You want to cut back food waste at your events.  You want to save money on your food budget.  You want your choices to make this world a better place.  Yet, the hospitality industry has set guest’s expectations high–the first person through a buffet line and the last both have access to the same amount and choices of menu items.  As the hosting organization, you may have been concerned about “how it will look” to see an empty spot in the buffet line or just a few pieces of cheese on a platter.  As a society, we valued overwhelming abundance at our events as signs of prosperity and generosity.

In USA alone, 30-40% of the food supply goes to waste which amount to 20 lbs. of waste per person per month.*  Increasingly conscious of being good corporate citizens, hosting organizations are curtailing their wasteful practices especially around food and water.  For many, the days of outrageous extravagance are over and meeting professionals are adjusting to a new reality.  The question becomes how to make the shift.  Let’s take a look:


  1. Track your meal function history closely asking for actual amounts of food consumed from the caterer.  Start a baseline and learn which meals are fully attended and which experience drop-off.
  2. Understand the types of food your guests prefer (including religious preferences, sensitivities, and allergies) and portion size.  Watching as the plates come back into the kitchen can be very helpful.
  3. Learn how unused food will be handled including feeding venue employees, donation to a food bank, composting, or landfill.


  1. Work with your venues and vendors so they understand the demographic of your group and its preferences.
  2. Ensure the venue understands your expectations about leftover food.
  3. Please, please, please tell your guests about your initiatives to save on food waste and how that might appear different than traditional buffets or meals prior to the event in communications.
  4. During the event, post signage about your initiatives wherever meals are served and include data on the savings if available.


  1. Share your story with key stakeholders. Event participants are proud of what they contributed to and what has been done on their behalf.  Write articles, post on company websites, and apply for sustainability awards.
  2. Thank participants, vendors, venues, and local food banks for their assistance in minimizing your event’s food waste.  It is quite possible your organization just left a lasting legacy in the community.

In today’s world of food and water scarcity, participants look to organizations to be good stewards of the Earth’s resources.  With a bit of pre-planning, thoughtful choices, and education, your event will be a stellar reflection of the organization’s commitment to healthy people and a healthy planet.


Originally posted on Meetings Today

Photo Credit: Nancy Zavada