Tips for Ending Food Waste at Events

Tips for Ending Food Waste at Events

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 meeting professionals, we have been concerned about “how it will look” to see an empty spot in the buffet line or having just a few pieces of cheese on a platter. We valued overwhelming abundance at our events as signs of prosperity and generosity.

In the U.S. 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:


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


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


  • 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. 
  • Thank participants, vendors, venues and local food banks for their assistance in minimizing your event’s food waste. It is quite possible your organization left a lasting legacy.

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 group's commitment to healthy people and a healthy planet.


Posted by Nancy J. Zavada, CMP

Nancy is a leader and innovator in the meeting planning and events industry, she is president of MeetGreen and co-founder of the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC).

Follow Nancy on Twitter: @nancyjzavada
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Editors' Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

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