How to end food waste at meetings

Event planners are continually searching for ways of making their meetings and conferences environmentally-friendly. While everyone is focusing on sustainability, such as reducing the use of paper or plastic, delegates’ food is one area where there’s often a lot of waste.

We’ve all seen the rather sad-looking, half-eaten food left on buffet tables, or plates still three-quarters full going back to the kitchen, after someone over-ambitiously piled them too high.

Yet while you wish to cut back on food waste at meetings, saving money on your budget and reducing leftovers, you also want to meet delegates’ high expectations. It’s important to ensure the food is not only of a high standard, but also that the last person in the queue for the buffet has the same choices as the first.

You don’t want your event to be remembered as the one when they ran out of food! It’s a careful balancing act to ensure everyone present has enough to eat, while avoiding mountainous piles of leftovers being sent back to the kitchen afterwards.

Plates of Leftover Food

© Feng Yu / Adobe Stock

Analyse popular foods
Research has revealed that around 30% to 40% of food goes to waste, so it’s certainly important that hosts take steps to halt this wastefulness. The days of extravagance are over, as events professionals must adjust their practices to reflect today’s sustainable reality.

There are several ways of cutting out the excess food, one of which is doing your research and tracking the catering at your previous meeting. After the meeting, check with the caterer which food items were most popular, compared with those that experienced a drop-off.

This will help you to understand the types of food delegates prefer, although you must remember to account for religious considerations, allergies and sensitivities. This can be achieved by sending out a mailing shot in the form of a questionnaire to attendees, long before the meeting, to check for any special dietary requirements.

Portion sizes
Also, keep an eye on the portion sizes. It may be just a case of the plates being too big, with massive portions being served. A simple solution is to provide smaller plates, so they are still full, but don’t contain excess food.

Ask your caterer how the unused food will be dealt with. Will venue employees be able to eat it, or will it be donated to food banks? Is it sent for composting, or simply to a landfill site? This may influence your choice of caterer or venue if you can find one option that’s more environmentally-friendly than another.

Before your event, work with your venue and caterer to make sure they fully understand your group’s demographics and dietary requirements. Make sure they understand how you feel about leftover food waste and that you’re working to host a sustainable event.

Post-event review
After the event, review the amount of food that’s left over to gauge the success of your efforts. Make a note of the items that haven’t been popular on this occasion, so you’ll know not to serve them in future.

Noting the left-overs is an ongoing procedure that you should carry out after every meeting, as tastes change, and cuisine your delegates may have enjoyed 12 months ago may not be as popular today.

You can share news of your efforts to end food waste with stakeholders and event participants, so that those present can feel proud to have contributed to the initiative.

Publicise details of your “green” efforts on your company website and submit your entry for sustainability awards. Thank everyone who has contributed, including delegates, caterers, the venue, food banks and anyone else who has been instrumental in reducing food waste. You can leave a lasting legacy and gain a reputation as being a responsible event organiser in doing so.

Available with catering options, &Meetings provides professional meeting rooms in London. Give us a call on 0800 073 0499 and we’ll assist you through the complete booking process.


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