Event Design

6 Ways to Cut Down on Food Waste

Food waste is a growing concern for the entire events industry.


Running out of food during a social or networking event is about the worst thing that can happen to a meeting planner — meaning that almost any program involving food prepares way too much of it, and the potential for waste is high. 


Meeting planners can have a positive, lasting impact on this issue. Here are some strategies to get you started:

1. Scope out menus that are suitable. More unusual items such as venison aren’t consumed by many people, so stay with mainstream items. If you can, survey delegates in advance to see what they’ll eat.

2. Reduce the number of courses. The more courses you have, the greater the waste — so consider going from, say, a four- to a three-course dinner. That saves money, too!

3. Avoid buffets when you can. They’re terribly wasteful, because people take more food than they’ll eat, and you end up displaying more food so your buffet stations never look empty. If you are using a buffet, place vegetables and carbohydrates first and meat and fish last, and use smaller bowls to display food.

4. Get comfortable with running out of food. Empty buffet stations at the end of an event are a sign of success; full stations are a sign of things gone wrong.

5. Take notes. Keep a history of how your F&B runs, so you know the flow and can better advise your culinary team the next time. Get actuals from your events, and adjust your food guarantees moving forward.

6. Donate your leftovers. Ask your venue in advance about working with a food-donation program — ideally one that goes beyond just the baked goods. There are numerous providers available across United States and Canada. Encourage your venues to start using them.

Sandra Wood, CMP

Sandra Wood, CMP, is manager of the annual meeting for the Canadian Medical Association.