Event catering and food waste: hiding in plain sight

A watchful eye is cast over event catering as sustainability continues to be a hot topic in 2019. As the world turns its collective back on single-use plastics, another issue arrives at the forefront of the sustainability discussion: food waste.

Food wastage from the hospitality and food service sector costs the UK around £2.5 billion annually. That is enough food to fill the Shard, 11 times over. The WRAP Sector Report also suggests that around 75% of this waste is avoidable and the food completely edible.

So, what as an event planner can you do to reduce your food waste? For some expert advice, our head chef, Dalim Ceslar, has given his tips on how you can make a difference to your event catering.


How many times have you seen a mountain pile of treats left behind after the fifteen-minute networking break? Our guess is that it’s too often.

One of the easiest, and fastest, ways to reduce your food waste is to ensure your numbers are correct. Keep an eye on RSVPs in the run-up to your event and ensure to pass this along to your caterers. This way, caterers will be able to more accurately order ingredients to avoid vast quantities of food going to waste.

Even changes happening in the final few hours before the event is worth passing along. Surplus ingredients can be quickly identified and therefore will not be wasted in the cooking process.

Finally, ensure you tell your caterers that you want to reduce food waste at the event. This means that they will be better equipped to stay within tight numbers and will, therefore, need very accurate numbers.


Careful consideration of your menu is another way to reduce your food waste at the event. Speak to your caterer and venue to see whether they have any sustainable suggestions that may reduce overall food waste. These could be suggesting dishes that come from local suppliers or meatless menu options to reduce waste in the food supply chain.

Being open to innovations in your menu is another fantastic way to reduce food waste. The WRAP Hospitality & Food Service Sector Report discovered wastage occurs 45% from food production, 21% from spoilage and 34% from consumer plates. Work with your caterers and discuss ways to reduce waste in food production.  Try using the same ingredients in more than one dish on your menu or repurposing by-products to become another dish.

For instance, one Canadian caterer received so many requests for sushi that they began to sell dog treats out of the extra fish skins. This system can be applied to your event catering. Use by-product of one dish as the basis of another, like using bones to make stocks and sauces.


Surplus ingredients, from either a sudden drop in guest number or a miscalculation, don’t necessarily have to mean wasted food. Often, when discussions about catering begin, the vital task of feeding your team gets overlooked.

Food surplus paired with some savvy catering can often be a solution for this. Repurpose any leftover food to feed your events team. Again, having a good idea of dining numbers can help with this. Furthermore, if your caterer is able to adapt the menu to become the team food, then food waste will be instantly reduced.


As we enter the digital age, it’s easier than ever for any company to tackle their food waste issues. At the forefront of achieving these aims are innovative technological developments. Food sharing apps making are headlines, allowing those with leftover food easy access to those who can use it.

From Olio to Too Good to Go, there are a wealth of food sharing apps available for free. Olio allows individuals and businesses to post leftover food and quickly have it redistributed. Too Good to Go works directly with businesses, selling ‘Magic Bags’ filled with any leftovers from that day’s trade.

These apps began by focusing on restaurants and individual sharing, but they now turn to examine the events world. Co-founder of Olio, Saasha Celestial-One, says, “We really think there’s a massive opportunity to work in the events space. There aren’t that many existing options and our model, which specialise in short shelf life, ad hoc quantities seems perfect for that.”


Pitfalls and issues remain in the events industry when it comes to food waste. However, the events industry is making impressive headway in improving these. Whether its innovative catering or adopting new technologies, the solutions for event planners and caterers are coming in thick and fast.

We hope that the amount of food waste produced will shift over the next few years. While the scale of the problem might seem insurmountable, with some collaborative effort from multiple industries, that scale might just start to tip in the right direction.

For more event planning advice, speak to our events team now.