How to Minimise Food Waste at Corporate Events

Food Waste

Do you know what’s a fun experiment? Look at peoples shopping baskets in the supermarket on a Monday and a Friday.

On a Monday, it’s veg and a dream of what the week can be. It’s a vision of self-improvement. On Friday, it’s chocolate and wine.

Here’s what’s funny about it, we’re all the same. No matter how sharp and healthy we are, food waste seems inevitable. When it comes to catered food for events, it just gets worse.

Nobody is perfect. No matter how thorough you are, sometimes there are leftovers. But here are some bits of advice we’ve put together if you feel like you’d like to do just a bit better. 

What is Food Waste?

Before Netflix, people grew, caught, and picked their own food. We know that because we actually saw it on a documentary on Netflix. But find someone smart, and they’ll tell you the same thing.

We’re too busy working, studying and chasing our dreams to source our own food now. But as capitalism and industry grow hand in hand with technology, we can now buy food from all over the world.

Here’s the thing, though. Yes, it is amazing to have Indian mangoes in Northern European shops. But a lot goes to waste through the long farm to table process.

There’s a chance for food to go to waste at each stage: from picking to waiting in the shop, to sitting in your fridge. Fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat are particularly vulnerable foods.

But before we start, what is food waste? Well firstly, we’d like to distinguish the difference between food loss and food waste. Food loss is when food is lost before it reaches consumers. Food waste is food that is ready and desperate to be eaten but ends up being thrown away.

Some Eye Watering Facts

Some Eye Watering Facts

So let’s get down to brass tax: food waste facts. Let’s start you off with a real doozy. Did you know that around one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted each year? That’s €824 billion worth.

At the same time, about 795 million of the estimated 7.7 billion people on the planet do not have enough food to eat. That’s a staggering 1 in 9 people.

Help From the Professionals  

If you read any new restaurant’s manifesto these days, sustainability and seasonality are some of the industry’s hottest words. So let’s make sure that food for events is part of a solution, not part of the problem.

Start by speaking to your caterer, and tell them that you are determined to minimise your food waste. It’s their field, so they should have suggestions for you. They know better than most what tends to go to waste.

This could be suggestions for local ingredients, dishes from local suppliers, or cutting out meat to reduce waste and emissions in the supply chain.

Besides, most caterers try to be versatile in their service; they want to tailor their service to your needs. So if you choose the right company, they’ll go the distance for you.

You will be amazed at what caterers can do when they think differently. For example, a Canadian catering company once had so many sushi orders it started selling dog treats with the leftover fish skins.


Communicate With Your Venue

Communication is everything. People are, luckily, not able to read your mind. That said, you will want to be thorough in your communication across the board. Your venue, the location where your event will take place, should be aligned with you and be aware of your needs.

With the above in mind, it can be a daunting task to find a venue for your event, especially if you decide to organize something outside of your city or country. Where do you even begin your search?

Luckily there are services available to take all your stress away. Companies such as Spacehuntr are here to assist you with finding your venue, caterer, and any additional services for your business event.

The team of experts is able to help you with events all across Europe. Major cities such as London, Paris, and Amsterdam, are on their list as well!

As said, communicating with your venue is incredibly important. If you don’t have the time for that, then ask a Spacehuntr expert and they will be your biggest resource to minimize food waste at your event. 

Calculation and Research: The Importance of Being Thorough

It’s incredible how far a little bit of research goes. Measuring the quantity of food consumed at past events is an excellent bit of info to have.

Once you roughly know how much food was consumed by x amount of people, you’re off to a good start. We recommend referring to these figures as a guide for your future event planning.

It costs nothing to be thorough, and being thorough is the hallmark of successful people and organisations. Like checking your numbers. Again. And again. Keep an eye on the number of RSVPs as you get closer to showtime, for example.

Also, make sure to give your caterers the most recent and accurate numbers you can. This gives them the best chance of ordering the most concise ingredients list they can.

Even on the day of the event, changes in the guest list are worth passing on. Some ingredients will have a longer shelf life if they aren’t cooked, but some things can’t be uncooked. That unused ingredient can always be repurposed, though.

But don’t forget to gently tell your caterers before you hire them that this is an important issue for you. It could change the entire dynamic and service they give you.

Kill Your Darlings 

Food for events is always evolving. Small, conscientious decisions before your guests get tucked in can make a whole lot of difference.

You could consider not plating in advance. We all have different appetites that change from day-to-day. So there isn’t a one plate-size fits all solution. It all depends on whether you trust people to take what they need.

Perhaps try using smaller buffet plates (even the best of us can have eyes that are bigger than our bellies). You don’t want people competing to have the most outrageous portion.

Anyone that watches cheffing shows, or cooks at home, knows that garnishes are fabulous. But here’s the thing, a lot of the time garnish is decoration. So it can be dropped if you want to really reduce your food waste. 

Donate the Waste 

You could also banquet like a lavish Duke guilt-free. What’s the hack? Donate uneaten food to good causes. It’s not often you’re in a situation when everyone wins, but life does give us rare shots at it.

Try partnering with a local charity, or food donation programme. Of course, you’ll have to check the guidelines of the local city and country. Recycling food waste is generally becoming more streamlined in most places, however.

To play your part, you can start by making sure that your food is stored in appropriate containers. And make sure they’re well labelled while you’re at it. Logistically, it’s not too hard and makes a difference at the other end.

Sign Up to Food Sharing Apps

People love to bash technology. And yes, maybe we do spend too much time on our phones. But let’s be honest. Technology is amazing. From order take-out meals to food waste disposal, technology can do it all now.

Food sharing apps are becoming more popular and for good reasons. Initially, these apps focused on restaurants and private individuals. But the event world has started getting some attention, and it’s about time!

A good example is Too Good To Go. It’s straightforward to use. You find a local store on the app, see what food will go to waste, order and pay for it online, and pick it up at an arranged time. And hey, you can even save money doing it too! 

Wrapping up 

In conclusion, food waste statistics are nothing to be scared of. You’ve got this.

Waste can be magic. Just think, 80% of the ingredients that go into making beer, never make it into the bottle. Now, that is a waste.

But the clever people at Le Champignon de Bruxelles have begun visiting breweries, taking the waste, and turning it into mushrooms. Magic mushrooms, you could even say…

Like in real life, food is an important part of events. Distinguish yourself over the rest of them by getting on top of the next hottest catering trend: The Pop-Up.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.