Event food waste: industry solutions

Two of my key predictions for 2020 covered food. One looked at food trends - veganism, flexitarianism, and the other looked at sustainability in terms of event food waste.

And I wasn’t alone in my prediction. Late last year, research findings from Lime Venue Portfolio, in partnership with BCD Meetings and Events, underlined the need for the event industry to take a lead in tackling food waste.

The research surveyed over 60 event organisers and showed that just under a third of event professionals admit to throwing away at least 15% of the food they commission at events. If anything, I’m surprised that this figure isn’t higher. The publication has coined a very relevant term in relation to its findings – FORO, or Fear of Running Out.

We should be hanging our heads in shame as an industry which has done very little – until recently – to prevent waste of a valuable resource. And yet, the Coronavirus outbreak, despite its devastating impact on events, travel and hospitality sectors, is shining a light of food waste. One of the positive outcomes has been the media coverage of venues and event organisers transporting event food to charities in the run-up to lock down when events were cancelled last minute.

1. Lime Venues

“Every day we hear about food shortages in the world, and we should be all playing our part to reduce food waste wherever we can. Event organisers are well placed to advise and support clients, caterers, and venues with their food orders and work with them to tackle this issue,” commented Jo Austin, Sales Director, Lime Venue Portfolio.

This is a refreshing attitude in an industry that really does suffer from FORO. And thankfully, Lime Venues is not alone…

Did you know?: Decomposing organic material — think ‘green bin’ — releases methane into the atmosphere. Methane is 26x more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas and is a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

2. The mia

The Meeting Industry Association’s (mia) has been inspiring the sector to address our green credentials at a dedicated event. Taking place at London’s BMA House, Inspiring Change brought together some of the UK’s leading sustainability minds and suppliers to challenge and provide the business meetings and events industry with pioneering sustainability alternatives and solutions.

Jane Longhurst, chief executive of the mia, said: “We recognise the need to facilitate and inspire the much-needed changes across not just our industry, but organisations in general. Sustainability is currently at the forefront of operations and this trend will only continue, so we felt it was essential to bring together a diverse range of eco-friendly suppliers under one roof and exhibit their product alternatives in an inspiring showcase.”

As part of the working group for the mia’s #20PercentLess campaign, I was thrilled to see the Inspiring Change exhibition follow the mia #20PercentLess initiative that was launched last year to encourage the sector to reduce its reliance on single-use plastic.

3. Twickenham Stadium

Twickenham Stadium has launched a new food waste strategy which includes an innovative internal ‘circular economic model’ that maximises every ingredient, reduces food miles and tracks the source. Thomas Rhodes, Executive Head Chef at Twickenham Stadium, and one of the leaders on the venue’s sustainability initiatives, says: “To get waste down now, we need to look beyond the per person waste, and look at the micro things we do which have macro effects.

“This means we can track the life of an ingredient, use it for different things across the menu, from top to bottom. For instance, we can order whole locally sourced vegetables, use them in two or three dishes, and then use the excess for stocks and soups. It means one ingredient will be seen across two or three menus and multiple events.”


OLIO is a zero-food waste mobile app. When the company was researching the best ways to launch into the events world, expand, and structure its commercials for the industry, I provided some free consultancy. The organisation later attended an HBAA (the trade association for the hotel booking agency, apartment and venue community) event.

Michael Barsties from OLIO explained to HBAA members how events, venues, caterers and corporates can use its mobile app, which connects those with surplus food to those who need or wish to consume it. The team shared some distressing and equally motivating numbers…

  • Over one third of all food produced globally goes to waste

  • The annual value of food wasted globally is $1 trillion, and it weighs 1.3 billion tonnes

  • All the world’s nearly one billion hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, UK and Europe

  • The list goes on (unfortunately)! Check out the full list here.

So, how can us eventprofs work with OLIO?

Michael told Dotted Lines Events that: “OLIO makes events zero food waste, thus lowering an event's carbon footprint substantially, and in an easy way. All you have to do is book a surplus food collection with OLIO and a Food Waste Hero will arrive at the end of your event to collect any surplus food. The food is then distributed amongst the local community, most of it on the same night. OLIO provides impact data down to the number of meals saved and people fed, so you can shout about the fact you're doing good.”

5. 15Hatfields

15Hatfields (sustainable events venue in central London) highlights food waste as a key driver for 2020, “prompting a need for clever buying habits within organisations, especially if there are going to be price increases on goods from Europe as a consequence of Brexit.”

Warren Campbell, general manager at 15Hatfields, comments on Access All Areas that “…food waste is a massive haemorrhage of profit out of any business, with the majority unaware of the extent of money lost through unused food each day. By signing up to the newly launched Guardians of Grub*, a very user-friendly tool to benchmark waste and increase profit margins by implementing tighter controls, this could offset any product cost increase due to Brexit.”

*Guardians of Grub is a fantastic food waste reduction campaign to tackle the £3billion of food thrown away at hospitality and food service outlets. More below…

6. The Meetings Show

The Meetings Show has pledged a commitment to work with WRAP, the Mayor of London, London & Partners and Olympia London to help tackle the issue of food waste in the events industry as part of a wider sustainability pledge.

The Meetings Show* is encouraging exhibitors and event buyers to help cut food waste and take sustainability seriously. WRAP’s Guardians of Grub campaign aims to tackle the £3.2 billion worth of food wasted each year across the entire hospitality and food service sector and aligns with the Courtauld Commitment 2025 and the Mayor of London’s objectives that were outlined in his London Environment Strategy.

Abbey Short, Catering Manager at Olympia London, said: “We are proud of the progress we have made so far with WRAP’s help, having already reduced annual food waste by 17%, since signing up to Guardians of Grub in September 2019. This has also helped increase our overall waste recycling rate to over 98%. Our commitment to eradicating food waste continues; we shall continue to engage with our clients, visitors and colleagues to understand behaviours and work collaboratively until we can say we are a ‘zero food waste’, in addition to a ‘zero to landfill’ venue.”

*As of 25/03/20, the show is still due to run on 24-25 June if the Coronavirus situation allows.

7. Olympia London

Olympia London has also partnered with WRAP for ‘Guardians of Grub, to track its food waste onsite by measuring spoilage, preparation, inedible and plate waste. The venue has revealed on Conference News that it collected 43 tonnes of food waste in 2018, and in 2019 reduced its total by 17%. This partnership aims to further reduce its surplus and eradicate food waste from its menu.

Eleanor Morris, sector specialist hospitality & food service, WRAP, said: “Olympia London has shown that by raising awareness of food waste and tackling the problem in a measured and holistic way, we can stop good food going to waste. This programme has been a great success both for the benefit of the participating businesses, for the environment, and in showing the public that there is no place for food waste at any Olympia London event.”


At Dotted Lines Events, we protect this incredibly valuable resource, by analysing our audience demographics and ordering menu choices and quantities accordingly. For example, a beauty client with mostly female attendees would have a very different menu to a construction client with mostly male attendees (without being too stereotypical). We also work closely with our venue and catering partners and encourage menus that minimise waste at the kitchen level. And, where possible, partner with local charities to ensure anything leftover contributes to feeding people rather than global greenhouse gas emissions.

So, why not join the fight against food waste and help build a more sustainable industry when live events are back up and running? Contact for a free consultation.

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