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01  Plan efficiently

02  Measure and analyze your food waste 

03  Design a smart menu

04  Serve reasonable portions

05  Order responsibly

06  Practice good storage routines

07  Build a zero-waste culture in your kitchen

08  Go beyond your kitchen

09  Communicate!

10  Mind the taste!

Plan efficiently

Benefits: Working closely with an event manager will give you a good overview of your plans for procurement, production, and service. This way you can keep your food waste to the minimum and costs under control while accommodating the menu to your diners’ preferences. 

Tips for efficient planning: 

1. Make structured plans for procurement, production and service and organize them accordingly.  


2. Use digital tools, or a customized sheet, to organize your planning and detail your production needs. Update the database after the event if you have miscalculated. 


3. Gather all information about the event which can influence your operations and menu: 

  • Place and conditions of the catering, 

  • number of persons (even estimated), 

  • preferences for size (snack vs. meal), 

  • available seats or places dedicated for consumption (if applicable), 

  • designated time for consumption (e.g., at conferences), 

  • possible competitors (e.g., other food trucks at festivals) and their menu. 

4. Carefully calculate the amounts of products needed for the day based on ratio per person, including historical data. 


5. Plan work assignments according to staff experience and skills to reduce the amount of food waste. Make the executive chef responsible for guiding others in terms of production volume. 


6. Plan mise en place properly. Check the condition of your utensils and equipment regularly. 


7. Plan sufficient time for consumption and negotiate accordingly with the client/ organizer. Take the type of the event and infrastructure into account. 


8. Ensure buffet construction and equipment (e.g., cutlery size) is adequate to cater to all the participants. If needed, prepare several buffet serving flows to decrease long queues (e.g., one flow per 40-50 guests). After the first serving round, decrease the amount of buffet flows so you do not refill too many buffet trays. 


9. Have staff maintain the buffet's aesthetics and downsize it when needed. 


10. Have a plan to re-use or redistribute your surplus to easily reduce food waste. Draft a list of local producers that you can contact to propose sales or barter of your by-products. 


11. Make a contact list with the names of local community organizations, NGO representatives or church institutions to contact if you have surplus food that can be donated. Reach out to the preferred organization beforehand to ensure that they are on standby, to quickly pick it up. 

Measure and analyze your food waste

Benefits: Careful calculation and tracking of food in your kitchen will allow you to identify where your losses are, and how and what you can still optimize. Having a clear strategy in place makes it easier not to throw away surplus food or byproducts during preparation or providing the catering service. You will avoid throwing away valuable resources and potential ingredients. 

Tips for analyzing food waste: 

1. Monitor the preparation and service process from kitchen to plate to investigate where the waste occurs. Provide separate bins: for storage waste preparation waste (including buffet waste). Provide mobile bins for plate waste at events. This is how you will be able to recognize the type of waste and its origin. 


2. Register and analyze kitchen and plate waste regularly, using a digital tool or simply a scale and an Excel sheet. After two weeks, you should be able to identify the first areas for improvement. Later, if you want to analyze your waste in more detail, divide the kitchen waste for what comes from the preparation process, and what comes from the buffets and is an effect of the overestimation. 


3. Go through the waste carefully with your team and think how you can avoid it in the future. Develop a plan for reducing food waste and set up realistic, job-specific goals. Check the progress and inform your team to keep them motivated. 


4. Measure the size of portions and buffets and adjust their size regularly, based on the collected and analyzed waste data. 

Design a smart menu

Benefits: A menu designed with an optimal amount of ingredients, and with multiple uses for each ingredient in mind, means that you store and waste less food. Flexibility in menu design can accommodate the dietary restrictions and preferences of the event’s guests  as well as help you include surplus ingredients, which will prevent not only food waste, but also money loss. 

Tips for designing a smart menu:

1. Design event menu based not only on the number of attendants, but also their dietary restrictions and preferences (e.g., vegan, or allergy-related), and your stock (first-to-use ​products). 


2. Check your storage and use the ingredients you already have in stock as a starting point for your menu. 


3. Create a reasonably short and adaptable menu that can be agreed on in detail shortly before the event. Then you will be able to include ingredients approaching their “use by” date and surplus food. 


4. If you cater events that are scheduled closely in time, offer the same or similar menu to multiple clients, if possible. 


5. Choose ingredients that you can use in several dishes, and from nose to tail (including stalks, leaves, and stems). For example, collect quality meat cut-offs and peels for broth. Putting it in the composter should be the last resort solution. 


6. Find ways to replace ingredients that you rarely use or find new uses for them. 


7. When serving fresh ingredients, prioritize local produce that is in season - it will help cut the journey from farm to table and provide great taste. 


8. Provide clear information about ingredients in your menu, especially allergens. 


9. Minimize sweets and sweet snacks as they are less popular than salty snacks and generate more food waste. 


10. Make sure the food you offer retains its structure and remains presentable after delivery to the event, to ensure a good dining experience. 

Serve reasonable portions

Benefits: Monitoring portion sizes empowers your kitchen staff to promote quality control. It ensures diners always receive the portions and quality they have come to expect from you. 

​Tips for establishing portion size: 

1. Design portions by weight, considering the type and amount of dish, your food cost as well as preferences of the clients. 


2. If you serve station buffets, adjust portion sizes while serving and pay attention to food quality and presentation.  


3. Consider preparing food in “bite size” pieces so that everyone can take as much as they want.  


4. Encourage guests to take exact portions and refill if needed. The size of crockery and buffet serving cutlery implicates portion size. Consider offering smaller plates, glasses, and utensils. 


5. Keep an eye on the buffet. Prevent guests from contaminating the food. Have a plan for when to restock it and when to downsize. 


6. Offer to the organizer providing doggy bags for customers during the event, to be put next to plates and cutlery with clear signage. 

Order responsibly

Benefits: Close cooperation with suppliers will get you much more than better prices. It ensures better information about products and ingredients and about their shelf life and use. It also opens access to sustainable products (useful for menu storytelling) and environmentally friendly delivery (reusable containers, fewer one-time orders). 

Tips for responsible procurement:

1. Define goals and objectives for your procurement, such as cost savings, quality control and sustainability. Monitor them regularly. 


2. Before ordering, review your storage and first try using the ingredients you already have. Check the freezers and workstations for products left behind. 


3. Use calculation tools to estimate amounts and volumes of products, based on the production plan.  


4. Match your orders with your stock level and production calculations to reduce storage space and improve rotation. 


5. Establish good relationships with your suppliers to discuss different volume options, to only buy what you need. Negotiate your delivery plan and suggest reusable (or at least more environmentally friendly) containers. 


6. Check if your suppliers offer surplus products at a discount due to their upcoming expiration date. Buy in bulk, and then vacuum pack and freeze for future use. 

Practice good storage routines 

Benefits: Full control of your storage and patterns of product usage improves efficiency and time management. Over time, this will help you save money by preventing overordering, keep your produce fresh and use most of it.

Tips for smart storage:

1. Implement the First-In-First-Out (FIFO) rule in your storage: make sure that the products with the shortest expiration dates are the first to be used.  


2. Follow strict rules to return products to their assigned places after use. 


3. Make sure that staff know how to correctly store different products. Take into account the proper form (roots and tubers with removed leafy green tops), temperature, air circulation and proximity of products (e.g., potatoes and onions cannot be stored together). 


4. Carefully choose proper storage containers (e.g., with tight-fitting lids for the refrigerator). 


5. Check the condition of your equipment regularly to ensure optimum quality of storage, e.g., temperature or humidity. 


6. When you secure the ingredients for later, make sure to label them with the opening date and shelve them accordingly. 


7. Vacuum pack and freeze, if necessary. 


8. Use Excel spreadsheets, or other tools, to track your stock level and support proper planning and ordering. Stock waste can be tracked and registered in this way, too! 

Build a zero-waste culture in your kitchen

Benefits: Food waste starts as early as in kitchen processes. Having skilled and aware personnel ensures that the product is used to the maximum and less waste is created. 

Tips for building a zero-waste culture:

1. Create a collective understanding of everyday zero-waste practices and procedures. When possible, assign a person responsible for the zero-waste policy. This way you can make sure everyone is on the same page and routines are followed up. 


2. Make sure that the staff, are well-trained on specific waste prevention actions: 

  • the FIFO storage rule 

  • checking expiration dates and the quality of food (tasting, smelling, and touching food for spoilage), 

  • using products smartly (finer peels, smarter cuts, etc.), 

  • tasting products and, if possible, semi products, to ensure a balance in flavors. 


3. Agree on common, realistic goals for food waste prevention, and provide regular updates to the team on progress and success rates to keep them motivated. 


4. Turn waste prevention into a team building exercise, or a competition for individual members, with prizes. Engage them in registering/tracking/weighting the waste in their sections, based on agreed, feasible goals. 


5. To keep the chef motivated, encourage and challenge them to create a daily special out of the excess food. Appreciate them for improving or inventing new, zero-waste recipes. 


6. Offer regular staff meals from unused produce or allow the kitchen team to take the surplus food home, as a bonus. 

Go beyond your kitchen

Benefits: What is waste for one can be a resource for others. Try bartering your by-products with local producers to secure additional income and support charity to make a difference in the world. 

Tips for reducing waste: 

1. Establish cooperation with a local community, charity NGO, food bank or church organization for the donation of your surplus food. Notify them well ​ahead so they can be ready to pick it up or receive it as soon as possible, preferably on the same day. 


2. Secure unserved food deemed for donation. Keep meals/trays out of sight from guests and with an unbroken cold/warm chain. 


3. Assign one person in charge of food donation and surplus management, to oversee the cold/warm chain, as well as ensure enough storage space. 


4. Make sure you comply with food safety regulations and applicable taxes/withdrawals. 


5. Look for social/community fridges in your area to donate the surplus food.  


6. If you find no way to reuse surplus food or organic waste, do not throw them away yet. Find a local business that will see your waste as a resource, e.g., coffee grounds, and will be willing to pay or barter for it. 


7. If you find no way to reuse organic surplus, do not throw it away. Try to approach farmers to exchange it for their products, as animal feed or compost, or simply give it away. 


Benefits: Better communication within your team and with your customer leads to improved efficiency and customer experience. It helps to build common values and awareness of how to avoid food waste. Make sure your zero-waste approach is clearly stated, so that your clients choosing your services can build brand image in their communication with guests. This will improve your chances for future orders.

Tips for better communication:

1. Share your strategies and mission with your clients so that they can be proud of choosing a zero-waste caterer.  


2. Create appealing and informative resources to share the zero-waste approach with the event guests: from tips in the paper menu to digital resources, such as landing pages or social media posts. 


3. Provide clear information about ingredients in your menu, especially allergens. 


4. Ask the client to communicate clearly during the event, that doggy bags are provided at serving stations, and to publicly explain your zero-waste policy. 


5. Help dinners make better choices by demonstrating portion sizes and highlighting the possibility of a refill. 


6. Ensure effective communication between the chefs and servers regarding the timing, amounts and flow of serving, and the need to refill or downsize buffets. 


7. Ask servers to listen to the diners’ feedback about their satisfaction and condition of the food at the venue. 


8. Invite the clients to share their zero-waste suggestions based on their experience and needs. 


9. Communicate donation facts with your customer so that they can use them in their messaging, for increased goodwill and future orders. 

Mind the taste!

In a successful catering business, tasty food and top-notch presentation go hand in hand. Encourage the kitchen team to taste products and if possible, semi-products, to ensure a balance in flavors. Ensure your delivery packaging prevents spillage of sauces and helps maintain the original shape of the dish. Only then you can provide a great dining experience every time and secure returning clients. 

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