experience. They are basically a chocolate chip cookie in bar form.

    4. LifeBeforeCorona*

      As a kitchen manager I had the authority to make the kitchen nut free and it was great. Most school boards and kid oriented events are nut free now as a standard.

  6. kjolis*

    A conference I went to in March had its closing party on St. Patrick’s Day. The food at the party was Irish themed – baked potatoes and boiled vegetables. Since it was the kind of party where you mingle, finger foods would’ve been best, but if you were going to consume a baked potato, you had to sit down to eat it, and a packet party at a museum does not have much in the way of seating.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      Hmmm, I’m actually trying to think now about what one could use for Irish themed finger food. Crisps are the obvious one (until recently, our crisps were such a big thing that a theme park was named for them!).

      And ooh, cocktail sausages would work.

      1. Distracted Procrastinator*

        so many things work if you put them in a pastry shell. like little corned beef hand pies and other meat pie fillings. you could do potato skins with colcannon. savory fish tarts. sausage rolls. little cabbage rolls. so many things. Just about anything can be shrunk and put on a stick.

        1. Bee*

          I used to go to an annual conference party that was LEGENDARY for its mashed potato bar. They served it in martini glasses for a festive air and had a dozen different topping options, and everyone got really excited about it, and it’s also a nice substantial food for an open-bar party that starts before dinner. Genuinely a perfect cocktail party snack!

          1. Allison K*

            Was it for writers? If so, we were at the same conference and I also loved the mashed potato martinis!

          2. Lily*

            “They served it in martini glasses for a festive air and had a dozen different topping options”
            This sounds delightful and fun!

          3. Joielle*

            I’m in the early stages of planning a big conference for next summer and I’m putting this on the list! This would be amazing for the opening reception. Thanks for the idea!

          4. Librarian the Ninth*

            This is slightly off-topic as it was a wedding and not a work event, but this reminds me of what a friend of mine served at her reception- Shrimp and grits, but the caterers used an ice cream scoop to portion the grits into wine glasses and hung the shrimp on the edge of the glasses. A martini glass would have been a much more practical shape, but luckily no one broke any of those glasses.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Please tell me about the theme park named after a brand of crisps, I’ve never heard of it and now I’m intrigued!

        1. Irish Teacher*

          It’s just changed its name to “Emerald Park,” but up to…a few months ago? It was called Tayto Park, after a brand of crisps so well known in Ireland that “tayto” is used to mean “crisp” in the same way Kleenix gets used for tissues. Mr. Tayto, the logo from the crisps featured prominently.

          1. Blahblahblah*

            And Emerald is an Irish confectionary brand, lest anyone think the theme park is no longer named after a snack.

          2. The Prettiest Curse*

            Mr Tayto is the most Irish-looking brand mascot ever! He looks so welcoming and potato-y (potato-esque?)

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        Irish themed finger food: Do we include modern Ireland, or restrict it to the leprechaun-infested Ireland of the imagination? Because I have learned, from an unhealthy habit of watching the Try Channel on YouTube, about the spice bag, a traditional Irish finger food since the 2010s, typically sold as take out from Chinese restaurants. Per Wikipedia:

        Typically, a spice bag consists of deep-fried salt and chilli chips, salt and chilli chicken (usually shredded, occasionally balls/wings),[6] red and green peppers, sliced chili peppers, fried onions, and a variety of spices.[7] A vegetarian or vegan option is often available, in which deep fried tofu takes the place of the shredded chicken.[8] It is sometimes accompanied by a tub of curry sauce.

      4. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        As an actual Irish person, you probably have the perspective of knowing actual Irish food, whereas in America, we generally opt in for “Things we think are Irish and/or are green.” In retail, I once had a woman ask me if I thought the wasabi peas from Japan would work for a St. Patrick’s Day themed party she was having and she was highly displeased when I said no. (She bought them anyway. Shows me, I guess?)

      5. Clewgarnet*

        And they’re the best crisps in Europe! (Used to work for a crisps company – I have sampled crisps throughout Europe, and Tayto are absolutely the best.)

    2. SW*

      Kholis, we were at the same conference? in PA? Because yes, I remember wondering where in the world to sit to tackle my huge potato bar plate. There were also people walking around passing finger foods in addition to the wine bar and potato bar.

    3. princesspwn*

      I was at that conference too! I enjoyed the food, but the line was bad because building a baked potato takes a long time… and yes, NOT suitable for mingling.

      1. Kjolis*

        When I filled out the post-conference survey, I gave positive reviews on everything but wrote that baked potatoes at a crowded party were perhaps not the wisest move.

    4. LibraryIT*

      I think I was also at the same conference (or a few conferences had the same potato bar/museum/St. Patrick’s Day combo). A baked potato bar is a great option for a conference since it is super customizable for a whole lot of dietary needs. It is not a great option for mingling while standing!

      1. Kjolis*

        Yeah it would’ve been a great idea for one of those vendor lunches. I’d happily listen to a sales pitch for an hour if I could build my own baked potato beforehand.

  7. TotesMaGoats*

    At a farewell dinner at a private dinner club, served undercooked chicken breast. Those who got fish also got an undercooked fish item. And this was a super exclusive, old home with history photos, no sign on the door exclusive place.

    1. Charlie*

      OldJob used to hold regular department strategy away days at a nearby hotel where the food was legendarily awful. It was picked every year as it was the only venue near the office. Never mind that most staff didn’t live near the office, but lived in a medium-sized city about 45 minutes away. Not sure why we couldn’t have gone to a venue there, but anyway. One year the buffet was a sea of beige – breaded or battered everything (but soggy rather than crispy). Not a vegetable in sight. My gluten-free colleague couldn’t eat a thing, so she complained – she had alerted the venue in advance – and she ended up with a delicious-looking grilled chicken salad! Nobody could concentrate in the afternoon sessions due to lunchtime carb- and fat-heavy foods and there was so much general moaning that department away days were stopped indefinitely. That was a win, at least.

      1. Artemesia*

        On a Russian river boat cruise, the vegetarians and me, the onion sensitive, were well catered for. So I happily ate a broiled chicken breast and she what looked like a fancy sushi roll (vegetarian though) at a table of disgruntled shipmates eating grade school cafeteria mystery meat.

        Sometimes the vegetarian food is better. But it doesn’t make up for the times they are stuck with plain lettuce.

    2. Liane*

      I did my coop ed internships (late 1980s) at our city water department’s main lab. They had a catered barbeque chicken lunch for a retiring Production Operator. Delicious, until one of my pieces turned out to be very underdone. No problem, stuff happens; set it aside, get another. When it was also undercooked, I told one of the managers and decided I was done with the entree and it was dessert time.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Per my (extremely limited) experience with private clubs, bad-to-mediocre food is par for the course. The food is not the attraction.

  8. Healthcare Manager*

    Vegan here.

    I was served chicken because it’s ‘gluten free’.
    Another time I was forgotten about and they rushed and brought out a sandwich… that was frozen inside

    1. AfT*

      Celiac here! I often get offered vegan food that is not safe for me, because people seem DEEPLY confused about the difference between gluten free and vegan, when they are such completely different concepts. Why… does this happen?

        1. Massive Dynamic*

          Solidarity. Am vegan, and I think I live on gluten some days. But my goodness there are so, so many fantastic vegan + GF dishes that can be made that it boggles the mind why a caterer or any other food service professional would get one side right and fail on the other end.

        2. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

          I workin food manufacturing and all of our products are vegan and gluten free, but our restrictions around those and allergens* are very intense. Even people who work only in the office and never enter the production floor have to follow the rules.

          *Fun fact, major allergens vary around the world. We sell internationally and I learned that peaches and tomatoes are allergens in South Korea. It is also how I learned that “shellfish” in the US does not include mollusks (e.g. oysters and clams).

        3. Boof*

          I really, really try not to be judgy but I do not understand the fad for eliminating gluten outside of actual celiac disease. It’s a perfectly good plant protein! Some people are really allergic, but I do not understand why some people think it is just “healthier” to eliminate if there’s no specific sensitivity to it. I suppose it makes more options available to those with celiac disease, though, so that’s cool.

          1. Anna*

            Fwiw, as someone with celiac, I hear an awful lot more about “those silly dieters that ask for gluten-free stuff because they think it’s healthier” a lot more than I actually *see* them. The vast majority of gluten-free resources are indeed intended and used by people with celiac and gluten sensitivity, it’s just more common than people expect.

            Mostly saying cause while I don’t mind people talking generally about how gluten by itself for most people is not dangerous (there’s a lot of bad diet advice out there!). . . sometimes people extend that attitude to assuming anyone ordering gluten-free is on a “fad” diet and therefore wouldn’t notice or be impacted by cross-contamination, and that causes issues. It’s safer to just assume any specific person eating gluten-free might indeed have a medical reason for it (and to at least ask if cross-contamination protocols etc. is needed if you’re the one making/serving the food).

            1. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

              I know three such people (don’t eat gluten because it is “bad”) and they never shut up about it.

        4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Before I became a vegetarian, I’d still need to avoid both soy and a specific vegetable. A surprising number of times, the immediate reply would be to hand me their vegan and gluten-free menu, despite both of the things I was avoiding being gluten-free plants.

          It’s like people only can handle the concept of one special diet.

        5. Nannerdoodle*

          I think a lot of people just lump “dietary restrictions” in the same category. I can’t eat gluten, and I’ve gotten a ton of weird things in at work events.

          At an old job, I organized our yearly conference, and when I was sending the buffet food choices (with markings next to which ones were GF/Veg/Vegan/Kosher/Halal and making sure we had choices that fit in multiple of the above categories together so everyone could at least eat SOMETHING), the person who had previously organized said she’d never even thought about choosing things that fit those options. It hurt my soul.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I frequently am offered either the gluten free menu, or hear “but its gluten free!”….in response to my milk allergy. That’s at least sort of in line with vegan, but even then, not all vegan food would meet muster (because was the kitchen careful to not create cross contact with allergens?).

        I’ve come to the conclusion that for those who don’t have to deal with any of these issues, they’re lucky enough to remain clueless and that’s all we’re seeing. Sometimes yes, incompetence does reach the level of malice, but its rare.

        1. Julian*

          I once worked for a large corp that was great about allergens…. if you were a customer/guest. I went to the employee cafeteria and asked if they had any gluten free bread. The guy thought for a second and said “We have whole wheat?”

          I ate from the vending machine that day

        2. Kiwi*

          My egg and nut allergy has often been met with people thinking I can’t have cheese or gluten. Or they just forget. Honestly at this point I don’t trust event foods to have something to eat so I bring my own – too many conferences and weddings where I was just going hungry or trying to snack on sides.

          1. Purple Cat*

            OMG, the number of times I had the following conversation
            Me: Son has a dairy allergy
            Them: Can he have eggs?


            1. No Longer a Meeting Planner*

              I once got yelled at by a dairy free participant because of COURSE they can not have eggs (I just requested dairy free from the caterer and it was eggs– I should have confirmed on both sides, but…)

            2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

              A lot of people will put a bit of milk or heavy cream in their scrambled eggs or omelets, and some people add cheese, so maybe that’s part of the confusion? You’d think catering would just omit the dairy to make it easier on people…or maybe they’re concerned because they cook the eggs with butter?

              1. Quite anon*

                Also some people thing eggs = dairy because eggs are with the dairy in the grocery store.

            3. Distracted Procrastinator*

              It probably has to do with the most well known difference between being vegan and vegetarian being eggs and dairy. People conflate them now when it comes to special diets.

        3. DrFresh*

          Or “it doesn’t have egg in it.” For some reason, when I ask for dairy free, it always ends up conflated with eggs. For this reason, I always bring a sandwich to make sure I have something to eat.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I blame the American habit of putting eggs in the dairy case. I KNOW eggs are not dairy, but half the time my mind goes to them being in the dairy case and just smashes it all together into one category.
            To be fair, I’m not a professional caterer.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              They still get conflated in the UK where supermarket eggs are at room temperature (typically near bread or baking supplies).

              I blame the stupid food pyramid and the more recent stupid food circle.

          2. Minimal Pear*

            Yes, I’m allergic to dairy but I love eggs! Please, stop trying to take the eggs away from me!

        4. BubbleTea*

          I went to an event that specifically stated in its flyers that they had gluten free cakes “so everyone can enjoy them” Out of curiosity, I went to look and as I’d expected, there was not a single dairy-free item available.

        5. Powercycle*

          I’m lactose intolerant so I don’t eat as much dairy nowadays, and don’t always have lactaid/lactase pills with me if the mood strikes me. Because of that I’ve skipped on a few free pizza and free ice cream events at work and would go buy my own lunch/snack.
          My spouse is allergic to tree nuts, and one kid is allergic to peanuts. A lot of people just don’t know that those are two different allergies.

      2. Queen of the Introverts*

        Not work related but I was in the hospital once and was trying to order off a very bread-heavy menu. I only have a gluten allergy, not celiac, so I could have handled some wheat, but it was in my hospital record so I wasn’t allowed to order anything with gluten. They offered a hamburger without the bun. Great! I realized I should have been more specific when I uncovered my plate to reveal a single hamburger patty, all alone. No lettuce, onions, tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, nothing.

        1. anononon*

          I was in hospital a few years ago where they were trying to stabilise some strong anti-coagulant drugs. Said drugs contraindicated (badly – think haemorrhage) with quite a lot of foods, including (and especially) green veggies containing Vitamin K. For lunch one day I was presented with a spinach curry…

          1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!!*

            Makes me think of the time I was in the hospital. After 4 days of waiting and finally getting my gallbladder out (there were complications so they couldn’t do the surgery immediately) I was finally able to eat. The dietitian came to ask if I had any food allergies and I said no but I cannot have Splenda or other artificial sweeteners (not an allergy but it makes me very sick to my stomach and I didn’t want any other digestive tract issues). She was flummoxed and said, “well then you can’t have the lemonade!” I hadn’t asked for lemonade, didn’t want lemonade, or cared about lemonade. I wanted FOOD” She was just so confused and the way she said it was so short, like I was being problematic.

            1. LIZZIE*

              Reminds me of a hospital stay for pancreatitis. So when I was FINALLY allowed to eat, i still wasn’t feeling all that well. In their defense, the way the system worked, you had to order your meals in the am, and my dr. didn’t clear me to eat until after that.

              Mind you, I’m still queasy, and thinking toast, tea, yogurt. I got beef stroganoff. managed to eat a few noodles and the roll but the smell alone was enough to make me ill again.

          2. WheresMyPen*

            Reminds me of my sister in law who was in hospital about to give birth. She’d had gestational diabetes so had been on a low carb diet the whole pregnancy. At lunch time she asked the catering staff what she could eat and they suggested she eat a baked potato because ‘that’s healthy’.

            1. Observer*

              At lunch time she asked the catering staff what she could eat and they suggested she eat a baked potato because ‘that’s healthy’.

              This reminds me of the whole discussion about “healthy eating” in the comments on the post about whether or not a workplace should have a policy on “healthy eating”. (It’s linked up above in “You might like”)

              1. Anna*

                Oh my goodness, the “if it’s healthy for one person it must be equally healthy for everybody because everybody has the same dietary needs” mentality in some workspaces is just.

                I am not eating X because I think it is “healthy,” I am eating it because the other food offered will literally make me sick. I do not need people to explain to me “actually it’s a myth X is better for you -“ and the like – it is healthier for *me,* specifically, to eat, *because the other offered food will make me sick*.

            2. Mari*

              Oh geeze.

              When my kiddo was born, there was a bit of a baby boom on the ward – there were 35 moms and kiddos on Maternity my second night there (we were there four because I was a ‘medically complicated’ pregnancy).

              They served good food – it was fresh, it was nutritious, it even tasted good… But that night they served us all a really lovely seasoned and sauced broccoli and cauliflower mix. Would have been great – except cruciferous vegetables can cause gas in breastfeeding babies. I always figured it was a myth… but honestly, after that night, it’s not… 32 of those babies were starting to nurse, and every single one of them was brutally gassy that night and incredibly upset.

              To say the nurses were unhappy with the dietitian group would be a stunning understatement.

            3. Emmy Noether*

              That reminds me – last pregnancy I had gestational diabetes. My mom was entirely flummoxed how to feed me. Finally came up with “potato soup…?” I can report that my after-lunch measurement confirmed that this was not a great choice.

              Also, 99% of recipes and advice for diabetes are “low carb, low calories”. I was friggen pregnant, I *needed* the calories! My dietician was even worried that I got enough to eat after looking at my food journal. I started eating copious amounts of nut butters (high energy density + feels like desert even though it has almost no sugar). Even better with berries, which have surprisingly little sugar.

          3. Hannah Lee*

            A friend of mine was in the hospital, in ICU for weeks, much of that time on a respirator and immobilized after a serious car accident. The day they took her respirator tube out, food services brought her her first meal … a whole apple. Not sliced, not applesauce, a whole red delicious (but not really) apple.

            Because they didn’t want her to have anything too heavy after not eating for a while.

            At the time she was barely able to deal with small ice chips or sipping from a straw between her throat being irritated by the tube and not having being able to use her mouth or arms at all for nearly a month. I’m not even sure she had the strength to hold the apple at her mouth and bite it, much less chew and swallow it.

            She was so happy when her mom showed up later with a cup of pastina en brodo (little star pasta in chicken broth) and helped her eat it.

          4. Observer*

            Said drugs contraindicated (badly – think haemorrhage) with quite a lot of foods, including (and especially) green veggies containing Vitamin K

            That’s a level of incompetence that is scary.

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          Even as someone who does eat bread, one of my pet peeves is when you get a hamburger somewhere (or any other sandwich, really) and it’s just meat and bread, and maybe cheese. I’m always like “if I’d known that that’s what they meant, I’d have concluded it wasn’t worth it!”

          1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

            That’s actually how I prefer it! I don’t mind having the other stuff as options/on the side, but I don’t want watery tomato juice or pickle flavor or onion flavor or secret sauce already on my cheeseburger/sandwich.

          2. Powercycle*

            The main reason I avoid eating sandwiches almost anywhere is because most places will slather on too much mayo or other condiments making the bread all soggy by the time it’s in front of you to eat. (Also, I am just not a fan of mayo in general.)

        3. J!*

          I had a hospital stay where they kept bringing me sugar free jello and diet juice, even though I told them sugar substitutes give me migraines without fail. It’s not technically an “allergy” but you would think hospitals would be better about that sort of thing!

          1. starsaphire*

            I always have one hell of a time convincing the hospital dietitians of that.

            “You’re diabetic,” they all chorus.
            “Sugar substitutes give me migraines,” I reply.
            “But you’re diabetic. You can’t have sugar.”
            “I don’t WANT sugar. I want whole milk/yogurt/whatever. It’s the lowfat stuff that has all the added sugar.”
            “But you’re diabetic. Here, have this fat-free yogurt with Splenda.”

            By day three, my husband is usually smuggling me in steamed fish and curry veg from the Thai place.

            1. Tin Cormorant*

              Ugh, and the versions that have artificial sweetener instead of sugar always put way too much of it in there, as if every single person has the palate of someone who’s been drinking sodas like water their entire life. It doesn’t need to be that sweet!

              1. AngryOctopus*

                I have thrown away so many yogurts because I didn’t pay enough attention when buying them, and then I take one taste at lunch and can taste the artificial sweetener, and into the trash it goes. I don’t need the GI migraine, thanks.
                (Once had awful GI migraines for like 3 months and finally realized that it’s because the fiber supplement I had to swap to had sucralose in it. That taught me once and for all to read labels on EVERYTHING).

                1. Artemesia*

                  Me too — artificial sweeteners also make me sick and you have to be really careful to read labels and it is easy to end up accidentally grabbing the yogurt full of that junk which is sitting next to the yogurt you think you are getting.

                2. AngryOctopus*

                  I always see the flavor and think “oohhh, that sounds GOOD!!!” and then I grab it without reading. No no no! Read the label! Read it!!!

              2. Elizabeth*

                Thought I was so smart, replacing my sugar with stevia on our lunch order iced teas. Did you know stevia is related to the ragweed family? Cuz I didn’t.

                I drank ragweed juice for months and couldn’t figure out why everything itched all the time.

                1. Artemesia*

                  I am so glad to learn this as Stevia is a product I have not tried and might be tempted to.

                2. Minimal Pear*

                  …you may have just solved my Itchy Mystery. Unfortunately, I have to keep using the supplements with stevia in them, but at least I know now.

                3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

                  I had no idea! I already avoid stevia along with all sugar replacements, but it does show up sometimes and now I know to be extra vigilant (or at least not surprised when I get itchy)

                4. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

                  …omg, I’m so glad I haven’t tried Stevia. I have terrible ragweed allergies.

                  Thank you for telling us!!

                5. Powercycle*

                  I can tolerate most artificial sweeteners just fine, but not stevia. I don’t like the taste, and I don’t feel great after consuming it.

                6. Elizabeth*

                  I feel so much better that I’m not alone in this!

                  Avoid it if you’re in the birch or ragweed allergy families, it’s perfidious.

            2. DataSci*

              Ugh! Plain full fat yogurt is delicious, why do people have to take out the fat and dump in sweetener? I blame the 1990s.

              1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

                I was just thinking today about the moment in the late 90s when “low-fat nuts” debuted. That was peak 90s and in hindsight a sign of the end. Not long after, Atkins was everywhere.

          2. pally*

            I thought there was something wrong with me as I get headaches (wouldn’t class them as migraines) when I consume sugar substitutes. Never met anyone else who did.

            Allergy or not, you’d think folks would avoid providing foods that cause another person a migraine.

            1. Wondercootie*

              Until this thread, I had never heard of so many other people who had this! I know it’s not technically an allergy, but my doc started listing it as an allergy on my chart because that’s the only way people pay attention to it even in hospital or pharmacy.

            2. JustEm*

              it’s a super common migraine trigger! (I’m a person with chronic migraines, and also a physician who specializes in headache disorders)

        4. She of Many Hats*

          The number of stories of people with significant dietary needs who can’t safely eat when hospitalized amazes me. And most of the restrictions aren’t weird: low salt, GF, diabetic, etc.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Though some of these get more complicated! My son has type 1 diabetes, and the number of medical professionals who know a little about type 2 and basically nothing about type 1 but kind of assume the needs are the same is incredibly frustrating!

            Sure, it’s a bit easier to manage his blood sugar if he eats lower carb, but he’s not on any kind of “diabetic” meal plan.

            1. Humble Schoolmarm*

              Ugh, the amount of times I’ve had to explain that giving up all carbs would mean I have to completely change my insulin regime (with life-threatening hypoglycemia if I get it wrong) and get a completely blank look for my troubles.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                Just in the last week we’ve had an ophthalmologist who asked what his typical fasting blood sugar was and whether he was still on insulin, and a dentist who asked whether we’d checked his A1C today. Sigh.

                1. Nightengale*

                  From an ophthalmologist to me, type 1

                  Do you check your blood sugar?
                  What was it?
                  What was it when? When I woke this AM? Before lunch? 10 minutes ago in your waiting room? I’ve checked it 3 times today already. . .

                  For awhile my insulin pump supply company would refuse to refill my supplies until I told them my most recent blood sugar. Because one random number is going to change whether or not I can keep using my pump?

          2. Panicked*

            As a person with Celiac disease, I was told by my local hospital that I would need to have food brought in because they couldn’t accommodate my gluten free diet. You can bet I disputed my hospital bill when meal service was listed on it!

            1. ferrina*

              Our local hospital sometimes recommends the local pizza place as an alternative to the hospital cafeteria. The cafeteria is…..a hospital cafeteria. The pizza place is well known for catering to a lot of different dietary restrictions, and for having fresh local ingredients. Pizza place is definitely the better option (the hospital doesn’t bill for it, though).

            2. AfT*

              I have thankfully not needed a hospital stay yet, but I’ve also been warned by LOTS of fellow Celiacs that hospitals will not only likely not have food I can safely eat, but try to feed me things that are not safe for Celiacs (despite it being right there on my record).

          3. Nightengale*

            I was admitted to the hospital with new type 1 diabetes and everything had sugar. Officially I was ordered a diet low in refined carbohydrates and “no added sugars.” I kept being brought white bread, sweetened fruit cups and sugar for my tea. And juice. So much juice. Once the food was in my room, food services wasn’t allowed to take it back.

            Hospital juice comes in these squat plastic cylinders with flat foil tops and so I started stacking the juices into towers and various configurations like a kid would with building blocks. Every medical person who came into the room looked at the increasingly tall juice constructions in horror – “you aren’t going to drink all that are you?!” They kept trying to recommunicate the food order with dietary services – who just kept sending up the juices.

            The whole thing was made funnier by the fact that I was a medical student at that same hospital and knew a bunch of the people caring for me.

        5. Lindsay*

          I once ordered a burger at a popular fast food restaurant, and said “ketchup, mustard, and pickles only.” (I detest mayo and I wasn’t sure if it came on this burger). They brought me a bun with literally just ketchup, mustard, and pickles. No meat. I guess I should have been more specific, haha!

          1. slashgirl*

            I’ve been asked at a fast food place, when I ordered a cheeseburger and wanted just ketchup on it, if I wanted the cheese.*sigh* Yes, I’m going to order a cheeseburger, which costs more and then NOT get the cheese. At least they assumed I wanted the burger.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              There is a subset of people out there who INSIST on having a “cheeseburger with out the cheese. NOT A HAMBURGER.” It’s fascinating.

              1. Enough*

                Well, when they put cheese on every burger except the smallest that’s the only way to order it.

                1. Artemesia*

                  This. M y favorite burger place only has cheeseburgers, so I have to order the tpe of cheeseburger I want without cheese.

              2. Dahlia*

                I’ve had to do that at our local place a couple times. Once there was a sale ONLY on cheeseburgers so it was cheaper and like I’m gonna do that.

                The other time, the girl on the till did not believe me that double burgers existed in their system? The way she managed to ring it up was to add a patty to a single burger, which was significantly more expensive than just the normal double burger. No matter how I argued it, she didn’t get it. She did understand “double cheeseburger no cheese no mustard” though.

                Don’t ask me.

              3. The New Wanderer*

                It’s definitely a no-win situation. I’ve had to order “cheeseburger without cheese” at a place where “hamburger” did not appear on the menu. Several times I was brought a cheeseburger with cheese, sent it back, and had it come back with the partially melted remnants of cheese marking where they had just peeled it off. We stopped eating there.

                I’m always pleasantly surprised when I order a burger or sandwich a particular way and it comes out the way I asked. But in my experience there’s no completely successful way to special order something.

              4. Never Boring*

                I usually order burgers that way because the percentage of times I end up with melted Kraft American cheese slices on my burger after specifically ordering a HAMBURGER because I detest American cheese is nearly 100%.

            2. Chirpy*

              I used to work at a burger chain. The number of people who order “plain cheeseburger” when they mean “hamburger” is SIGNIFICANT. So you always have to clarify, and then the people who wanted a meat-and-cheese-only burger get really upset about “how dumb you are”, so there’s no way to win.

        6. Elizabeth West*

          When I was in the hospital, I asked for the sweet potato one meal. I expected a sweet potato. Instead, I got several small cubes — about five or six — of a dark orange sweet-potato-ish…something. It was gross.

        7. nonprofit llama groomer*

          This reminds me a bit of when I was in the hospital 21 years ago after having been unexpectedly admitted and induced prior to birth, nothing to eat for 36+ hours of labor because at least then, that was the protocol for moms in labor, then a c-section followed by nothing but a liquid diet for another 24 hours.

          I was so HUNGRY and I was finally going to get a meal! They brought me a plastic cloche. I opened the cloche and found a hamburger that looked like those old Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” burgers and the fries were cold and limp. I started crying.

          My mom and dad had just arrived and were keeping me company while my husband ran home for a shower and to take care of the dog. My dad was a hero and ran and got me a lovely turkey sandwich at one of the cafes within the hospital.

          I was so envious of all my friends who gave birth in cities with multiple options for birth so there was competition. They got to order fantastic meals for two after birth with accommodations for their partners.

          My daughter is completely worth it, but darn, that was a horrible example of hospital food.

      3. word nerd*

        Whenever my husband (who is vegan) orders a special meal on an airline, it also seems to be gluten free. I assume this is because the airline can then use the same meal to meet gluten-free and vegan requirements. But yeah, since it is pretty difficult to cook a meal for both my vegan husband and my paleo-ish mother-in-law with celiac disease and soy allergy, I appreciate that they are not at all the same thing…

        1. londonedit*

          Similarly, especially with the rise in veganism and the cost of living crisis, pubs and restaurants here have started just offering one vegan option. Which totally makes sense, because it’s cheaper and easier to have one option that anyone who doesn’t eat meat can have, rather than two or three vegetarian options plus one vegan. But it’s annoying, as a vegetarian but not a vegan, that most of the time now if I go out to the pub the only thing on the menu I can have is likely to be a vegan chilli or a vegan curry. And instead of a veggie burger, it’ll be a vegan one with fake cheese. Of course, I can always ask for real cheese instead, but it does feel like we’re back to being shoved to the bottom of the menu as an afterthought.

          1. how sad*

            How do you think most vegans feel when the vegan option is a salad? Vegan chili sounds like a welcome change from soggy iceburg lettuce.

      4. Healthcare Manager*

        It baffles me too.

        Depending where I am, I don’t say I’m vegan, I say ‘I don’t eat animals or their products’ and list them. Seems to help a bit to not be confused with gluten free.

      5. R*

        Saaaaame! I have no objection to eating vegan if it’s easier to do both special diets in one meal, but they are so very NOT the same thing. Drives me nuts when people conflate the two.

      6. Not Elizabeth*

        It happens all the time! I ask if something is vegan and they tell me about what’s gluten free. I love gluten! Bring on the gluten! I think they just have a vague “hippy dippy diet” space in their brains and it’s all lumped together there.

        1. Artemesia*

          One of the common vegan options in vegetarian restaurants is seitan which is basically fried gluten.

        1. Observer*

          My daughter’s allergic to nuts and often offered the gluten-free bread!

          Yeah, I can’t handle wheat, but I still get very cautious about “gluten free” stuff, because I have even more trouble with potatoes. And the only food at least as common in gluten free foods as nuts it potatoes. And since one of my kids is actually allergic to nits, I am always on the alert when I see a new “gluten free” item.

          It’s crazy making.

        2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          Yeah, my FIL has a deadly allergy to cashews, and the number of vegetarian/vegan food substitutes that are now made with those…thankfully *he* isn’t also vegetarian/vegan, but at larger family gatherings where everyone brings a dish, he actually has to be careful to avoid the vegan/vegetarian substitute food options.

      7. Blue*

        They absolutely are not the same (I have an egg allergy and the vast majority of people seem to extrapolate that to a broader dairy allergy which is strange), but in my country, celiac’s and glutem-free is pretty rare and I’ve found that vegan/vegetarian restauarants at least are more likely to be aware of if their dishes have gluten or not.

        1. Zephy*

          I think it’s because the eggs are always right by the dairy section in the grocery store. Eggs aren’t dairy, but they sure hang out with dairy a lot.

      8. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I think sometimes people can try to accommodate all dietary requirements in one dish to make catering easier, so eg if the default thing is lasagne then the alternative might be a chickpea curry that’s free of meat, dairy, gluten, and soya.

        The trouble is that you might get into the habit of “default dietary” and offer a completely unnecessary substitution (eg the main meal is naturally gluten free but the celiac guest has to have the “dietary” meal every single time).

        1. Mill Miker*

          I ran into that at a conference once. got sent to the “dietary restriction” buffet because of my tomato allergy. every dish there had tomatos on it. As did every dish on the main buffet (even the egg salad sandwich)

          1. Nina*

            (I have several friends who have wild allergies, and I’m vegetarian) It’s actually easier to reliably have one dish with no nuts, animal products, soy, tomatoes, MSG, cinnamon, melon, or artificial sweeteners (it’s a chickpea curry, you serve it with rice and ‘here are the gluten free poppadoms, here are the dairy free and vegan roti, here are the naan’, I’ve yet to meet anyone who’s allergic to rice) than try to juggle all those requirements across two dishes and risk dividing them up wrong and having someone go ‘but I’m allergic to cashews and dairy’.

      9. Lalaith*

        My dad and I are diabetic, and he does a keto diet, so my mom is always trying to find treats that both of us can eat. It’s amazing the number of times she’s asked for something sugar-free and/or low-carb and gotten the reply “no, but this is gluten-free”! Like… no. My dad will make recipes that contain just gluten, because that’s the part he *can* eat. It’s not nearly as egregious as confusing vegan/gluten-free (and as a near-vegetarian I know that pain as well), but still frustrating.

      10. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

        My sisters are Coeliac and they have been offered the pasta salad by caterers who seem to think it’s another word for vegetarian …

      11. Minimal Pear*

        I’m allergic to dairy and people CONSTANTLY interpret this as being gluten free. I’m not! I’ve tried going gluten free for my stomach issues and I got sicker! If anything, I actually NEED gluten.

      12. Anna*

        S a m e. I can eat meat and cheese. I cannot eat bread, or pasta, or salad w/ croutons, or soy sauce, or anything fried with other gluten-containing ingredients, etc. That said, at least “okay if you’re gluten-free here’s our whole grain vegan roll and our salad drenched in dressing with a wheat thickener” serves as a pretty good signal that’s a place that’s also has no clue how to deal with cross-contamination?

        (My best guess as to the “why” is a mixture of people not being aware that a lot of people asking for gluten-free have a medical need for it, and the existence of places that have a combined “gluten-free and vegan” option so they only have to make one alternative instead of two separate ones. But still. )

      13. Rose*

        I’m also regularly offered things that are whole wheat when I say I can’t eat gluten. I’ve told the same five people in my life “no, the wheat is literally the problem” about 30 times each to no avail. At a certain point I think it’s just laziness.

    2. londonedit*

      My sister gets this. She can’t eat gluten or dairy because of a medical issue (not coeliac) and she frequently gets well-meaning friends saying ‘I bought this [thing with pastry or bread] – you can eat it because it’s vegan, right?’ or ‘This has no eggs – it’s OK for you, isn’t it?’ She’s fine with eggs! She likes eggs! People seem deeply confused about the difference between no dairy and no eggs, especially – I’ve seen people in the US saying it makes vague sense to them at least because they’re all kept in the same fridges in the supermarket, but that doesn’t even work here because eggs aren’t refrigerated and are usually kept with the baking things like flour and sugar, far away from any dairy products! Eggs do not come from cows, people.

      1. Queen of the Introverts*

        Try having a gluten allergy AND an egg allergy. I miss brunch.

        How on earth do people not get the very simple distinction between vegan and gluten-free??? If they were the same thing, there wouldn’t be two different words!

        1. A Penguin!*

          I definitely understand the frustration with people not getting the difference, but I think your last sentence is a bit much. There are lots and lots of synonyms in the English language (and I presume in others).

          1. ThatGirl*

            That’s kind of nitpicky, isn’t it? yes, there are synonyms in the English language, but vegan and gluten-free are not among them.

        2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          My sister! I can deal with the gluten/wheat but boy do I wish I could eat eggs.

        3. Charlotte Lucas*

          I think part of the confusion is branding. I now see so many things marked “gluten-free” that never had gluten. (Back in the 80s & 90s, you’d see the same with “cholesterol-free” marketing.)

          I am often amazed at how little people who don’t deal with special diets or interested in cooking actually know about food.

          1. DataSci*

            This is at least in part because of cross contamination risk. If they use the same production lines to process, say, rice and barley there’s a risk of cross-contamination that can be enough to cause a reaction. My niece has a severe wheat allergy and needs to check labels carefully for exactly this reason.

            1. AngryOctopus*

              This exactly. When a shampoo is advertised as ‘gluten free’ they’re not doing it to be trendy or because they think you’ll eat the shampoo. It’s because they are made with a gluten-free source for the protein derivatives which give the shampoo it’s advertised qualities (shine enhancing, smoothing, etc.). And some people with celiac are sensitive enough that inhaling the shampoo in the shower (say from a popped lather bubble) can cause issues. Also to be fair, celiac babies just might put shampoo in their mouths as well (hopefully only once before they learn).

              1. AfT*

                Also for shampoo, for Celiacs, our disease is triggered first and foremost when even trace amounts of gluten enter our digestive tract via our mouths, so anything gluten-y that might come in contact with our lips (even in passing as you wash it out in the shower) is an absolute no-go!

          2. Harried HR*

            I find it hysterical that Cider (English Alcoholic Apple Beverage) is marketed as Gluten Free…it NEVER had Gluten in it ?*%*

            1. Mari*

              But commercial cider is often produced by breweries – which means that the factories that it’s bottled/canned in are full of gluten (barley is brutal).

              If it’s labelled gluten-free, they’ve packaged it in a safe environment.

            2. AfT*

              Yeah, sadly, I’ve seen cider with barley malt added (for flavor?). It’s not as predictable as, say, wine whether cider is gf.

            3. Anna*

              It does sometimes, actually – people use wheat/malt based products for colorant sometimes, and that’s enough to cause problems if you have celiac. And if it’s processed in the same place they do beer (and a lot of companies that make cider do both), there’s a risk for cross-contamination with barley, which is again enough to cause problems for celiac.

              Seriously, there are a lot of foods that don’t *naturally* have gluten in them, but are so frequently manufactured with gluten-containing food that the standard medical advice is to not buy it unless the manufacturer can confirm they test that the gluten level is less than 20 ppm.

          3. Quite anon*

            It could mean it’s not produced in a facility that also handles gluten products, or it could also be a signal to people who… really don’t understand gluten, and have been asked to shop for someone who needs gluten free products.

      2. Emma*

        I think most of the confusion comes from the tradition that you get your eggs delivered by the milkman.

    3. I’m the Mrs.*

      Major conference in San Francisco, so you’d think that special diets would be a cinch. Nope: the vegan option was some lettuce, half an uncooked beet, and a lemon wedge. Because oil and vinegar aren’t cheap or widely available??? Though at least I actually got food, which is better than 50% of other conferences, no matter how inclusive the RSVP form seems to be.
      My wife organizes a small annual conference in her discipline and, though she’s not vegan herself, she ensures the vegan food is plentiful and excellent. She’s a treasure!

    4. ThatGirl*

      I have a coworker with celiac who takes it very seriously. She basically won’t eat anything at work events unless she’s vetted it thoroughly, and I don’t blame her … but also she is definitely not vegan.

      1. datamuse*

        I have a friend who actually stopped being vegetarian after their celiac diagnosis, because especially at the time (this was over a decade ago) a LOT of the vegetarian options at restaurants and such had wheat in them.

        1. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

          I had to start eating meat again when my geriatric gut decided that gluten wasn’t a good idea any more. Also soy and most beans. I did a whole lot of research before deciding that it just isn’t reasonable to have both my mandatory food restrictions *and* voluntarily not eat meat. Luckily I live in Australia so kangaroo is an option (I was vegetarian for environmental reasons).

          But conferences etc I just assume I’m not going to be eating their food unless there’s solid evidence to the contrary beforehand. I don’t want to miss presentations or mingling opportunities while my gut purges something it objects to.

      2. Bronze Betty*

        I have a friend who, due to a medical condition, cannot tolerate gluten or dairy (seriously–she could die). She either 1) eats before any event such as conferences, weddings, etc., or 2) brings her own food.

        She loves Mexican restaurants because there are lots of choices for her–and those of us joining her.

        1. Mari*

          My former department admin had celiacs, a dairy allergy and Type 1 diabetes. I can honestly say, I have NEVER, before or since, worked in a place where food at events was handled better. I swear, when she called in catering, they were terrific. When anyone else did…. eh…. not so much?

  9. NYCRedhead*

    At a business meeting at a private club, I ordered a glass of lemonade and received a glass of lemon juice. Nothing like a cool refreshing mouthful of acid!

      1. The Other Katie*

        One time my partner ordered a martini at a posh airport bar and a few minutes later received… a martini glass of ice water. This was swiftly followed by an annoyed bartender, coming to the table to retrieve the glass he’d been chilling before the young and enthusiastic waiter grabbed it off the bar and served it.

      1. Tau*

        Especially since you’re expecting lemonade! I sometimes drink water with a bit of lemon juice and no sugar, but at least I know what I’m letting myself in for, you know?

  10. Marigold*

    My ex took the minutes for a monthly board meeting. The board chair always made a big fuss about bringing food for everyone, but it was always comically too little. The board is 12 people, plus 2-3 attending staff. I don’t remember every example, but the worst were the time it was 3 croissants from a nice bakery, and when “pizza party day” was two personal pizzas. For 15+ people. She would always make a big deal of how lucky everyone was to have such nice treats and slice out the tiny portions herself.

    1. Dovasary Balitang*

      Two personal pizzas as in… eight slices? For 15+ people?

      What, was she a big fan of Suzanne Collins?

    2. Jinni*

      I’ve seen women do this under the guise of keeping portions down. After all a muffin and bagel can be quartered.

      1. 2 Cents*

        I mean, they’re not going to eat more than a quarter muffin, so why should you? Gotta watch the figure! (I say this as a hungry woman who eats the whole muffin.)

          1. DataSci*

            Depends on the muffins! Regular muffin tin sized ones, absolutely, but I’ve seen some massive muffins at bakeries that are easily three times that size.

            1. AnonORama*

              Totally! I’m not much of a dieter, but I try not to eat any muffins bigger than my head.

      2. Laura*

        I was a a youth camp where we did some construction work (because resons) and all the slight teenaged girls you wouldn’t trust to handle a shovel or carry wooden beams were sent to run the kitchen. It took only one breakfast (two slices of toast and one egg per person) and one lunch (two potatos and half a herring) to trigger a revolution.

    3. Ruth*

      In my family, this is about the worst sin one could commit. If you don’t have at least 2 days of leftovers to send home with people, you messed up. Just reading about someone else failing so terribly is making me anxious!

    4. 2 Cents*

      I had a friend who did this. She was just “never hungry” so meeting at her house for a meal meant ample pregaming lest she decide, after a few hours of hanging out, that she “wasn’t hungry” for the planned meal.

      1. ferrina*

        Two of my close relatives don’t really eat much- they tend to go six hours between meals, then eat an apple and are fine.
        I eat like a hobbit. Regular snacks every couple hours, and regular meals.

        We’ve traveled together a few times, and it’s a bad combo. They never hold to meals and complain about how I’m inconveniencing them by requiring three meals a day (I don’t even ask about elevenses!).

        1. Middle Aged Lady*

          My BFF is like this and she gets frustrated with me, my hubs and her husband for our need for meals. She calls us ‘the stomachs.’ We have learned to carry snacks so as not to cut into her sight seeing time, and she has learned that part of our joy on a vacation is nice leisurely restaurant meals.

        2. MaineCat*

          This is why it’s so hard to travel with most people. Spouse and I can’t handle more than breakfast and dinner at home and on vacation, but we do have good sized meals for both. We tried doing lunch a few times to be able to try more local foods, and even with trying to undereat at the other meals it was just too much food! But I’d never want to make a friend starve, so fortunately we don’t travel with other people…

      2. Zephy*

        Wait, she would invite people over expressly for dinner, then decide not to even make (or order, whatever) said meal because she wasn’t hungry? Girl what the hell, serve your guests! Did you think “dinner” was a synonym for “chatting and board games”?

      3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        …that breaks my brain.

        Also, I would just never meet at this person’s house for a meal after the first time this happened. I get too hangry for that.

    5. Sloanicota*

      Oh man, you just reminded me of all the many meetings I’ve been to where staff is required to attend, it’s over several hours, and they’re not allowed to eat the meal because it’s for the Board. I can’t “snack on almonds” if I’m the notetaker for a meeting that runs 4-8PM. Let all the attendees eat the danged food!

      1. Squidhead*

        My MIL really does eat like a bird and has no. idea. what counts as a “normal” serving of something. Fortunately she always has many snacks on the table too but dinner for 6 will be, like, a 9″ square mac & cheese and a salad that fits in a cereal bowl. She’s genuinely satisfied with 1/4 cup of mac and cheese. Eaten at 5pm.

    6. OMG, Bees!*

      One company I worked at as a contractor would provide food for meetings. Initially, this was for everyone, but after someone complained when food ran out, they changed it to food for employees (and not contractors or vendors) instead.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Oh, good god, I have a severe phobia of wasps/ hornets/ bees/ yellowjackets/ pick your favorite stinging hymenopteran insect/ and my reaction would have been very loud and very undignified and would probably have culminated in a trip to the ER to get my stomach pumped in case I ingested any wasp molecules.

    2. whistle*

      Honestly, this happens with lettuce. Even when it’s washed, there are sometimes bugs that don’t get rinsed out. I was a cook for years, washed all the lettuce that I used, and I probably had two customer over that time find a bug in the salad. It can’t be avoided 100%.

        1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          Lettuce from my CSA has earwigs and slugs in it pretty much every single time. Just have to do an immersion wash rather than a rinse.

        2. AnonORama*

          Ha, I bought farmer’s market greens recently that lit up because they had a firefly! I let the bug outside and decided against eating the greens, but it was actually kind of charming for a “bug in food” story.

      1. Observer*

        Even when it’s washed, there are sometimes bugs that don’t get rinsed out.

        That’s why you put it into salt water or diluted vinegar for a couple of minutes.

        Personally it’s also one of the reasons I prefer almost any type of lettuce to iceberg – most other variety either have loos(ish) leaves or the leaves can be separate easily. Iceberg is much more like closed cabbage and hard to separate. It’s really hard to check.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Doesn’t this just mean that you’ve got dead insects in your salad? I’d prefer live ones, tbh. Then I can evict them and they’re still alive, everyone wins.

          1. Observer*

            Doesn’t this just mean that you’ve got dead insects in your salad?

            Nope. It means that you can actually wash those critters off.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        This is why I pay close attention to whether or not the prebagged salad I buy is stamped kosher. While not a complete guarantee of zero insects, it does guarantee that an entire system was in place to try really hard to not have insects.

    3. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

      You just reminded me that when I started my proper career job and was out for a meal with my new managers and colleagues, I found a TINY (ex) caterpillar in my salad. I wasn’t that bothered, these things happen, I don’t think the chef went out and found one and added it for extra protein! But the people I was with were furious, and I never understood why!

  11. Blanked on my AAM posting name*

    Not bad food, but adjacent: many years ago I attended a conference in a very famous London hotel (you would almost certainly know the name even if you’ve never been to the UK). As I sat down to eat, a mouse ran across the floor and under the buffet table, and the maitre d’ firmly informed us all that we hadn’t seen a thing. I decided to get a sandwich from a nearby convenience store instead.

    1. Rosie*

      Ha, on a work trip in Paris once me and three colleagues stopped into the bar for a nightcap. The men went to order, me and the other woman found some seats. A few minutes later the men returned, pale to the gills, with four LARGE whiskies. The drinks were free, they said. Why, we said.
      The door to the kitchen was open, they said. It was like Ratatouille in there, they said.

      I did not eat any of the cooked breakfast the next morning.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I picked up the book Hotel Babylon at a second hand book stall and the anonymous author (who worked in a number of posh top London hotels) says that rats are quite common in the older hotels such as Claridges and the Savoy.

  12. throwaway*

    the one i’ve encountered a few times is plenty of “cold drink” options but all the drinks are room temp. and there’s no ice option. i can excuse room temp water, but room temp soda is actively unpleasant to drink! idk why more places don’t think that through.

    1. Llama Llama*

      I worked in an accounting department of 20 or so people. Due to year end close we had to work New Years. They promised to provide us lunch. It turned out to be 2 x-large pizzas to serve 20 of us. To make it worse we had to work until 9PM with no dinner. I had a half slice of pizza for lunch and was sooo hangry by 9.

    2. TortallyHareBrained*

      I went to a conference that had a networking event with the opposite experience last year. We were given drink tickets to get alcoholic beverages or sodas at a very crowded bar, but the water available (with no lines) was in large barrels that had clearly been sitting in the sun all day. It was a frustrating experience, especially as I don’t drink alcohol.

    3. Honey Badger*

      Room temp soda. The bane of my existence! Worse when the only options are some lemon lime knockoff soda. That never tastes good warm!

    4. Harper*

      I haaaaate this!! When I prepare food or drinks for other people, I always try to anticipate what they will and won’t like, and prepare accordingly (cold drinks, plenty of napkins, bread not smashed, etc.). I’ve run into plenty of people who treat this kind of task like a a horrible imposition, and put forth the bare minimum effort. Drives me crazy.

  13. SDS*

    Y’all either need an event planner, or you need to fire the current one and hire somebody better!! Food is one of my favorite things – I would never book something without a BEO explicitly laying all of this out, including breaks. And I would especially never take a group of people (colleagues, customers, etc) somewhere that didn’t have rave food reviews!!

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      As a professional event planner, I have been to or heard of so many events that had incredibly basic things wrong, (including food) that could have been avoided by hiring even a minimally competent planner. People think that planning and coordinating events is easy, right up until the point that they have to plan one!

      1. SDS*

        “It must be so fun planning parties all day!”
        -everyone whose entire event experience is planning one 4-year old’s birthday party

        1. UKLu*

          Bit harsh… kids birthday parties are a nightmare, particularly for 4 year olds. Adults don’t know whether to stay or leave… then you don’t know if its socially acceptable to serve/drink wine or tea/coffee (regardless that there is not enough wine in the world to get through any kids party) Random, uninvited siblings appear out of nowhere, messing up the numbers for catering. Some child will inevitably fall off the bouncy castle and scream the place down. The whole event will leave you deaf for a week or so. It costs an absolute fortune to host, yet for some reason its traditional to present all attendees with party bags of swag as some sort of thank you for gracing your child with their presence – then the uninvited siblings are crying because there weren’t enough party bags for them to have one.

          If you can successfully plan and subsequently endure a 4th birthday party, you can probably do anything you put your mind to!

          1. I'm not really here*

            Not really? That’s kind of the equivalent of saying you’ve made a really nice dinner for family one time so therefore you can be a professional chef?

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      For everyone else who doesn’t know, I have done the search: BEO stands for “Banquet Event Order”.

    3. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

      Seriously – corporate event planner here and I’m always on top of food allergies, etc. and making sure my caterer’s friendly meals are substantial and interesting!

    4. OMG, Bees!*

      Sometimes the planning gets really screwed up (this is the closest tangent I can find for this story).

      Weeks of emailing with a client that was opening a new location in Boston for me to come in and do work confirmed they would be ready. But when I got there, they didn’t have power to the part of the building I would be working in. So, every day I was there, I would check in if there was anything I could do, which would be no, then run around the city as a tourist. A paid vacation for a week.

      Only problem was the client required me to stay at a particular hotel (they paid for), which was didn’t have an available room on Wednesday, so that night I had to crash at the apartment of a friend of a friend of a friend I met at a wedding the weekend before.

    5. Bridget*

      I work in hotel event management and I’m about to send this thread to my coworkers! Some of this stuff is crazy. Although of course, there’s only so much we as the hotel can do if people don’t tell us about their attendees’ dietary restrictions ahead of time. My chef would always make 2-3 veg entrees just in case since we would pretty often have a surprise vegetarian/vegan or two.

  14. Anne On Innity*

    A few years ago at a training session I was served a half portion of lunch (chicken legs on white rice) because “I don’t need as much food as the men.” I was a super-active athlete at the time doing a really physical job. To be fair though, think the food made people sick.

      1. Taura*

        I’ve heard of it being an option – there are several bbq and Mexican places in my town that used to have a “ladies’ lunch” meal that was a smaller portion of the main and fewer sides – but I’ve never just seen it assigned to someone like that!

        1. Tin Cormorant*

          Oh, I’d love to see more of that, though obviously minus the gendered part.

          I’m so tired of American portion sizes being determined by what some 6-foot-tall football player wants for dinner, to the point where my husband and I usually need to split a meal in order to be able to finish it all, which really feels like a rude thing to do to the restaurant. I actively look for restaurants that offer smaller entree portions so we can each order something different, but it’s pretty rare to find.

          1. Clisby*

            I do, too. When I was growing up (coastal SC) seafood restaurants would often offer “large” and “small” platters of food. There was no child’s menu or senior menu, just the 2 different plate sizes for regular food. My mother always got the small plate.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I physically cannot eat that much food. I will be miserable if I push it past my body’s telling me “Hey, hold up, the hiatal hernia can’t handle this, dingaling!” (not that it stops me sometimes, but then I pay for it)

          3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            I used to eat someplace that had a 2-3-4 menu, where they had a menu page with a list of 10-15 options and for a certain price you could pick any 2 options for your meal, for a higher price any 3, and for an again higher price you could pick any 4. It was a nice way to scale portions and adapt to various food needs. Made it easy for me as a vegetarian to go out with my small-portions grandma and have us each get something we wanted to eat.

          1. Random Bystander*

            Well, that at least makes sense–I know my mom certainly eats a lot less than she did 20ish years ago when she was the age I am now.

      2. Kate*

        One reason I stopped attending the “women’s lunches” at my professional conferences (interest groups started by women in a male-dominated field) is because the menus are always, but only 100% of the time, salad with grilled chicken and then chocolate cake. I just can’t with the gender-stereotyped food plus I resent paying hotel prices for a salad!

        1. Palliser*

          I run women’s group (and allies) lunches for my professional association, and it is a point of pride that we always have really good food. The last one we did was at a BBQ place. And I always insist that we have a specialty cocktail because at our regular events it’s alway beer and wine. Everyone gets so excited over a mimosa. Give the people mimoas, darn it!

          I 100% feel you on

          1. Palliser*

            I 100% feel you on the terrible salad and for some reason flourless chocolate cake or fresh fruit option.

            1. I Have RBF*

              Oh, god, I’ve been to those. Entrees assuming everyone was on some weird diet, like skimpy salad with a couple small slices of dry chicken breast and really tiny deserts. I estimated the total calories at one to be about 450 for the meal. I had to go get lunch afterwards.

      3. lurkyloo*

        I recently went for brunch and ordered a mimosa and was offered the ‘MANmosa’ as an option. I’m sorry, WUT did you call that?! *sparks fly off the top of my head*
        Have you thought of perhaps…y’know…NOT gendering size?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I have only ever heard of a “man-mosa” as Miller High Life (because it’s the “champagne of beers”) and orange juice. Which is also ridiculous because beer and champagne shouldn’t be gendered. Gendering the size of a drink seems worse to me somehow :\

        2. Salsa Your Face*

          In a family friendly bar/restaurant in our area, we overheard a guy ordering two Shirley Temples for his kids, one male, one female. A bystander chimed in and said “you should have ordered 1 Shirley Temple and 1 Shark Attack?” The first guy was like “wait, what’s a Shark Attack?” and the bystander said “it’s the same thing, but with the name changed so boys can drink it!”

          1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

            I’m a girl and now I really want a Shark Attack, because that sounds like a much more fun name for a drink. And also because I love sharks.

            But this is also just so silly. Drinks are drinks! And it’s probably the same people who complain about having to use/remember others’ pronouns that insist on gendering these drinks!

            1. Nobby Nobbs*

              As a kid, the seafood restaurant that served a “Shirley Shark” was the highlight of my annual vacation. It was mix-it-yourself, with the grenadine served in a plastic shark toy you got to take home. Fantastic, and not the least bit gendered.

    1. Magenta*

      Where was this and who decided it? The training company? The restaurant?
      Some restaurants near me do a standard and small portion, the small portion is for children, or adults with a smaller option, but the standard portion is the default and even if more women than men order the smaller one it isn’t advertised that way.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        option to order small or large is great. Deciding for the person is not so much.

        Good grief, how sexist can you get?

        1. mli25*

          My husband loves half portions, especially when travelling. He almost never eats the entire meal and brings home leftovers. Having the ability to order less (and pay a bit less) is really great when leftovers aren’t an option (usually no way to store AND reheat said food)

  15. And while we’re at it…*

    The last conference I attended was in 2019. It was a large conference (10,000+). I was a first time attendee of this particular conference so I had no idea what to expect.

    The first day, they released us for lunch, all at the same time. As you can imagine, it was chaos. They only planned for 30 minutes for lunch and ran out of food within minutes. To make matters worse, the food could be best described as unidentifiable slop. Serious, I didn’t know what it was supposed to be Luckily, there were several places to eat within walking distance, so I ate lunch out every day of the conference.

    Also, they did not serve any coffee or tea. None. The conference was located in a heavily Mormon part of the U.S., so I assumed it was because of that. There were no coffee shops within walking distance either. I guess attendees complained, because on the last day of the conference, the organizers hired a coffee truck to sit out front. If you were an attendee, you were given a free (tiny) cup of coffee.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      I was at an offsite company meeting once where they took away the coffee/tea/water after lunch! We were meeting until 4! Luckily our office manager noticed and went and made them bring it all back. But who does that??

      1. JustaTech*

        I went to a really fancy scientific conference once that took away the coffee during the presentation sessions so there was no way to warm up your cup of coffee that had gone stone cold in the first 3 minutes of a 3 hour session.
        They also didn’t provide lunch with the idea that the junior scientists would invite the senior scientists out to lunch. As though we could afford to do that, or were all brave enough to talk to Dr Big Heckin’ Deal.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          My conference in Oct only offers breakfast, but 1-makes it VERY clear that you’re on your own for other meals and 2-is being held in an area where you can’t throw a stone w/out hitting at least 5 restaurants, at least 3 of which will have fast lunch options for you. So there’s that. They better keep the coffee around during the talks though.

    2. Dinwar*

      “The conference was located in a heavily Mormon part of the U.S., so I assumed it was because of that.”

      I’ve been to the Salt Lake City sessions of the Geological Society of America convention and was able to find plenty of coffee, tea, and alcohol (geologists are know for drinking). So I don’t buy that as an excuse for a second.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Seriously–my Mormon neighbors have a coffee maker. Not for them, but for guests (at least, that’s what they’ve told us, not that I’m about to judge anyone for deciding they want to have coffee regardless of what their religion says). I think maybe your conference was just being cheap.

      2. Searching*

        Even Utah County (south of SLC and the home of Brigham Young University) now has coffee shops! That certainly wasn’t always the case. I remember going to a 7 a.m. meeting in Provo once many years ago – not a single coffee shop to be found. Plus: not only did our hosts not serve us coffee, we weren’t even offered as much as a glass of water! Guess they figured the negotiation would be short and sweet if we were parched…

    3. Gumby*

      I was at a conference that was held on a college campus (in the summer, no classes in session). Great! Cafeteria is used to serving crowds. Except, apparently, not all at the same time during our 1 hour lunch break. Some people barely got in the door with 5 minutes to spare. The next time that conference was held? Separate assigned meal times and longer meal breaks. It went so much better.

    4. yes, they're hungry*

      I used to attend and volunteer for a (non-professional) convention and every year, we’d go around to the local restaurants to introduce our organization, and let them know our dates and our expected attendance.

      Every year, every restaurant in walking distance was shuttered by halfway through the second day, in spite of specific warnings.

  16. Irish Teacher*

    Not really bad or anything, but kinda…ridiculous. I have to attend a marking conference each year before marking the state exams and in the early years, they used have the most delicious doughnuts and pastries along with tea and coffee for our breaktime.

    Then the recession hit in and they cut back majorly and this time, along with the tea and coffee, they had a couple of saucers of Penguin bars. I doubt there were more than 20 bars in total and there would have been 80-100 people at the conference.

    1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

      I feel like ticking off a whole bunch of teachers who are about to collectively decide the futures of the rising generation is a deeply unwise move.

  17. Moo*

    My husband is allergic to onions. Which are in literally everything, apparently. Every time his office does a catered lunch it’s from an Italian place. He stays away from Italian food because of possible onions in everything. He’s asked the organizers if they can order elsewhere, even sandwiches or something, and they say “but *everyone* likes Italian!” as if he’s a crazy person. And then they ask him (with attitude) why he can’t just eat the salad. Which has onions in it.

    He’s stopped attending those catered lunches to avoid the glares he gets for only eating rolls.

    1. Vanilla lattes are the best*

      I am also highly allergic to onions (seriously, I will die if I eat them) and work lunches can be so problematic for me. I feel his pain.

      1. Moo*

        The sheer number of people who think he’s making his allergy up……So frustrating! Sympathy commiseration!

        1. Vanilla lattes are the best*

          Same! If I had a dollar for every time someone thought I was making it up, I would be rich. Its definitely a tough allergy to have.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Sympathies to you both. I lose it when I’m told “no one’s allergic to mushrooms; just eat them.”

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I’m not allergic, but I just can’t eat them. My body doesn’t trust them.

              So many people dislike mushrooms that I am always surprised when it’s the only veg option. Like having liver be the only meat option.

            2. ferrina*

              “No one’s allergic to mushrooms……the ones that claim they are keep dying. They’re so dramatic!”

            3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              OH MY GOD THIS

              “can’t you just pick them out?”

              I can, but the full body reaction will be the same and it isn’t pretty. Will you catch me when I pass out?

            4. Anony*

              Mushroom-allergic vegetarian here! I have had a LOT of side salads and rolls at work events (I’m not vegan or gluten-free or picky at all, but I imagine it would be even harder if any of those were true).

            5. Clewgarnet*

              It drives me up the wall when people don’t know what their fake meat is made of! Quorn is made of mushrooms so, unless you can tell me absolutely for sure what your fake meat is, I’m not risking it.

    2. datamuse*

      I had a thankfully mild childhood allergy to them which faded as I got older and I can eat them now, but…yes! They are in everything (and my mother IS Italian).

      1. Usually Lurking*

        I can’t eat onions – not an allergy like anaphylactic reaction, but several days of digestive distress that I try to avoid at all costs. It is HARD to avoid. For years, my go-to options were cheese-based – Mac and cheese rarely has onions (but sometimes does). Now I can’t tolerate dairy either and it makes eating anywhere but home a real challenge. People sort of understand the dairy thing (though a lot of confusion with gluten/grain free or not understanding that butter is dairy), but asking about onions always confused people and I generally avoid all sauces and broths unless it’s a place with an actual allergen menu.

        1. Hawk*

          Me too! Thanks, IBS! I carry a card in my wallet that lists everything I can’t have in both English and Spanish (I live in an area with a high Spanish-speaking population). Work meals are usually the worst challenge because the people in charge of food go for the cheapest option (often it’s pizza).

        2. Chidi has a stomach ache*

          I feel this. I’m on a low-FODMAP diet for a digestive disorder and onions and garlic seem to be one of triggers. I’m so sad (many foods I love are garlic heavy), and also I feel like I will never be able to eat at a conference ever again.

          I was visiting my parents a couple of weekends ago and they were trying to work around my dietary needs but finding it hard (I brought food because of this, but they insisted that we all eat the same thing). They kept saying “oh my gosh, garlic is in everything!” Yep, well aware, Mom.

          1. Lizcase*

            I also follow a (modified) low FODMAP diet, with an onion reaction bad enough that my doctor said to treat it as an an allergy.

            if you are just starting out: it does get a lot easier.

            My husband cooks everything from scratch for me. my mother has figured it out, mostly. But I have relatives who just cannot seem to comprehend that all I need is a list of ingredients. And spices and herbs are fine as long as there is no onion or garlic. (this I say in response to folks who say the food I eat must be bland w/o onions or garlic)

            For a buffet, I generally look for ham, cheese (if you can handle lactose), veggies (no dip!) and fruit as safe options. For any restaurant, I research the menu before hand. For catered meals at work, I usually stick to my own food.

            BTW: garlic infused olive oil is a godsend. and if you like mushrooms: oyster mushrooms are super low in mannitol. There is so solution for onions :( It’s been 7 years since I had onions (by choice, not accidental).

            1. Moo*

              I remember the first few holidays with my family my husband got sick because people “forgot” that he was allergic despite multiple reminders, or they thought it wasn’t that bad. One Thanksgiving at my aunt’s house, she made a separate stuffing without onions specially for him, then stuffed the turkey with the onion stuffing. Not realizing what had happened, he ate the turkey……… That was not a pleasant evening :P She felt so bad, she didn’t even think about it! Thankfully we’ve all adjusted over the last 14 years and he’s been able to eat with us all for the most part :)

        3. Worldwalker*

          I had a similar problem — Beano helped some, but eating onions gave me a day+ of digestive distress, and eating onions in the quantity I consider sufficient would probably have made me explode. Than I landed in the hospital for something unrelated, and was on major IV antibiotics for a week. Afterwards, my onion problem was gone. And I’m a lot better with beans. Obviously something has changed in my intestinal flora. I can now eat onions.

        4. Artemesia*

          Onions make me sick and it is a constant battle to find things to eat in some restaurants.

          Oddly I had no trouble in Russia where the only vegetables available seem to be potatoes, onions and cabbage. But every restaurant I would go to would make up a beef stroganof without the onions. (and Georgian food tends to be grilled meats so I could get them to leave the big slab of raw onion off, or if they didn’t understand, I could lift it off.

          In the US it is common for restaurants to throw raw chopped red onions into everything including salads, and on hot dishes and meats. I can lift an onion ring off a salad, but when they chop it up fine, I just can’t eat it.

          1. Moo*

            We’ve found after much trial and error that if it’s a chunk of onion on the very top of a salad, he can pick off that onion and the lettuce it was sitting on and be ok. But if it’s on a burger, where the food is hot and that onion has had time to meld, they have to remake it. It sucks when restaurants forget.

    3. nm*

      I have a coworker who is allergic to basil and she literally cannot count the number of times she tells caterers this, and they bring her a vegan or gluten free dish that actually DOES contain basil.

    4. a tester, not a developer*

      I’m not allergic to onions, but they give me… tummy trouble. People stopped bugging me about not eating the catered lunch after I brought the afternoon thunder one day.

      1. Moo*

        If it wasn’t so upsetting to my husband I’d suggest he do this! But then I have to deal with it at night…and he’s so uncomfortable and in pain so…definitely not worth it.

    5. KittyGhost*

      I’m low FODMAP (so intolerance to garlic and onion) and onion really is in everything! Your husband’s team are being massive jerks about this.

      1. Moo*

        Agreed. I’ve sent him the AAM archives on this subject and he tried some of them but of course they didn’t work.

    6. GoldenHandcuffs*

      I have a friend that is also very allergic to onions. They’re literally in everything. She brings her own with her everywhere she goes because she never knows when she’ll get “onioned”.

    7. Minimal Pear*

      Uuuuugh, sorry to all Italians (I swear I have Italian friends!) but Italian is the WORST for me with my dietary restrictions. Although I’ve heard that restaurants that are actually IN Italy are great about allergies and varied options.

      1. Moo*

        Hard for me to adjust to, too! Haha. When we first started dating and he told me about it, I had to learn how to cut onions completely out of my cooking. It was tough! I love onions (and Italian food)! But we’ve figured out the things I like that he doesn’t that are onion-essentials so when I cook those I make him something else.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        The whole EU (+ UK as we were still in when this came into force, and we have since strengthened our national law on the subject) has strong allergy legislation.

        There are fourteen common allergens that have to be on labels by law (including gluten and milk but also crustaceans and sesame) but also you have to know exactly what is in your dishes so allergic customers can be kept safe.

        1. Minimal Pear*

          Yeah, when I was in Scotland I got ADDICTED to the dairy-free baked goods at Sainsbury’s. They were delicious!

    8. Cat*

      They really are in everything. I don’t have an allergy, but I have GERD, onions (and chocolate) are my worst triggers, and it can take days to heal from eating them, so I try to avoid them entirely. It is so hard to eat out!

    9. Spearmint*

      Ugh, I find this very relatable, except for me it’s tomatoes rather than onions. Tomatoes are so common, especially in Italian and Mexican food (which is unfortunate as I love tomato-free versions of both, but sometimes restaurants won’t have many/any tomato-free options).

      Since the allergy developed in college, is mild, and allergies to tomatoes aren’t common, many people in my life were skeptical it was real. That included my girlfriend at the time and many of my fiends. They accommodated my preferences anyway, but I could tell they thought I was being anxious. I developed a real complex about telling people about it for years afterward, and only recently have started doing so. Luckily most adults are kinder about this sort of thing than college students, but it still sucks because tomatoes are so common, especially in popular foods like tacos and pizza.

      1. Iain C*

        Italian food seems synonymous with tomatoes… but they’re relatively modern in Europe! Did they just look wistfully at their pasta? Live off Carbonara? (now I am hungry)

    10. Yikes Stripes*

      I guess I’d make their heads explode because I loathe most Italian American food – and I don’t care for onions!

      1. Yikes Stripes*

        That said, the list of things I am allergic to is extensive and weird: Bananas, raspberries, avocados, cashews, pears, kiwi fruit, and seaweed. Everything but the seaweed is related to my (extremely bad) latex allergy, and *nobody ever believes me*. Like, I literally almost died because someone decided that I wasn’t *really* allergic to raspberries and told me that the salad was dressed with a balsamic dressing and deliberately neglected to tell me that it was a raspberry one to prove that I was lying. Thank god for epi-pens!

  18. AnonForThis*

    Once upon a time, there were about 12 hungry college interns at an event specifically meant to onboard and welcome them. There were like 6 large pizzas to feed them and no other food provided. Not only were there absolutely no pizzas that didn’t have meat, but every single pizza *specifically had pork on it*. There were at least 4 people present who couldn’t eat any of the food available. Thankfully the entire event was only an hour or two long, but still, way to make the new interns feel welcomed!

    1. Silver Robin*

      Oh my goodness that reminds me of an event at grad school where they hired a food business that came out of the business school’s incubator. Love to see the support! Except it was all pulled pork. In a global affairs program where it is common to get Muslim students (and Jewish ones! Hi!). It just seemed really obvious that nobody thought it through. I met another Jewish student there who was stricter than I am and he told me he just generally picks at the fruit… poor guy.

    2. starsaphire*

      What is it with the pork obsession, anyway? I swear, my work cafeteria’s food options are almost always pork-based.

      I do a lot of door dashing at work. *sigh*

      1. datamuse*

        Because it’s relatively cheap, I’m guessing? But even that doesn’t make sense because so is chicken, which doesn’t come with nearly as many cultural or religious restrictions.

      2. nm*

        For real, I’m on a committee that does the food orders for certain work events and I’m always like “get a chicken option. We have soooo many Hindus who don’t eat beef and Muslims and Jews who don’t eat pork, who do want a meat dish.” And certain people on the committee are constantly like “but let’s switch it up and get something with pork or beef!”

        1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          I mean, if they want to switch it up, maybe try a lamb option? Or a fish option?
          But yeah, chicken or turkey is probably going to be the safest meat option overall.

    3. Yes And*

      I had a boss who did this at a working dinner – 3 pizzas for 6 people, all with peppers and olives. That’s what he liked on his pizza, and it never remotely crossed his mind that other people might not. (I’m allergic to peppers.)

      1. pally*

        Peppers and olives?


        I didn’t think any pizza could be worse than the olives only pizza ex-company would order for the employees EVERY SINGLE TIME they treated us to pizza.

        I stand corrected.

        And since I was on swing shift, that olive-only pizza was cold by the time we got in. They wouldn’t even do a second order for swing shift. Told us to just microwave the leftovers from first shift.

        (no, there was no night shift)

      2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        People like that (who can’t even stop to think that maybe other people like other things) are the worst. And should never, ever be in charge of group food purchasing.

    4. Manders*

      At the yearly department “welcome” event for new students/faculty, they only ever served BBQ (we are in the south). Even the green beans have pork in them. My poor boss could only eat the rolls because he was vegetarian. The department has changed a lot since then (it’s no longer “pale, stale and male,” as we always joked), thankfully.

    5. Salsa Your Face*

      I worked at a company that provided catered lunches for clients. And since I worked directly with clients in full day workshops, the lunches were for me too. I grew up kosher and don’t eat pork or shellfish, which the people who ordered the food well knew. One day I got to work and saw that the menu for the day was pork chops, greens (cooked with ham, presumably,) and loaded mashed potatoes (so, bacon.) I went to the person who ordered the food and asked what the fuck. She called the caterer and came back to me and said “good news, they can throw in a portion of chicken saltimbocca for you!” I’ll never forget the look on her face when I informed her that chicken saltimbocca has pork in it too.

      I’m pretty sure I ate pretzels for lunch that day.

  19. Be Gneiss*

    Mandatory holiday party at ex-job:
    It was catered by the school cafeteria (we were not affiliated with the school in any way, it was just a way to get food for cheap), and we had baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans, all of the quality you’d expect from a high school cafeteria. You could have your choice of tap water (no ice), coffee, or instant hot cider from a powered mix. Dessert was foil-wrapped holiday chocolates from the dollar store, while the owner’s gave speeches about their record-breaking profits.

    1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      At my last job, the holiday party in 2000 was cancelled because of Covid. My boss- not the President of the company- had the idea to give all of us bonuses based on the cost of the party divided by the number of attendees. When we all found out how much per person the holiday party was, given with that we normally got a third of that in a cash bonus in an envelope, while being a company owned by a half a billion dollar parent company…let’s just say that there was a bit of grumbling. While the holiday party was awfully nice, it was a bit of a slap in the face, considering I didn’t get a raise my first year there (no room in the budget) and then again the second year during Covid (justified by the pandemic, when we had record profits).

  20. Alexiiiiiiiiii5*

    at an event I once volunteered for my gluten allergy wasn’t properly communicated. so I was so hungry I started dipping applesauce in chips. they also didn’t have gluten free communion which I felt obligated to take so the priest very hastily blessed some Fritos for me. they did get me better food the second day.

    1. Helewise*

      I’m so sorry you experienced this, but sanctified Fritos has to be one of the best things I’ve ever heard.

    2. Tinkerbell*

      Okay, the holy Fritos sounds awesome and I’m so glad the priest was willing to be flexible for you!

  21. Tinkerbell*

    Diabetes organization meeting at the local hospital (and thus the hospital was catering it). The only food offered was full-sugar lemonade, sugar cookies, and cupcakes.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Similar hospital dietary department fail: complete and utter inability to accommodate sick kid’s food allergies over a month long stay. The lead RD actually got involved early on because I’d taken one look at what was available and noped right out; they were concerned I was just “one of those crazy moms” and no, she has documented “this will kill her” allergies. Took the lead RD less than a minute to determine that I was not incorrect.

      Color me not at all surprised that the catering for a diabetes org involved nothing but sugar.

      1. Artemesia*

        the one time I was hospitalized I could not get onion free main dishes. Y ou’d think hospitals would have dieticians and food services used to catering to dietary needs.

        1. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Pretty sure that most hospital food service is contracted out and warmed up in plastic, at least locally. A number of them don’t really have “full kitchens” anymore, more of a modified “warm things up and assemble things” kitchens.

          I did ask the same question of the lead dietician. She agreed it was frustrating (probably massively so for her department, honestly).

        2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

          Nope. I have several friends who are nurses, one of whom is constantly making fun on FB of the latest hospital food they’ve encountered because it’s just that bad. They have no say in anything about it, other than trying to catch the egregious allergy/etc. foods before it gets to patients.

          1. Monty*

            I was hospitalized for emergency surgery this year and, because I was wait-listed for the OR, I couldn’t eat anything except the occasional ice chip. Before I left, my nurse insisted I eat a plate of powdered eggs to demonstrate I hadn’t developed a surgical complication. When I started gagging, she actually asked “Is it your stomach or your mouth that’s saying no?”

    2. Jamie Starr*

      To be fair, in my personal experience people with T1 diabetes don’t have to be as mindful of sugar. They have bolus insulin whether they eat a salad or a pint of ice cream – just in different doses. It’s people with T2 who generally have to be more careful about sugar.

      1. WellRed*

        Person with type 1 here. So, yeah, it’s not that simple and PWD are not any more of a homogeneous lump than any other group of eaters. And I am appalled at the tone deafness of this catering.

      2. ThatGirl*

        It’s still bad form to serve a lot of high-carb/high sugar foods to people with diabetes. “Just take more insulin” isn’t really a great long-term solution. Source: close friend with T1D

        1. Jamie Starr*

          I never said was a long term solution. I was pointing out that people with T1 have to bolus regardless of how much sugar there is. My spouse has T1 and it annoys me and them to no end when people chastise them for eating sweets because diabetes. So your source has their opinion and my source has a different one.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            I have a kid with T1, and I’d be annoyed if the catering skipped dessert “because people with diabetes can’t eat sugar.” But I’d also be very annoyed at only sugar, because lots of people with Type 1 do prefer to at least balance sugary treats with some protein, or might not want to eat tons of sugar at that specific moment if their blood sugar is already high, or if they’re going out for ice cream after the session, or whatever.

          2. ThatGirl*

            I didn’t say T1D people can’t eat sweets. I was just agreeing that serving nothing but sugary foods at a diabetes-themed event (or really, any event) isn’t the best idea.

          3. Humble Schoolmarm*

            T1D person here (33 years this month). Like your husband, I’m not a fan of being told off for eating sweets, but having no yummy sweet things is more of an annoyance, whereas the other extreme could throw my blood off for days if I wasn’t very careful. If I was served a full sized glass of sugared lemonade, a sugar cookie and a cupcake, I would have to bolus more than my whole day of usual short acting to cover it, which I could do, but I would want to save that for a special food occasion, not a poorly planned meeting. I also find things like salads and sandwiches fairly easy to carb count, where as lemonade (sugar to taste) and cupcakes (thin skim of frosting vs 1/3 of the total hight is buttercream) are anyone’s guess. The other problem is that I would likely get on a nasty cycle because I would be thirsty because of the high blood, so I would have to drink more lemonade, which would put my blood up more. Argh.

          4. Observer*

            So your source has their opinion and my source has a different one.

            No. Because your issue is not relevant here. Sure, no one should be telling your spouse what to eat – presumably they are a competent adult and they know what they can / cannot handle.

            But it’s still true that for many T1 diabetics, the amount of sugar they consume still makes a difference. Thus for a group *catering to diabetics* to have *only* high sugar foods is waaaay tone deaf.

            1. Jamie Starr*

              I didn’t say the amount of sugar people with T1 consume doesn’t make a difference. I said in my experience,they don’t have to be as mindful as people who have T2.

              This comment section has a really terrible habit of reading what they think is written instead of what is actually written, and then nitpicking it to death. It must be exhausting to be around every day IRL.

              1. Observer*

                I said in my experience,they don’t have to be as mindful as people who have T2.

                And that’s still not relevant. The point is that the amount of sugar *still* matters. And it’s pretty bad for this to be ignored in this context.

      3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        What is “bolus insulin”? Is this the insulin pump I’ve heard of?

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Type 1 diabetics need to get insulin in two ways. The first is a baseline level of insulin just for being alive, regardless of what they eat. That’s sometimes administered once a day as a shot in a long-acting form and sometimes given by their insulin pump throughout the day. They also need to give insulin to enable their bodies to process the carbohydrates in all the food they eat, at roughly the time they eat it and in an amount related to how many carbs are in the food – that’s called bolus insulin and can be administered by giving shots at mealtimes through the day or by using an insulin pump.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            I know much less about Type 2, but I believe that Type 2 diabetics who are on insulin are more likely to be on only the long-acting insulin and not need to bolus for each meal, and to be encouraged to eat lower carb or in ways that are less likely to spike blood sugar.

        2. M. from P.*

          Nope, “bolus” means a single (additional) dose, in this context a dose of short-acting insulin taken to “cover” a meal.
          An insulin pump is a device that administers insulin continuously via a small needle but you can also program it to deliver an additional dose/bolus.

    3. CL*

      My diabetic parent regularly gets served regular (full corn syrup) soda when in the hospital as a patient. Even worse, parent doesn’t like to complain so will drink it!

      1. KateM*

        My child was in hospital during his birthday with “some combination of rash-causing virus and a generally allergic child”, and then they served him for dinner some kind of potato salad full with common allergens.

    4. Lily Potter*

      Good Lord. Talk about tone-deaf! I’m an unrepentant carnivore so you’d think I wouldn’t have an issue finding food at events. However, I’m also a low-carb eater – which means often that I can often eat JUST the meat and almost nothing else. Sometimes a salad if I’m willing to eat it dry, or with vinegar/oil if that’s offered (there’s a ton of sugar in most salad dressings). Vegetable sides are often high carb (potatoes/carrots/peas/sweet potatoes), most fruit is high carb, and obviously bread/rice is out. I’ve gotten box lunches where I’ve been able to pick off the meat and cheese from the sandwich, and that’s it. I’ve learned to just make the best of things, not make a big deal of it, and raid my snack drawer like a madwoman when I get home or to the hotel!

    5. Indolent Libertine*

      So basically everyone who was there who wasn’t T1 was going to walk out having increased their risk for becoming T2? Was this event sponsored by an insulin drug marketer, by any chance?

  22. Erinwithans*

    I had a (terrible) boss at a small startup who was vegan. Occasionally he’d read a management book and decide to Do Management, which also was pretty uniformly terrible, though also short lived. One year he decided to take everyone and our +1s out to dinner for the holidays. Mandatory attendance.

    He took us to a 100% raw vegan place. I have nothing against it, and honestly the food was tasty, but it was bizarre – they kept advertising their dishes as things like “Lobster Tail” (half a papaya with some cayenne on it), or “Pizza with goat cheese and pepperoni” (dried nut-paste cracker with more nut paste and radish slices). Portions were also quite small, half a papaya aside. My “Loaded Potato Skin” appetizer was half an avocado with salted dried flakes of eggplant on it.

    We all ate an appetizer, entree, and dessert, and we were all so hungry that afterwards we ditched our boss and went out to pizza. At least the cocktails were amazing.

    1. ThatGirl*

      That’s….special. I have a few close friends who are vegan and they love their (fully cooked) junk food just like anyone else.

    2. Erin*

      I’m allergic to nuts and most raw fruits and vegetables. I can’t imagine a worse place to try and find a meal I could eat than a raw vegan restaurant.

    3. Massive Dynamic*

      Bwahahaha that’s so weird. I’m vegan and if I order a loaded potato, there damn well better be a potato as the base of it.

    4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      That would be so stressful for me! I could probably eat quite a few things there, and some of them are probably things I’d actually enjoy, but I need the names for things to be what I’m actually get getting so I can order things that I’m not allergic to and otherwise able to eat. I’m the kind of vegetarian who wants to appreciate the food I’m actually eating rather than approximate the food I’ve chosen not to eat, for the most part.

  23. Bend & Snap*

    My worst story is a Friday night holiday party with one round of *light* apps (at dinnertime) and an open martini bar. People got blackout drunk whether they meant to or not. Nobody could look at each other the following Monday.

    Highlights: One guy withdrew the max from an ATM and gave it to a stranger. A male supervisor patted a female staffer on the butt. There were martini races. I got a piggyback ride from the IT guy to another bar. Underage interns were served. There was a conference call the next day to try to piece everything together.

    And that is the last time we had an event with almost no food.

    1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      My law school does this for the alumni holiday party EVERY YEAR. It’s early evening, so right after work when everyone is hungry. And its apps and DESSERTS. So think not a lot of food and a ton of sweet stuff. on an empty stomach. I asked the organizer one year why there was no actual food. The answer was they thought everyone would enjoy a treat. I stopped going.

  24. Tangerine Thief*

    Conference worker at a fancy hotel in my youth. Management said they would provide pizza to those who helped clear down after a late running conference.

    14 of us stayed late to pack up, clear down the 4 rooms and presentation halls and turn it around for the wedding the next day.

    They did indeed provide pizza.


    Just one.

    We split slices with someone’s pen knife and had to provide our own drinks as the food and sodas were for ‘attendees only’.


    Did not volunteer to stay twice.

  25. FALL YALL*

    Finally, my time to shine! While you’re going to get a lot of stories about folks giving minimal effort, I have a story of someone in our meetings dept. giving maximum effort and absolutely borking it. This was at a professional association, late 2000s. Food TV was ascendant and hubris was on the menu in kitchens across the world. We were going to DC for our annual lobbying visit with members, and had booked a sit-down kickoff dinner at the hotel conference center for the night before.

    The meetings person in charge of the food was actually a very thoughtful, nice person who liked to mix things up meeting to meeting instead of just repeating what we did year over year. And she was caught up in the food tv hype, as was the culinary director of the hotel we stayed at. She knew I was a food lover, and she excitedly let me know that we’d be getting not just ANY hotel conference dinner, but a fresh seasonal menu that our group would be the first to try.

    Wine was opened, salads and bread were picked at, and then came the MAIN EVENT: Caramel Chicken. Like, hotel chicken breast with a caramel glaze/sauce. And green beans/squash/pumpkin. The entire thing was like getting slapped in the face with an MLM-sourced bath bomb. IT’S FALL, Y’ALL feels like a personal threat to this very day.

    (Footnote: the keynote speaker of that kickoff dinner was a young Tucker Carlson. Twist!)

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m not actually seeing the problem. Caramel chicken sounds interesting.

        1. FALL YALL*

          I’m sure there was a good way to do it. This was basically those cubes of baking caramel, rendered down with spices that I’m choosing to believe was not a Bath & Body Works potpourri bag. Add the veg to it and it was like if you were trying to describe Fall to an alien made only of taste buds, but you were yelling too loud.

          I also thought it sounded interesting. Once.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            it was like if you were trying to describe Fall to an alien made only of taste buds, but you were yelling too loud

            Thank you for this description! The idea of caramel chicken with sides of green beans, pumpkin, and squash sounds delicious… if it were prepared with a normal level of flavor. But at “drown your tongue in the flavors of fall!” level, I would also be put off the idea of caramel chicken forever.

          2. daeranilen*

            Yeah, I love sweet sauces and marinades, but typically you render down the sweet things with savory ingredients to create a more complex, layered flavor that enhances the meat. That’s very different from essentially drowning some chicken in the mix-ins for a Starbucks latte.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Meh. I don’t like sweet sauces on my meat and caramel is nothing but sugar and cream. Sounds gross to me.

      2. Jane*

        Caramel chicken is actually a thing in Vietnamese cooking! It’s “caramelized” in that you reduce coconut water/fish sauce/palm sugar/probably some aromatics I’m forgetting down into a sweet-savory sauce.

        1. Emily Dickinson*

          I made fish like this once. I thought it was delicious but my husband asked me not to make it ever again. He couldn’t get over the pungency of the fish sauce being reduced.

        2. Armchair Analyst*

          I have also seen and had a maple syrup curry from that geographical region. yum! but yes, complex. not just sweet.

    2. MsM*

      Having eaten my fair share of DC hotel conference meals, I am not at all surprised that “culinary innovation” = “let’s do something slightly different to the chicken and green beans.” (An MLM bath bomb meal is hilarious, though. At least secondhand. I’m sure it wasn’t fun to eat.)

  26. existential_crisis*

    I went to the largest professional conference in my industry, and there were two box lunch options: regular and allergy-free/vegan. The regular lunch was a large sub sandwich loaded with meat and cheese, served with chips and a cookie. The combined allergy/vegan lunch was such an afterthought that most of the catering staff didn’t know (a) there even was a second option, or (b) where to find them.
    When they did find it, it was a tiny box of undressed salad with three strips of cold grilled zucchini on it and a brownie. I’ve had larger side salads at restaurants! I skipped the rest of the conference lunches and got takeout instead.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Argh, that would make me nuts. I’m hypoglycemic and neither of those would work for me (even if I ate wheat, which I also don’t). And why remove the chips from the alternate option? I think I’d try to snag one of each and make it a salad with meat and chips.

      1. existential_crisis*

        I have celiac-level sensitivity though, so anything that came in contact with bread is off limits. Every year I’ve been to the conference, the allergy/vegan lunch is awful, and I complain on the follow up survey. Haven’t seen any improvements yet though!

    2. Observer*

      and there were two box lunch options: regular and allergy-free/vegan

      That is a clear sign that the alternative is going to be pathetic – if you are LUCKY.

      And, guess what? The “allergy free” version wasn’t definitively allergy free, even assuming it was a “flourless” (and egg free) version. Because it is definitely possible to be allergic to chocolate – even if you limit yourself to “classic” IgE mediated reactions.

  27. AfT*

    I have Celiac Disease, so not only does my food need to be gluten free, but I need to be extremely confident before putting it in my mouth that there was no cross contamination with gluten at any stage in the prep process, or I will be very, very sick for maybe even a few consecutive weeks. I bring my own food to conferences, and I definitely get some *looks* putting it on a plate and eating at the same table as others.

    1. Panicked*

      The looks I can handle, the questions/comments I cannot.

      “You’re so thin, you don’t need to diet!” I’m not *on* a diet; this is the food that keeps me healthy.

      “What, is this food not good enough?” It looks delicious and I wish I had a meal I didn’t have to cook over the meal I brought.

      “Oh, just have to be special, don’t we?” Yes, yes we do.

      or my favorite “What happens if you eat something with gluten?” You really REALLY don’t want to know.

      1. AfT*

        Or “oh, my aunt has Celiac Disease but she still eats bread/fixed it with yoga/has a mild form”. Arghhhhhhhhh

      2. That's 'Senior Engineer Mate' to you.*

        What happens?

        Nurses in intensive care singing happy birthday around a hospital bed after my girlfriend stupidly ate a “certified gluten free” muffin for her birthday when we were on holiday. She got a special birthday ride in an ambulance and everything!

        I initially thought a special birthday bonfire would be nice but she didn’t think a special birthday spending the night in jail for arson was a good idea.

    2. time_ebbs*

      I also have celiac and I hate dealing with convention security at places that restrict outside food. Even if I confirm ahead of time that I can bring food, it’s fifty-fifty if the security person at the door is going to give me trouble.

      There’s also just general carelessness that drives me nuts. I had a work meeting ages ago that provided safe gluten free food but decided to mix all the leftovers on a single platter after the meeting. The person who did it was surprised I didn’t eat any of the food as a snack later. At another job, the potluck organizer took a bunch of things out of their safe containers and put them on shared platters (like all of the cookies people brought on one platter) so now the gluten free food was contaminated. And this happened even after I labelled the stuff I brought and indicated it should be separate! Potlucks in general are rough because people can get so annoying about lack of participation.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        On a related note, garnishes are a mistake. I’m allergic to peppers, and someone I am often at conventions with is allergic to strawberries. I have a very hard time not losing my entire shit when there’s an entire pan of an otherwise-safe food that I can’t eat because some jackass thought the potatoes looked a little beige and decided to carve a pepper and stick it in the pan for color. Strawberries seem to be like this, but for sweet foods, in the minds of these same people.

        They will also helpfully “fix” the eggs I special-ordered with no paprika before bringing them out of the kitchen.

        1. Mack*

          Maybe they should garnish only with ingredients already included in the dish? It could also be a way to signal a non-obvious allergen. Cheesy mashed potatoes could have little cheese dinosaurs on top, for example.

  28. DisneyChannelThis*

    Old job – cakes all the time. They finally listened to feedback that too much cake was happening (people on diets, people on sugar restrictions, vegans etc left out too). Didn’t provide alternatives but at least stopped being so pushy with cakes (won’t you have a piece?? It’s really good! I know you said you didn’t want a piece but I stuck a plate with a piece on your desk anyway). No more cake for months, then at the annual picnic, they brought out not 1 not 2 but 7 cakes!!! One for each month.

    1. desk platypus*

      I have so many cakes at my job too! All the birthdays, congratulations on getting accepted to a certain program, anniversaries, it’s National Chocolate Cake Day (no joke), etc. About 90% of the time they aren’t even good cakes but you’re judged for not socializing. This past three months alone probably had 10 cakes. A new director said we’ll have one big cake event for all departments at the end of the month for all birthdays. I thought that would save me but no. People still do individual birthdays PLUS the monthly cake.

  29. Dom*

    I’m vegetarian myself and have had a few bad experiences, though I’ve also been in position to organise things like work pizza orders a few times (mostly when babysitting interns or graduate applicants). My rule of thumb is that at least a quarter of the food should be vegetarian, probably a bit more depending on how varied the veggie options are, because you don’t want the veggie options to run out and you also don’t want the non-vegetarian people to feel policed if they go for a slice of margarita pizza and are told it’s just for vegetarians.

    Between people who are vegetarian, people who have religious dietary requirements, people trying to eat healthier, etc. there’s usually a fair few folks who prefer to pick the meat-free option.

    At the same time, though, not many non-vegans will go for vegan options (with a few exceptions like falafel).

    1. SpaceySteph*

      As a person who doesn’t eat pork for religious reasons, I do appreciate when there’s a non meat pizza option, but I also don’t like black olives so I hate veggie lovers pizza. Can never go wrong with a few basic cheese! It might not be anyone’s favorite but it is the most universally inoffensive.

      1. Tangerine Thief*

        I feel like it should be a rule to throw in 2-3 cheese pizzas (or whatever ratio works) and make sure the veggies only crew and limited diet people get first dibs at it.

        Always found that if you just left it as an option 1/2 the meat eaters would have a slice ‘just because’ even if there were 5-8 other pizzas they could eat.

        1. ecnaseener*

          With pizza, I’d just assume you need enough plain cheese pizza for almost everyone – don’t try to math out what percent of people who *can* eat the selected toppings will want them. Some of us are just picky and like our cheese pizza!

          1. Worldwalker*

            Exactly. There is no biological or dietary reason why I can’t eat a pizza with anchovies on it, but I will go hungry rather than eat it, because I absolutely can’t stand them. Just because I *can* eat anchovies doesn’t mean I will.

          2. Chirpy*

            This. Almost everyone will eat cheese pizza (barring allergies). If you run out of meat, meat eaters will eat cheese pizza. It does not work the other way around. Veggie pizza isn’t the way to go either, as some people will have issues with various vegetables/mushrooms.

            Always get a LOT of plain cheese pizza.

          3. Charlotte Lucas*

            Most people seem to grab at least one slice of the cheese pizza.

            I hate the veggie lover’s pizza. It is full of vegetables that I dislike, that don’t taste good on pizza, or that are a terrible combination of burnt & raw.

        2. Anna*

          I think people forget too that someone being able to eat some meats does not necessarily mean they can eat common pizza meats (pepperoni, sausage, and anchovies come to mind). Pepperoni in particular is much more likely to cause allergen or sensitivity problems than say, plain chicken, there are several religious restrictions against eating pork, and allergies with seafood are a thing.

          Like I’ve definitely seen a logical fallacy in this common section that “is not vegetarian = can eat the meat pizza (and therefore is being an ass for stealing the only food vegetarians can eat),” and that is. Not nearly as universally true as people seem to think.

      2. mlem*

        As a vegetarian, I once replied to a group poll by saying that I’d be fine with cheese or mushroom pizza, fully expecting to end up with cheese. Not only did they get both, but the mushroom pizza was surprisingly popular with everyone and tends to show up at all our pizza-ordering events! (My team’s management does a great job of ordering food in excess so that we usually have leftovers of everything, which are then happily handed out to whoever is willing to take them home. I’m lucky!)

      3. Jane*

        I’m an omnivore who could probably go full vegetarian if I wanted to (I’ll get a burger now and then as a treat-yourself meal, but when cooking at home I skew towards vegetarian because it’s cheaper) and I will ALWAYS take a plain cheese pizza over a veggie lover’s because I hate bell peppers. ><

        1. Worldwalker*

          I hate peppers and olives. I really like plain cheese pizza, and every time, those are always the first ones to go. Artichoke pizza is surprisingly good, though. (I don’t know who ordered *that*, but it was all that was left when I got to the pizza)

            1. Tau*

              Really? But spinach pizza is the best! Spinach and gorgonzola, spinach and ricotta, spinach and feta and sun-dried tomato, the list goes on.

              1. Dom*

                Check out a Fiorentina if you get the chance – it’s a rather unique pizza, with spinach and an egg on top! (It does also come with black olives and a few places will add anchovies, so watch out for that)

        2. Tau*

          I’m a vegetarian who loves bell peppers but doesn’t like sweetcorn on pizza, and veggie lover pizzas always seems to have sweetcorn…

          Putting on as many different vegetables as will fit seems like a recipe for a pizza nobody wants, honestly.

        3. Anna*

          I’m allergic to bell peppers! And have to avoid pepperoni unless they can provide a fairly detailed list of exactly what they made it with.

          Like I’m celiac so the point is generally moot (if I can eat *any* of the pizza, it’s probably a speciality made pizza). But of the classic pizza toppings that people generally order for groups, it’s not unusual for cheese to be the only one I can eat, despite the fact I’m not vegetarian.

    2. londonedit*

      Yeah, people frequently get this wrong. They assume vegetarians are a very small minority, so they order one veggie pizza, because who really eats vegetarian food, and nine meat ones. Then the meat-eaters go ‘ooh, that veggie pizza looks nice’ and take a slice along with their meaty one, and there’s nothing for the veggies.

      A couple of times when I’ve been to occasions where there’s a barbecue put on by a catering company, they’ve invited the veggies and vegans to go up first, which is a great idea because it makes sure they have their pick of the veggie options, and then the meat-eaters can have some only if there are leftovers. Otherwise the same thing happens – the meat-eaters think oh, cool, those salads and that halloumi and those grilled aubergines look nice, and they take them as extra sides without considering that they’re really meant to be someone’s main items.

      1. Artemesia*

        I do dinner parties where lots of my friends are vegetarian. We always have enough of the vegetarian mains for everyone even if there is also a meat main —

      2. ferrina*

        If I know halloumi is an option, I will absolutely go for the halloumi. It’s the Vegetarian’s gamble- will it be much nicer than the non-veg option, or will it be much worse? There is no in-between.

      3. Tin Cormorant*

        I enjoy eating meat but actually want to have a balanced diet that contains both meat and vegetables. (What a concept!) I’m often the one at any personal get-together saying “hey, can we include some kind of vegetables with that list of meats and carbs?”

        All too often, pizzas with meat on them ONLY have meat on them, and I end up feeling really gross from all the salt and fat without anything to balance it out. You bet I’d make half my slices veggie if it were available, or grab whatever vegetables are present if not. (Especially grilled eggplant, I LOVE eggplant and take every opportunity I can get to eat them, and would feel really sad if I had to stay away because they’re for someone else!)

      4. RagingADHD*

        Right? I have heard people who are in charge of group orders complain about having to “hide” the one measly veggie pizza so that the vegetarians can have some, and act like omnivores aren’t supposed to eat anything but all-meat, all the time.

        Like, have you considered that maybe you should order more of the thing everyone likes, and less of the thing that only some people like, instead of treating the most popular option as if it’s just an accommodation for the outliers?

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      When it’s me, I order one pepperoni, one cheese and one veggie, or for a larger group multiples in that proportion.

    4. Single Parent Barbie*

      I am not vegan, but am picky about the meat I consume. Basically, anywhere outside of my house, chicken breast is a no go. Also some suspect ground beef products, and I don’t care for pork. (I used to joke I could be a vegetarian but I like a good steak to much) So while I am not vegetarian I do tend to avoid meat when at business meals simply because meat is so easy to make unappetizing. So thanks for recognizing the non vegans eating vegan

      1. Tin Cormorant*

        I LOVE beef, and salmon, but otherwise I could easily give up the rest and be a vegetarian. I love dark green leafy things and broccoli more than I like chicken or pork or any shellfish. I suspect my borderline anemia convinced my taste buds that things high in iron are amazingly delicious and I should eat as much of them as possible. I buy beef chuck in bulk and make soup or stew almost every week. But when it comes to catered food, the meat options rarely taste good, and I’d happily eat vegetarian if that just suddenly became the default everywhere for some reason.

    5. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yeah, I’m an omnivore, but I LOVE vegetables, and when someone else is doing the work of preparing varied and tasty vegetable dishes, I will often choose meatless options just because I like them. But if there isn’t much that doesn’t have meat in it, I will refrain from taking meatless stuff because I don’t want someone who doesn’t eat meat at all to have to go without.

    6. nora*

      I’m neither vegetarian nor vegan but I am Israeli and I will almost always order falafel if it’s an option.

  30. SpaceySteph*

    Its not really terrible food (actually this cafeteria had surprisingly decent food) but I used to visit a vendor site that had a fish option every day at lunch, and it made the whole floor smell like fish for a couple hours of cooking and then lunch service. Imagine someone microwaving fish in your break room except on a mass-produced scale.
    A few times I went there early in pregnancies and it was a real struggle not to hurl as soon as the fumes hit me.

    1. BettyF*

      Ugh, I would hate working somewhere with a constant food smell no matter what it was! It would be worse to smell it for hours before lunch.

  31. Be Gneiss*

    Not a work conference, but a couple years ago I had jury duty and our lunches were the same as the jail. The *pineapple* cobbler with a cinnamon-granola topping was pretty noteworthy. We reached a verdict on the case faster than we reached an agreement on exactly what fruit was in the dessert.

    1. Numbat*

      I wonder if they provide bad food to encourage you to reach agreement quickly and not stick around…

    2. Southern Bell Pepe le P.U.*

      Took my son’s cub scout troop to our local police station. turns out people in the jail/holding cell (not a long-term prison) get meals from our local gourmand – Maison des Waffles! Waffle House!

      We did not tell the kids that- did not want to encourage any delinquency!

  32. Potato*

    I am always shocked at how little my organization’s conferences consider not just vegetarians and vegans, but also folks with religious dietary restrictions. I was at a conference last week where there was a heavy hor d’oeuvres situation that was supposed to be “dinner” for attendees, so we had all been told we couldn’t expense a separate meal—the only vegan and the only kosher item was celery/carrot sticks and hummus.

    At a conference last year, there was a banquet dinner, where the main meal was an option of steak and green beans or fish and carrots. They clearly didn’t know what to do for the vegetarians/vegans, so they all got served a plate with just the green beans and the carrot sides from the other two meal options.

    Why people are so puzzled by the concept of having a full meal without meat is beyond my comprehension.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yeah “I was not actually provided a MEAL, thus I am expensing this. Don’t make me fight you till the heat death of the universe”.

    1. WellRed*

      What is with this trend of appetizers or charcuterie as dinner for attendees? I’ve experienced it once if twice myself.

    2. Honey Badger*

      I’m amazed at the lack of planning and the confusion around non omnivore diets! My company does a great job accommodating all of them regardless of if it’s a group potluck or a large corp level event. We have people ensuring that everyone has a variety of selections and can get a full meal. We have one person who has several allergies and even she gets a good meal so she doesn’t have to bring her own food.

      1. Elle*

        I went to a conference last year that did an incredibly good lunch. The venue has gone entirely meat free, and the lunch was a (very mild) thai vegetable green curry with rice – so gluten, dairy, egg free, vegan, vegetarian. They also dished up when you got there – so it was totally possible to control your portion size .

    3. LemonToast*

      That occurred at an employee service awards dinner I recently attended. One of my staff hit 25 years, so I went to support him. The food was just overall “not good,” but then the vegetarian meal was laughable. Like, the main meal was grilled chicken on mashed potatoes with some green beans, so for the veg people they just left off the chicken. Which was probably a good thing for them, as I got the meal with the chicken, and it was pink inside. I did not eat much at that dinner.

  33. R*

    At a recent conference, they asked for dietary requirements up front, which gave me a very false sense of security that my GF needs would be taken care of. But breakfast was pastries, fruit and yoghurt. When I asked for a GF alternative to the pastries, day 1 I was given a GF muffin, day 2 I was told fruit was GF, and day 3 I didn’t even bother. Because sorry not sorry, fruit is a snack, not a meal. The good news is, the terrible food was a great topic for conversation. My kosher and vegan coworkers were equally unhappy.

    1. mlem*

      I was sent to an internal “leadership” training (10+ years into holding a senior title; we were scraping for trainings to put on my record). The sign-up specifically asked about dietary requirements … that were entirely ignored. The gluten-free attendee and my vegetarian self were unimpressed. (The organizer sent us over to the employee cafeteria in the next room and told the chef to give us whatever we wanted, so it did get resolved, but it feels like an extra degree of insult to be asked-and-ignored than simply ignored.)

    2. Worldwalker*

      I’ve had conference pastries that tasted like they were leftovers from a previous conference … about a week previous. And all they had was fruit and pastries. Oh, wait, there were bagels — I’d forgotten, possibly because I’d mistaken them for lawnmower tires; they had the same texture, though less taste. I ate the slightly underripe fruit.

    3. Head sheep counter*

      Wait… yogurt and fruit is… a breakfast… at least for a conference. Who wants funky stale pastries? They are always gross.

      1. R*

        Nope, not an adequate breakfast for people that engage in physical activity before sitting at a conference all day. The thing is, it’s neither difficult nor expensive to provide vegan/GF oatmeal. Cheerios, cornflakes, rice krispies. All GF, all easy to provide. They just couldn’t be bothered to think it through. Even rice cakes could have been provided as an alternative to the nasty pastries.

        1. Rachel morgan*

          None of those you suggested are actually GF except the rice cakes.

          Cheerios are not gluten free. Neither are rice krispies. Those name brands are NOT GF at all. Cheerios have issues with cross contamination, and rice krispies are malted, which is barley, which is not GF. Regular Kellog’s corn flakes are not GF either, due to malt flavoring, which is again, barley.

  34. Reality Check*

    In my industry, the sales people are almost entirely men and the service people entirely women. They normally had a retreat for the sales team which involved meat on the grill, plenty of sides, booze, skeet shooting. At the boss’s house.

    When someone suggested they do a retreat for the service team, we got a conference room that was cold enough to perform surgery, ice water to drink, and hard candies to eat. No activities, just sit and listen to speakers. SIGH

    (the situation has since been corrected)

  35. WellRed*

    It’s not that the food was so bad (though I find food truck food mediocre) but the execution. Conference with a food truck day for one lunch. In a small unshaded parking lot across the street. 100 degrees and windy. It was like eating in a furnace (or hair dryer). So windy you had to clutch utensils and napkins and chip bags lest they blow away under the blinding, burning sun. Droves of people bringing the food back into the convention center. Which didn’t want outside food brought in.

    1. Admin of Sys*

      Ooh, yeah. I’ve been at a place that through food trucks were the way to go and didn’t account for, you know, weather. We had pouring rain once, and also only 2 food trucks for like 100 people, so it took a solid hour to get the food.

      1. Dahlia*

        If you want me to eat outside, you’re also going to have to deal with me being soaked in sweat. It’s just going to happen.

  36. DisneyChannelThis*

    Different job, lot of people were vegan. A lot of people were Hindu and not eating beef/cow. Small subset of different people were not eating pork for religious reasons too. The meeting was catered with BBQ style food. Side salad and corn on cob was what most people ended up eating. The smell was awful and lingered too.

    1. Really?!*

      I have a boss who is tone deaf like this. I have new co-workers are vegan and vegetarian for religious reasons. I live in the Southeastern United States. My boss always recommends BBQ for catered lunch. When someone says they don’t eat meat, she asks that chicken be provided as well. Problem solved.

      My coworkers have eaten French fries and iceberg lettuce for lunch.

      1. Watry*

        At an old job I had a coworker who said she was vegetarian. As she ate a chicken sandwich. It turned out what she meant was she didn’t eat beef or pork. I can’t believe there are multiple people who believe chicken (and/or fish/other seafood) isn’t meat.

      2. Galadriel's Garden*

        Man, that’s *extra* frustrating given how many BBQ places by me do smoked and shredded jackfruit as a meat alternative! There are other things that can be BBQ’d, people!

      3. Salsa Your Face*

        I had a colleague like this. Unfortunately she was responsible for ordering catering for client workshops. We’d ask them for food restrictions ahead of time, and when she saw “vegetarian” she would intentionally order fish for them. Because fish isn’t meat. She insisted over and over again that fish isn’t meat, and wouldn’t hear otherwise. After one too many angry, hungry clients, she was forced to start submitting her menus for approval before placing orders.

  37. Ann Onymous*

    Once went to a conference that included a lunch with assigned seating. Most people were seated with the people they’d come to the conference with, but everyone with any sort of dietary restriction was seated together at the closest table to the kitchen. This was definitely done for the convenience of the waitstaff and not the safety of the people with food restrictions, because my nut-free meal contained meat, dairy, and gluten and the vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free meals of others at the table contained nuts. Also, since we were a bunch of strangers seated together on the basis of dietary restrictions, that became the primary topic of conversation. I’m glad I was able to get a nut-free meal, but feeling isolated and singled out was not great.

  38. Unkempt Flatware*

    I moved to a new state and stayed in my same industry. My last conference in my home state had great food, provided fruit, cheeses, and nuts during breaks and passing periods, and was just lovely. I show up to the same conference in the new state and they have steering-wheel sized pretzels and fake cheese to dip it in during our passing periods. No tables. No plates. No cutlery. Just adults walking around holding greasy pretzels and dipping them into a plastic cup of cheez while fumbling all their swag they’re carrying around. The next passing period were bowls of King Size candy bars as snacks. Todo, we were not in Colorado anymore.

    1. OfOtherWorlds*

      I love giant soft pretzels, though I eat mine plain. And providing king size candy bars rather than bite size ones is uncommonly generous. The organizers of the conference in your new state probably spent more $$$ on food than the Colorado organizers spent on “fruit, cheeses, and nuts”. Different regions of the United States have different tastes, and negative comparisons of your new state to your old state will not help you make friends in your new home.

      1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

        The vibe I got from Unkempt Flatware’s comment was more about strange/thoughtless planning than some kind of food as culture-war stand-in thing. The pretzels were hard to wrangle in a meet-and-greet situation where people were also already carrying a lot of stuff, there were no tables where you could put anything down, and the dang things were hard to dip in the tiny cups. Then the next time it wa something totally different—shelf-stable dessert, basically, so, yes, not a logistical challenge like the last snack but to an attendee it feels out of left field and you start to wonder how much thought anyone put into this thing.

  39. Skippy*

    I went to a women’s leadership conference where the food was all “diet” foods: lowfat yogurt, 100 calorie snack packs, etc. Lunch was a salad — with or without grilled chicken — and some sort of sorbet for dessert.

    I’m all for having nutritious options, but this had the feel of “ladies are always on a diet, am I right?”

        1. datamuse*

          And in my experience low-fat things tend to have a lot of added sugar to make up for the lack of flavor and everything ends up being nauseatingly sweet. (This is one of my pet peeves in general.)

          1. Anon for this*

            yeah, I would have no objection to low calorie or low carb catering if the food was whole foods rather than diet alternatives full of aspartame and guar gum.

    1. Honey Badger*

      I am so tired of the meals for women centric events being geared towards ‘diet’ food! I do NOT want a salad for lunch! I want a sandwich with chips! I want a big plate of pasta with meat sauce! I want beef. Give me the fried food! Bring on the fries! For breakfast, I want bacon and sausage and eggs and toast with tons of butter. I do not want yoghurt or fruit. Or….granola. Or low fat anything.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        I am of the firm opinion that yogurt, granola, and fruit are a nice supplement to a well-rounded breakfast. They are not a meal.

    2. JustMe*

      ughhhhhh I once worked somewhere that was like this. One person on staff was a part-time nutritionist (she eventually quit to go full time), someone else had an MPH and was obsessed with health/fitness (to the point where instead of saying, “Let’s park that thought for a minute” she’d go “Let’s put it on the bike rack” because, you know, that’s an active form of transport) and everyone else tended to be very health conscious. It’s like–great, we should be healthy, that’s a wonderful thing. But when people around the watercooler start talking about “Wanting to change the narrative around beans” or “How much more satisfying it is to put coconut oil on popcorn instead of butter” it gets grating.

    3. LemonToast*

      That is gross. There have been several times where I’ve been at restaurants with a lot of male colleagues, and if anyone orders a salad, it gets delivered to me. Despite the fact that I pretty much never order salad at restaurants, because I usually want a hot meal.

    4. Nobby Nobbs*

      I’d be chewing the tables an hour before the next break! Give me food that sticks to the damn ribs, please.

  40. Hangry manager*

    My work (pre-pandemic) had twice yearly mandatory “fun” events. There was always catered food and they always assured me (vegetarian since I was 10) that there would be non-meat options. Dear reader, the non-meat options were fish. Every time. Despite me brining up that fish isn’t vegetarian in every planning meeting.
    I started bringing food in my purse.

      1. DisneyChannelThis*

        I’ve noticed this happening more in areas with large Catholic populations. They do no meat fridays and eat fish instead during lunches in their lent. So they then think fish isn’t a meat when making vegetarian options.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Throw them for a loop and ask for beaver. Beaver was classified as fish at one point by Catholics because “they live in water”.

        2. Artemesia*

          Justice Scalia was notorious for making the point that because Catholics like himself didn’t eat meat on Friday during lent that meant fish was not meat. That may account for some of his ideology driven interpretations of Constitutional law.

        3. bishbah*

          My office used to do a chili-cookoff event each year in early March, always on a Friday (coinciding with our local rodeo kickoff). Vegetarian submissions would win most years because none of the Lent-observant Catholics or Anglicans, the Hindus, or the vegetarians on staff would taste/judge the entries with beef.

    1. Alexiiiiiiiiii5*

      ugh that’s the worst. not work related but once a waitress proudly told my father their pancakes had no wheat flour, only white flour, which my sibbling is very much allergic too. they didn’t get pancakes. I feel your pain .

      1. mlem*

        My friends were assured that the broccoli-cheddar soup at a restaurant was vegetarian. “So it doesn’t have chicken stock?” they asked, skeptical. The waitress conceded that, no, it did have chicken stock — but no *meat*, so it’s vegetarian!

      2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        And irony of ironies, buckwheat flour? Is not actually a wheat flour. I know this because my best friends’ daughter has celiac, and one of the things I can easily whip up for her to eat without worrying about cross-contamination when they come visit are galettes/crepes (most recipes call for adding regular flour, but you can definitely just use all buckwheat).

      3. Salsa Your Face*

        I don’t know if they still do this anymore, but years ago at Qdoba they would ask you if you wanted a “wheat or flour tortilla.” The little vein above my eye would throb as I tried not to burst out screaming that both options are made with wheat flour.

    2. ferrina*

      I’ve met vegetarians that are fine with fish, and some that are don’t eat fish. I always double check with them (including a relative who has been vegetarian for years…their exact diet has changes every 1-3 years, and I have ADHD, so overcommunicating is the best option)

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        No, you haven’t. You have met people who claimed they were vegetarian, but were not. They were pescatarian. I agree that communicating saves a lot of trouble, but be clear that fish is *not* vegetarian.

        And these folks are actively making it harder for real vegetarians by adding to the confusion.

  41. NewJobNewGal*

    I was at an employee appreciation event at a big fancy event space. My co-worker requested a gluten free meal ahead of time. Our company NEVER accommodated her dietary needs so this was a big moment for her because she would finally be included.
    They served us beautiful plates of food for our main course with colorful side dishes thoughtfully arranged into works of art.
    My co-worker’s plate had a blanched chicken breast. That was it. Just a pathetic naked chicken breast on a plate. No spices, no garnish. The pale blob actually slid around the plate when they plopped it down in front of her.
    It was so heartbreaking to see that I had to hold back tears. It was like a cruel, bullying joke that everyone at the table was forced to participate in.

    1. ElinorD*

      I felt this.
      I attended a conference where meals were arranged but we had to pay for it ourselves ahead of time (i’m in public education – we don’t get anything covered unless a tech or textbook company is sponsoring). I’m celiac. I figured they were getting boxes sandwiches, and figured I’d get a salad. Well, I got a handful of raw spinach and a packet of dressing.
      For $20. Those sandwiches looked amazing.
      Most of the attendees didn’t show so they tried to get me to take extra piles of raw spinach but had a whole bag at home already.
      There’s another story about my eating an entire head of cauliflower but that was a family dinner.
      I’m sorry for your coworker but I have been there.

    2. Trisha*

      I feel bad for your co-worker but I would have loved that.

      I suffer from IBS which is often exacerbated by attending events and such (any amount of travel, different water, change in sleep patterns, etc.) and have had my gallbladder removed so there’s a number of foods that are no goes for me and I can also only tolerate a small amount of leafy greens or fried foods (once every 3 days seems fine, more than that and it just runs right through). The first year I attended our 3 day management conference we were all asked if we had any special dietary concerns for lunch. Not wanting to tell people that I have uncontrolled gas, bloating, bathroom issues, etc. I was trying to find a polite way to describe what I needed so I put in a request for “plain” food (i.e. plain chicken, baked potato, plain rice, meat and cheese sandwich). I was assured that the food would be fine and there was no need for a special meal because the buffet will have plenty of “plain” choices.

      For lunch the first day, it was Indian food. Lentils, chickpeas, curry spices, dark green veggies, etc. I ended up having a bit of salad (which was so not enough and no protein). I brought it up to the organizer who said she would see about something plain for tomorrow and then was told, “oh tomorrow’s buffet has lots of plain choices, sorry about today.” The second day was Greek food – loads of onions, garlic, fennel, etc. Again, some salad and I ate some of the chicken (it was pretty heavily seasoned and marinated but I had to eat something). I spent a bunch of time excusing myself from the after activities because 2 days of salad did not agree with me…. I gave up for day 3 since it was a partial day and just grabbed something on my way to the train station.

      The next year, I put in that I would bring my own meals and would put in for reimbursement separately (the way it worked with any meeting was we paid and then were reimbursed afterwards based on our per diems) so basically I just told them to plan for 1 person less for lunch. The organizers weren’t happy because after all last year they had ensured that I would have the plain foods that I asked for !?! I picked up some groceries, kept them in my mini fridge and it was fine. The kicker was it ended up being the exact same menu as the year before so I was super glad I noped out of that situation.

  42. Melissa*

    I was working as a school nurse, and the kids were at a large camp-type center for a field trip. There was a big communal meal, and they announced “everyone with dietary restrictions can go get their meals from window B.” But the problem was, they had made no distinctions among “restrictions”— what they were serving was vegetarian and nut-free, but one of my charges had a life-threatening sesame allergy. When I asked whether the french fries were cooked with sesame oil, the answer was “I don’t think so….”

    1. Ann Onymous*

      Asking about allergens is definitely not a guarantee. Times my (fortunately not life-threatening) peanut allergy has been triggered:
      – The cookies didn’t contain peanuts…just peanut butter.
      – There was no peanut butter in the cake…just in the frosting.

      1. Galadriel's Garden*

        Holy crapola, I had that exact same situation happen with the cookie + peanut butter combo! My manager at the time had ordered catering for lunch and remembered to mention someone in the group had a peanut allergy…so they gave us a big ol’ cookie platter, with peanut butter chocolate chip cookies just mixed on in with everything else. Mercifully my peanut allergy is also not life-threatening, but I took two bites of this cookie and did that slow chew as my brain caught up to my body being like “DANGER WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!” I had to take a Benadryl complete with subsequent Benadryl nap and lost out on two post-lunch hours…good times.

      2. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Pretty sure a similar “no peanuts, just peanut butter” killed a guy in Texas not that long ago.

    2. ABC123*


      In all seriousness though, if a kid has food allergies that bad, shouldn’t it be on the parents to either (1) Not sign the permission slip and let their kid go to an unknown situation like that or (2) give the kid something to brown bag from home, maybe making special arrangments with the venue beforehand?

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        So here’s a glimpse at what really happens as an allergy parent, and why I teach my child to advocate for themself:

        Sign permission slip. Discuss medically required food restrictions with people in charge. Assurances all around, look, we even have a school nurse directly handling things for your child! More emails and phone calls, day of.

        And then things go absolutely sideways and the people who were in charge and discussing things with you have failed, even if its just by forgetting to flag things in the front line, and your kid doesn’t eat. And from that point out, you’re most likely changing how things are handled, and you’re more likely just packing them something. That comes with its own challenges as a lot of places get wonky about “outside food”.

        There’s a solid trend here in just about any post here from someone with food restrictions – people fail you, consistently, when it comes to food. And its why my child has no problem asking questions, and has already at least once explained that “as there’s no provided meal that is safe for me to eat due to my food allergies, the “no outside food” is not something I’m abiding by; please call my parents if there are further questions” on a field trip.

    3. Rara Avis*

      Took kids to an event at a school that had braggy allergen awareness posters all over their cafeteria. They served us muffins with hidden nuts, unlabeled. When my allergic kid started to react, and I brought it to the attention of the cafeteria staff, they shrugged. You would think a basic job requirement would be not putting kids’ lives in danger.

  43. ApocalypseHow*

    I work for a nonprofit and we were staffing a gala fundraiser, which was very different from our normal work duties and outside of normal work hours. Staff wasn’t going to get a table, but we were promised dinner in our “green room.” The main dish for the staff dinner turned out to be a pasta dish that was spicy to the point where it was inedible for some people. (I ate it, but I’ve got a high tolerance for spice.) When we found out that the food served at the gala was excellent, the stark contrast in quality really offended my coworkers. We know that we were there to work and the food budget needed to focus on the people who were paying to be at the event, but the whole thing made us feel disrespected on a night where we were working very hard for our organization.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      I had the opposite once. I volunteered at a ‘Star Wars’ themed gala at a museum, to celebrate the opening of the Star Wars exhibit. The twist was that after appetizer hour, the Empire “took over” the museum, and we had to evacuate the guests to transport to take them to a safe ship (and dinner). Because they knew how to cater, there were TONS of appetizers left over, from Wolfgang Puck. Everything was so so good, plus I got to eat surrounded by jawas and sand people and storm troopers, all of whom were lovely.

  44. Hiring Mgr*

    Around 10 years ago I was on an annual awards work trip to Costa Rica. Out of about 100 people total, 50 got food poisoning from something in the hotel and were out of commission for a couple of days

  45. Loose Socks*

    I went to an HR Conference. The theme was Self-Care, and one of the main topics was ADA. They completely forgot to accommodate dietary restrictions. I am allergic to nuts and melons, and severely lactose intolerant. I couldn’t eat at least half of each meal, and there were a couple that I couldn’t eat at all.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Lol – I was the All seafood conference up in the examples: that one was a three day conference on religious, allergy, and disability accommodations. But also – no accommodations for allergies or religious food restrictions among the participants.

  46. Turanga Leela*

    At almost every conference I’ve been to, they put out tea in the morning and then don’t restock all day. The tea drinkers (me included) drink all the caffeinated tea during the morning sessions. At the afternoon break, they put out fresh coffee… and the herbal tea left over from the morning. I always wind up buying tea at Starbucks in the afternoons.

    1. CR*

      Yes! As someone who doesn’t drink coffee I feel like the tea drinkers always get ripped off or forgotten about at these things. I appreciate it when conferences put some effort into it and it’s not just a few pathetic bags of Lipton.

      1. exoboist1*

        Except in Britain! The UK conferences I’ve been to take their tea seriously, like we’re on par with the coffee brigade. It’s lovely.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Agreed, if I didn’t have a constant supply of both tea and coffee all day at our annual conference, there would be trouble!

        2. Zelda*

          Once upon a time, I worked in the US Midwest for a large multi-national with “British” in its name. We had awesome tea options provided right along with the coffee in every break room. *wistful*

      2. Artemesia*

        I long ago learned to carry tea bags since people who don’t drink tea have this odd idea that a few mint tea bags or some bizarro herbal colation count as ‘providing tea.’

        1. IHaveKittens*

          Same here. I have never drunk coffee and I carry my excellent tea bags with me all the time. And don’t give me microwaved water! I can always tell.

    2. Shiba Dad*

      I was just at a two-day conference that had a continental breakfast the second day. They provided coffee, juice and water. No tea.

    3. Distracted Procrastinator*

      as an herbal tea drinker, I just pack a teabag in my purse because the herbal option is always some really bad peppermint or a bitter chamomile. It’s never worth drinking.

      But then I just count on plain water to drink nearly everywhere I go. I don’t drink soda, coffee, or drinks with sugar in them, or iced tea. I just know I’m in a small minority and have no expectations of being accommodated, however, it’s really frustrating when they don’t have water or all they have are warm, mini water bottles that have like two swallows in them.

      1. DataSci*

        Oh, those tiny mini water bottles! Just give me somewhere to fill up my emotional support water bottle with COLD water and I’m good.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Yeah, what’s with those mini water bottles? They’re only marginally cheaper than full-sized water bottles — you can get a whole case of normal ones for a few bucks at Costco — and they hold less than a red cup.

          1. ferrina*

            They fit really nicely into lunch boxes (if you happen to have an elementary schooler who may or may not remember their water bottle)

    4. Pretty as a Princess*

      Oh and don’t forget when they don’t refill the hot water because it’s not empty, and you wind up with a lukewarm cup of water trying to steep your tea.

      I carry good teabags in my work bag because it’s so rare IME that non-coffee drinkers are accommodated. When someone does actually pay attention to tea drinkers, I make a point of finding someone on the event team and thanking them.

      1. Jackalope*

        My other pet peeve with this is when they use a hot water container that has previously held coffee. There’s nothing that is quite the same type of awful as tea made with super weak coffee flavored water.

  47. Msspel*

    One time I was organizing a workshop in Tunisia and picking out a catering package. I have some French and Arabic but I’m lazy so I referred to the venue’s translated English menu. I will never forget the delight I felt when I saw they offered “mini salty mouth” as an afternoon snack. I made sure we selected that option, and if I recall, the savory small bites in question were very tasty.

  48. J*

    This was about 15 years ago, and didn’t happen directly to me. My work was hosting a delegation from Saudi Arabia, all observant Muslims. I was an admin assistant and was charged with arranging a lunch on their last day. I picked a local restaurant I liked that I knew had a lot of different options and could cover most dietary needs.

    At the end of the meal, one woman pulled me aside and explained that they were SO grateful I had found the restaurant, as they had been eating nothing but chicken salad sandwiches all week – no one else had thought to ensure more than one halal option! She was thrilled to get to eat fish and chips.

    1. Southern Bell Pepe le P.U.*

      that is so kind and thoughtful of you! and yes smart and aware and you took the time to do that!

  49. CJCregg*

    I worked for a very large municipal agency in a big city notorious for being…well…terrible in all the ways. The agency was constantly putting out fires, was always in the press (for the wrong reasons), and morale among staff was low. There was never an iota of staff appreciation in any way – I worked there for ten years. Except there was the famous “Ice Cream Social.” One summer, we moved into a new building. It was all very “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” We moved to save money, not because we were doing so well. It was very matter of fact. We moved and kept working. Someone, I will never know who, had the bright idea of doing a “Staff Appreciation / Welcome to the New Building Ice Cream Social.” This was unheard of. Someone MADE FLYERS. People were excited! There were going to be toppings! We all gathered at 3 pm in our large conference room. Yep, there were toppings, but no ice cream. All the anticipatory joy was sucked out of the room. Everyone hung out for an hour waiting for the ice cream (that was ordered by someone?) and didn’t arrive. Finally, after about 90 minutes, someone ran down to Duane Reade and just bought random pints for the people who decided to stick around. #neverforget

    1. Honey Badger*

      That sounds like the ‘ice cream social’ we had here. Now, normally my company provides this stuff for free so that’s the baseline setting for all of us. Spoiled? Yes! Absolutely. So when they advertised ice cream social in the cafeteria and then didn’t staff it well and didn’t say a word about it not being free until you got to the front of the line…finally, it didn’t go over well! Plus, they wouldn’t take cards or dining funds attached to our IDs, just cash. It threw people for a loop! Totally mismanaged, miscommunicated, and missed the mark!

  50. PsychicMuppet*

    The last conference I went to had almost no food at all. The sessions started early and went straight through lunch, but there was no food provided at all–not even snacks. The conference was at a hotel and since there were no breaks for lunch, grab-and-go was the only option, so the lines at the two little cafes were always insanely long throughout the day. Looking back, it’s kind of funny. Everyone was hangry and being snippy to each other.

  51. Harper*

    At every single catered event I’ve ever attended where “roasted potatoes” are on the menu, they are never actually roasted. They are cut into chunks and barely cooked in a small amount of liquid with no seasonings. They’re so hard and dry in the middle that they stick in your throat. There’s no crunch, no herby crust, no hint of caramelization. And yet every time, I still manage to hope for actual roasted potatoes, and end up disappointed. How can so many professional cooks not know how to roast a potato? It’s baffling.

    1. BettyF*

      I really like the ones that have been sitting in the chafing dish for like an hour, because at that point they have been cooked through and usually have a nice crunchy coating to them!

    2. ABC123*

      Probably because, depending on time of day, labor laws and venue, the “professional cooks” are likely 16-25 year olds making near minimum wage; like a fancy fast food.

  52. The Prettiest Curse*

    This fortunately didn’t happen because I squelched the idea, but last year one of the caterers we approached to quote for our annual conference was a local Italian place known for their great pizza and sandwiches. (We’ve used them for smaller events in the past.) So when I asked for a quote for lunch for 400+ people, I was expecting them to quote to provide sandwiches. Nope, they quoted to provide pizza.

    My boss was considering the idea till I pounted out that all the executives and academics who attend our event might not be thrilled to eat tepid thin-crust pizza off a paper plate – not to mention the massive potential for staining the both the venue’s carpet and peoples’ clothes! (It’s a buffet-style lunch, not sit-down.) And that’s before you even get into the possibility of people getting annoyed that specific toppings have run out!

    The kitchen at our event venue is fairly small and there’s definitely no pizza oven, so I have no idea how they would have kept that quantity of pizza warm and fresh. We’re restricted to choosing caterers from a small list, so maybe they were providing an unrealistic quote because they didn’t want to do the event – but IR