How to Minimize Food Waste at Your Summer Events: A Guide for the Hospitality Industry

Business leaders in the hospitality industry appreciate the importance of running efficient, cost-effective operations. Amidst the intensity of event planning, one aspect that often gets overlooked is food waste. Still, it plays a crucial role in your business’s profitability and in your company’s environmental responsibility.

In recent years, the staggering scale of food waste in the hospitality sector has come under increasing scrutiny. Every year, millions of tons of food are wasted, contributing to approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). As the stewards of large-scale summer events – from corporate gatherings to weddings – hospitality organizations are uniquely positioned to help address this issue. 

Beyond the environmental implications, there’s a compelling business case for reducing food waste. A recent study showed that for every dollar invested in food waste reduction, hotels saved anywhere from $7 to $10. The logic is simple: when businesses waste less, they spend less. By implementing strategic, thoughtful practices, you can significantly impact your bottom line while paving the way for a more sustainable industry.

This guide will provide you with actionable steps to minimize food waste at your summer events through efforts like organics recycling, and contribute to a greener planet while boosting your profitability. Let’s get started.

Understanding Food Waste

Food waste in the hospitality industry represents any food that’s prepared and isn’t consumed, whether it’s from overproduction, spoilage, or uneaten food left on guests’ plates. This can be tied to several stages of food handling, from procurement and storage, through preparation and cooking, to serving and disposal.

Where and Why Food Waste Occurs at Summer Events

Summer events, with their large crowds and abundant catering, can be prime sites for food waste. Let’s break down the common areas where food waste typically occurs:

  • Overproduction: Caterers often prepare more food than necessary to make sure guests never see an empty food tray. This overproduction leads to a significant amount of waste if the food isn’t consumed or appropriately stored for future use.
  • Buffet-style Service: Buffets, a common sight at summer events, often cause higher levels of waste. Guests may take more food than they can eat, plus health regulations often prohibit the reuse of food once it has been served.
  • Inadequate Storage and Handling: Poor inventory management and inadequate storage conditions can lead to spoiled food, especially for perishable items during the hot summer months.
  • Last-minute Changes: Changes to guest count, event timing, or menu requests can also contribute to food waste.

The Bottom Line: Financial Impact of Food Waste

The financial implications of food waste in the hospitality industry are significant. According to a report by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), on average, the cost of food waste to a hotel is $0.97 per meal in the UK and $1.97 per meal in the US. When you apply those numbers to hundreds of meals at a single event, and countless events over a season, the financial strain becomes crystal clear. This shows us that reducing food waste isn’t just environmentally responsible – it’s a smart financial move.

How to Mitigate Food Waste: 4 tips

Thankfully, you can actively address food waste with thoughtful practices and strategies. Here are four concrete tips to help minimize food waste at your hotel events:

1. Accurate Forecasting and Ordering

Effective forecasting is the first crucial step in minimizing food waste. You can base your predictions on previous events you’ve hosted that were a similar size, event type, and guest demographics. Use this historical data to accurately estimate the amount of food you’ll need. Plus, consider the type of event and the expected weather, as these factors significantly influence food consumption. For example, if thunderstorms are anticipated, you might consider preparing less food overall since inclement weather usually leads to lower guest counts.

For ordering, it’s best to work closely with your suppliers and establish rapport with each vendor, so you can adjust your orders closer to the event date. This helps to account for last-minute changes in attendance and avoid over-ordering.

2. Inventory Management and Efficient Storage Practices

Proper inventory management and storage are key to reducing food waste. Maintain a well-organized inventory system that tracks the quantity and expiration dates of food items. This allows you to prioritize the use of ingredients that are close to expiring.

If you find that you’re regularly dealing with spoiled food in your inventory, consider performing a food waste assessment to help your team determine which food items are being overordered and going bad so you can adjust your food procurement plan accordingly and help mitigate future spoilage.

Also, make sure that your storage facilities are functioning properly. This is especially important during summer events when high temperatures can lead to food spoiling more quickly. Regularly check the temperature and cleanliness of your refrigerators and storage areas.

3. Organics Recycling of Leftover Food

Organics recycling is an environmentally-friendly process that transforms organic waste, including food scraps, into valuable resources. It typically involves one of two methods: composting or anaerobic digestion. In composting, organic waste is decomposed under controlled aerobic (oxygen-rich) conditions. Over several weeks to a few months, microorganisms naturally break down organic material into a nutrient-rich fertilizer, which can be used to improve soil health and fertility. 

Anaerobic digestion, on the other hand, breaks down organic waste in an oxygen-free environment, producing biogas (a source of renewable energy) and digestate, a nutrient-rich substance that can also be used as fertilizer (like compost). When applied to food waste, organics recycling offers many benefits, helping divert substantial waste from landfills, reducing landfill costs, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions, and contributing to a circular economy where waste is repurposed and reused instead of discarded.

In addition, sustainable recycling initiatives can help manage non-food waste that often accompanies events, like glass, plastic, and paper. CheckSammy offers custom recycling programs that can help ensure all reusable items at your events are recycled appropriately, from food waste to other recyclable materials.

4. Food Donation and the Role of Food Banks

Donating surplus food can be another effective strategy for minimizing waste while contributing to your community. Many cities have food banks or organizations that accept food donations and distribute them to those in need. Ensure you understand local health regulations and the guidelines of your chosen organization before donating. The easiest type of food to donate is prepackaged items such as single-serving snacks or bottled beverages. Check with your local food charities for more details around donation requirements.

Partner with a Professional Organics Recycling Company

By integrating these practices into your operations, you can significantly reduce food waste, benefit your bottom line, and take a strong step towards a more sustainable industry. But you don’t have to go it alone. Introducing sustainability initiatives like organics recycling into your hospitality organization is easier with an experienced partner like CheckSammy. With specialized organics recycling services and experience working in the hospitality industry, we have the skills and resources to support all of your sustainability needs. Contact us today to learn more.

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