Reducing food waste at events – what a good idea!

Blog | Sustainability

Food waste is a growing concern around the world. Did you know that we throw away an estimated one-third of all globally produced food?

While this problem occurs at every level of the food supply chain, it is particularly prevalent in the events industry. Conferences, festivals and events often require large quantities of food. But what happens to the surplus?

Worry about running short of food and hungry delegates can lead to an overestimate of the amount of food needed!

Some level of over catering is inevitable. At ZiaBia we are working with our caterers, partners and venues to try find a home for excess food. This sometimes means introducing them to companies dedicated to this cause, such as OLIO.

An OLIO case study

In a nutshell, the OLIO app is easy to use and simply connects people and businesses with their local communities. Through their OLIO Food Waste Heroes program, an army of local volunteers collect surplus food from events to prevent it from going in the bin.

On one recent event in London, we worked with OLIO in two different ways:

  1. Food Waste Heroes – OLIO sent one of their volunteers to collect the left over lunch sandwiches. They then redistributed this on the app on our behalf. These sandwiches were shared with the local community and the homeless living in the area.
  2. A direct ‘shout out’ on the app – we posted that we had leftover hot food after the dinner, inviting the local community to come with their containers and collect what they wanted. Most went to low-income families and to people on their way home from work re-filling their lunchboxes.

You may be surprised how many venues are already working with OLIO or similar. Some hotel companies already have regular collections established across their hotel groups and policies in place.

When talking about your event catering, ask right from the outset what their food waste policy is. You can even introduce them to OLIO if they aren’t already working with them.

Our pre-event planning at ZiaBia always includes a discussion with the venue or caterer about managing the food quantities being produced; minimising the surplus; and how to redistribute any excess.

Helping the local community while making your event more sustainable is surely a win win?

Top tips to reduce food waste

Here are our top tips to start to reduce food waste at your next event:

  • Consider how many attendees there are likely to be. If it’s a free event, a 20-25% no show rate is not uncommon. Factor this into your catering numbers
  • Offer smaller portion sizes – or smaller plates!
  • Could you offer a plated option as we all know we take more than we need at the buffet table!
  • If serving a buffet, reduce the number of food options as caterers may try to supply enough of every option for every guest
  • Think about bowl food options as this controls the portion sizes while still offering choice
  • Ask your caterer to put less food out initially and only top up as required
  • Consider what you are serving and when – will people want fruit and pastries on arrival straight after breakfast, or canapés before an early dinner?
  • As with many aspects of event organising, we start the conversation early in the planning process. Speak to the venue about their food waste policy
  • Work with a company such as OLIO to ensure the surplus food finds a good home

Reducing the food waste at events is just one part of ZiaBia’s efforts towards a more sustainable future in the industry.

If you would like to speak to us about how you could reduce your food waste or how to make your events more sustainable and environmentally friendly contact us for a chat.

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Rebecca Rose

Project Manager
Author Bio:
I’m hugely excited to be joining ZiaBia as a project manager. I have a passion for planning, attention to detail, and love the satisfaction of seeing an event come together. My background is in marketing so much of my event experience is client side, running international events in both the IT industry and in the world of fashion as part of broader marketing campaigns.

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