halal dietary rules and how to deal with guests who follow halal principles

Halal Food Etiquette: 4 Rules For Guests And Hosts​

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Who is this micro-class for

* Waiters and hospitality staff

* House-party hosts

* Guests who follow the halal diet principles

What you’ll learn

* What a halal diet is

* How to provide a safe dining experience to guests who follow the halal diet principles

Resources

* Less than 10 minutes to complete

About this micro-class

Halal food etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately plan a menu and manage the dining experience for guests who follow the halal diet principles.

1. Be prepared to tend to guests on a halal diet

What "halal" means

halal dietary rules and how to deal with guests who follow halal principles

Halal means “allowed” in Arabic. It is a set of dietary rules followed by persons of the Muslim faith. Such rules tend to be widely and strictly respected.

Food is halal only when it is made, stored, and processed using equipment, utensils, and kitchenware cleaned according to the principles of Islamic law.

Ramadan

Ramadan is an annual Muslim celebration. It occurs at a slightly different period every year and lasts for 29 to 30 days.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. While fasting, people who strictly respect Ramadan will not bring anything to their mouths. Thus, they will not eat, drink, or smoke.

Considerate hosts must be aware of Ramadan. Fasting can create significant stress. Thus, it is not polite to eat, drink, or smoke in front of a guest who is observing the Ramadan fasting.

2. Plan an enjoyable halal menu and dining experience

Avoid traces of forbidden foods and cross-contamination

Follow cooking etiquette principles to cook food safely. Designate specific utensils, cutting boards, and cooking surfaces for halal dishes.

Create a transparent halal-friendly menu

Clearly mark all the dishes or items on the menu that are halal. Label them with a recognized symbol or statement. Make detailed ingredient lists available to customers or guests upon request.

Serve each food on its dedicated plate

Allow your guests who follow halal rules to pick the foods they can eat and avoid the ones they cannot eat. 

Avoid serving multiple foods on the same plate. Instead, try to separate them. Assign a plate to each food or ingredient. Serve condiments and sauces separately from food. Present each food with its serving utensils.

Include halal options for your guests

Some foods present a lower risk of being inappropriate or forbidden. Plan some safe dishes that almost any guest will be able to eat. For instance, baked potatoes or salad are safe options for most guests.

Be open to accomodate special needs of your guests

Offer ingredient substitutions whenever possible to accommodate guests who follow halal rules. Be transparent about potential substitutions and any extra costs involved.

Be open to customizing dishes and offering a halal-friendly version. Clearly communicate any limitations in customization due to the nature of the dish or kitchen processes.

Avoid foods that may be forbidden by halal rules

Meat

Pork meat is always forbidden and almost a tabu. Thus, considerate hosts or guests should avoid eating pork in front of other guests of the Muslim faith.

Meat from other animals is halal if it is processed according to the halal rules. Meat products need to be butchered and blessed in the halal method. Further, meat is halal only if the slaughter is performed by a Muslim man and the producer follows all the halal rules.

Fish and seafood

According to most interpretations, fish and seafood are halal. Shellfish is allowed too. However, some guests following the halal rules may not eat seafood.

Dairy products and cheese

Milk, dairy products, and cheese are normally halal. However, the milk must come from a halal animal. Milk, cheese, and dairy products with ingredients from a non-halal animal are not halal.

Eggs and honey

Eggs are halal unless they come from a non-halal animal, such as birds of prey and amphibious animals. 

Honey is halal.

Vegetables, fruits, and tree nuts

All vegetables and fruits are halal.

Grains

In general, any type of grain is halal, as long as the other halal requirements are respected. Pasta, couscous, quinoa, and amaranth are halal.

Bakery products, bread, and pizza are allowed. However, any product that contains non-halal food is not halal. Thus, pizza or bread with ham is not halal.

Condiments and sauces

Oil, salt, and spices are halal. Any condiment derived from a non-halal animal is not halal. Vinegar made from wine is not halal.

Sweets and desserts

In general, most types of sweets or desserts are halal.

However, sweets or desserts are not halal if they include any product from a non-halal animal. Thus, some emulsifiers or gelatine may be forbidden.

Drinks and alcoholic beverages

Soft drinks, tea, and coffee are generally allowed. Any alcoholic drink is not halal. Thus, any dish or food that contains alcohol is not halal.

Furthermore, similar to pork meat, some guests consider alcohol as almost a tabu. Considerate hosts or guests should avoid drinking alcoholic drinks in front of other guests of the Muslim faith.

3. Politely ask your Muslim guests about their food restrictions

At home

It is perfect etiquette to ask your Muslim guests about their dietary restrictions. The interpretation and application of the halal rules may differ and may include or exclude different foods.

In written formal invitations, it is sufficient to ask guests to inform the hosts about any dietary requirements. In informal invitations, a simple “Do you follow any diet or have any dietary restrictions?” works. Another option is to ask if guests avoid any food. 

Never judge or question someone’s dietary restrictions. Avoid asking additional questions, such as why someone follows a diet. Some guests may be uncomfortable sharing their food restrictions.

Hospitality

Hospitality staff should encourage guests to communicate their food allergies or intolerances when making reservations and upon arrival.

Waiters should ask about food allergies before taking orders, and convey this information to the kitchen.

4. Etiquette for guests who follow halal rules

Clearly communicate your food restrictions

Clearly state with your host if you have any dietary restrictions.

Do not expect a change in the menu based on your needs. As a guest, you do not want to sound entitled. Instead, you can ask if there may be some halal options for you. 

Do not expect the host to accommodate your requests. However, any considerate host will feel compelled to adjust the menu to your needs.

Politely refuse food that you do not eat

If the host serves a type of food that you do not eat, simply avoid it. If the host or another guest explicitly offers such food to you, politely refuse it. It is enough to say “no, thank you”. 

Provide additional details only if someone asks you. Be brief and avoid annoying others with your dietary restrictions.

Do not force your diet on the other guests

Do not expect others to adjust their menu or diet to your dietary restrictions. Similarly, at a restaurant, do not expect the other guests to change their food order.

Halal food etiquette mistakes

The worst etiquette mistakes for a host are: 

  • Not accommodating your Muslim guests’ needs that are due to the halal rules.
  • Using the same kitchenware with different foods.
  • Asking personal dietary questions.

The worst etiquette mistakes for guests who follow halal rules are: 

  • Not communicating your dietary restrictions to the host.
  • Forcing your diet on others.
  • Sharing unsolicited details about your diet.
Every considerate guest or host should also avoid the following behaviors:
 
  • Eating or drinking in front of someone who is fasting for Ramadan.
  • Eating pork in front of a person of the Muslim faith.
  • Drinking alcohol in front of a person of the Muslim faith.

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