On the 26th April it is National Food Waste Day and here at the Sustainable Wedding Alliance we thought it would be useful to explore the main causes of food waste at a wedding and what to do about it as a wedding venue. In 2023 more and more couples are looking to reduce food waste not only to bring cost down, but also as they become more mindful of the impact that their wedding celebration is having.
If you are a wedding venue, caterer or hospitality provider that generates income from weddings then this is something you are definitely going to want to think about. Let’s jump in on the main causes, and then explore what to do about for both the tangible and intangible benefits for your business.
The main causes of food waste at a wedding:
1. Overproduction of food: As a wedding venue or caterer, it can be challenging to accurately estimate the number of guests attending. This leads to the overproduction of food, which eventually goes to waste – borne out of fear of the risk that there wont be enough. This is exacerbated when the couple choose buffet or grazing options which are really popular for 2023 and 2024 weddings.
2. Guest preferences: It can be challenging to account for the dietary preferences and restrictions of every guest. Some guests may not eat certain foods or may request specific preparations, leading to waste. Even if you get advance warning this can become an issue when guests choose not to actually eat the food that they have specially requested.
3. Storage and handling: Improper storage and handling of food can lead to spoilage and waste. This can happen during preparation, service, or post-event storage. Even the best laid plans can go wrong, and when you are dealing with large weddings and events this can be even more challenging from a logistics perspective.
4. Uneaten food: It is inevitable that guests do not not eat all the food they are served, and some may take more than they can eat, leading to waste which can be really frustrating for a wedding venue that is looking to be more sustainable. This is again exacerbated by choosing buffet and grazing as dining options. It can be really tricky to navigate this politely too.
5. Leftovers: There may be excess food left over after the event, which can be difficult to repurpose or donate, leading to food waste which could have been avoided. Certain menu choices and combinations can make this more of an issue depending on the time of year for the wedding.
6. Presentation and aesthetics: Food that is not visually appealing and doesn’t have the curve appeal may be discarded, even if it is still edible.
7. Purchasing: Food waste is easily created when you have to work with suppliers that have minimum order quantities, bulk discounts that make it uneconomical to order less and excess delivery charges for smaller order quantities. This can be really frustrating for smaller wedding venues in particular.
So what can we do about it? First off it is good to get clear about why you are looking to reduce the food waste. Getting locked into your motives can help with managing relationships, having conviction when making key decisions and courage to follow through even when facing adversity!
Five key reasons for reducing food waste at weddings
1. Cost savings: This is the obvious one, but by reducing food waste, you can save money on the cost of food and catering services.
2. Sustainability: Reducing food waste is an environmentally responsible choice that has multiple benefits for the planet. By using resources more efficiently, you can reduce your carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.
3. Social responsibility: Food waste is a significant issue globally, and reducing it is a socially responsible choice. Donating excess food for example, to those in need can have a positive impact on the community.
4. Reputation: The reputational benefits through demonstrating your commitment to environmental and social responsibility can really build your brand and separate you from the competition.
5. Creative opportunities: Reducing food waste can inspire creativity in the kitchen. Repurposing leftovers and creating new dishes from excess food can be a fun and creative challenge for your wedding venue, one that can create significant brand and marketing opportunities too.
We’ve explored what creates waste, we’ve looked at locking into your why for reducing food waste for your wedding business, now let’s explore some of the ways we can actually make a difference. One of the key things to start with after establishing your why is to audit what is currently happening – and this is something the Sustainable Wedding Alliance can help you with. Get in touch with us to see how we can support.
How to reduce food waste at your wedding venue:
If you want to get serious about reducing food waste at your wedding venue, it’s essential to plan carefully, communicate with your couples and help them manage their guests, as well as creating the internal infrastructure to develop a plan that will be successfully embedded for the long term.
Menu Planning: Menu planning with minimising waste at the core is a delicate art that meets science. The key point here is to understand the couple and what ambience they are looking to achieve. Think beyond just guest numbers and dietary requirements, but seek to understand the length of time they want guests dining for, think about the level of indulgence they want and then plan accordingly. Working with your couples to reflect seasonality can make a big impact on food waste – when you use produce out of season there can be more quality issues for example, so choosing seasonal produce can be a really positive way to reduce waste.
Communicate with guests: Work with your couples (and their wedding planner if appropriate) to let guests know what to expect regarding the menu, and encourage them to RSVP as soon as possible so you can better estimate the amount of food you will need and the level of dietary requirements you will need to cater for.
Supplier Relationships: A key element to reducing food waste is to review your approach to working with suppliers. Seeking suppliers which are local and can be more flexible with changes, or suppliers with flexible order numbers can make a significant inroad into reducing excess or wasting ingredients.
Drinks Packages: Consult with your couples on the right drinks package for guests that means they get a wonderful experience without waste. A simple swap can be not having bottles on tables for self service – by serving the drinks this can stop the half filled bottles being left on tables after the reception for example. Your approach to water should also be reviewed – reducing the amount of individual bottles can reduce waste quite significantly.
Donate excess food: Work with your couple to explore donating any excess food to local causes that could benefit. Soup kitchens, community cafes and homelessness charities may be keen to establish relationships which can benefit both the community and the planet.
Repurpose leftovers: A creative way of managing waste is to create take home boxes for any leftover food. This can be a lovely way to send off guests with a goodie bag to enjoy when they have got home from the festivities.
Reconsider favour choices: One of the most wasted items at a wedding is the wedding favours. Work with your couples to choose wedding favours that do not contribute to waste – even better make a charity donation or incorporate the wedding favour into the meal (such as a dessert table for example!)
The main causes of food waste at a wedding and what to do about it as a wedding venue
By implementing these strategies that audit, review and create effective change, you can reduce waste at your wedding and create more sustainable events – that have multi dimensional benefits for your business. Have you made inroads into becoming more sustainable as a wedding venue and want support on taking it to the next level? Here at the Sustainable Wedding Alliance we can help. Get in touch to get started…