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July 24, 2012

Kripen Dhrona:Looking after the dietary needs of Asian delegates

The marketing and events manager of the Enterprise Hotel, London, provides essential advice on entertaining delegates from Asia.

I think I touched on an area of business that has been neglected, judging by the interest and positive response I received to my last article for International Meetings Review, offering views on the issues and differences around meeting and greeting across different cultures. I thought, therefore, that I would expand my thoughts further and explore the dietary requirements of Asian business people, especially clients and delegates.

Again, my thinking is that if you demonstrate a little care and attention to detail, it shows respect, which goes a long way - perhaps even helping you to win business and develop valuable working relationships.

First, take the trouble to broaden your general knowledge and learn about the different religions, and don’t assume they don’t all eat pork, particularly with the Indian delegates. Asian delegates love dining and entertaining with many of them having a huge passion for fine foods. For Hindu’s, the cow is a sacred animal, so for some, beef is considered taboo, so make sure you ask for any specifications beforehand if reservations or preparations are being made.

Many Asian cultures enjoy having large platters and serving dishes for all to share. If this is the case, ensure that there are enough serving utensils for everybody, and check beforehand what cutlery they would like to use. Indian delegates may prefer a fork and spoon whereas other Asian cultures incorporate chopsticks.

When hosting Asian delegates, offering traditional food of the region you are in will be well received. As overseas visitors to a foreign country, delegates will be keen to experiment, but it’s also important to ensure familiar cuisine is available and expertly cooked so they feel at home and won’t go hungry if the local dish is not to their taste. 

Good vegetarian options are a must too. You may need to arrange to set meal times later in the evening than normal.  Some cultures prefer to enjoy a snack late afternoon then dine 9pm or after!

Also remember – some Asian and Middle Eastern cultures are T-total or at least are not as interested in alcohol as some so offer good range of non-alcoholic drinks including teas.

Finally...remember hand washing is incredibly important and delegates may want to wash their hands promptly before and after eating – be sure to point out the bathrooms as the guests come down to the restaurant.

Kripen Dhrona is marketing and events manager of the Enterprise Hotel, London.

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