Written by daniel

This article is part of our toolbox
“Tackling  waste in tourism & events”

The best way to deal with food waste is to avoid it in the first place. Why and how? This article aims at giving you some insights on the environmental impact of food waste, and to share our top solutions to implement when organizing an event or managing your tourism institution.


  • Up to 40 % of the food produced worldwide is thrown away.
  • For example in the US, about 63 million tons of food are wasted each year, with 40% coming from consumer-facing businesses, including restaurants and hotels (see Refed report).
  • Water, fossil energy and land are being mismanaged to better fill our bins, while 17% of the world population is suffering from hunger.
  • If food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd biggest producer of green house gas. In France 36% of green house gas is produced by the food industry.

All players at each step of the food production, distribution and consumption cycle are concerned: from the field where crops are abandoned because of economic reasons, to the distribution stakeholders because of aesthetic criteria, bad forecasts and logistics, all the way to the consumers who buy more than they can handle.

Learn more:


Identify and measure: What kind of food waste is mostly ending up in the bin of your restaurant? Are there waste patterns ? Separate food waste from other waste and start weighing it: how many kilograms you throwing away Make ratios per number of customers, per meal, per day or per category of food waste (spoilage/preparation/buffet/plate).


IKEA started the Food is Precious initiative in 2016. Smart scales, provided by LeanPath and Winnow Solutions, were used to measure the food thrown away in the IKEA operations at the IKEA restaurants, Bistros, and Swedish Food Markets.The data helps the co-workers to identify common factors behind food waste and develop actions for prevention and reduction of waste


  • The pledge on food waste  is an independently verified certification designed to cut food waste in restaurants through the assessment of 95 criteria. Check their Business cases:
  • Edgar and Food Excess Monitoring Platform are two different online solutions (softwares) for restaurants, hotels, caterers, or local authorities to measure and follow-up on the evolution of their food waste in kg and in euros.
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, came together to work with the hospitality industry on understanding and reducing food waste: have a look at their Hotelkitchen toolkit.

How to prevent
food waste?

Always keep in mind the waste hierarchy to frame how you should focus your efforts for greater impact. In term of f food waste the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shared this infography:

#1 Smart forecasts

Make sure you only buy and cook what is necessary by better forecasting how many people will come and what they’ll eat.
Implement a strict inventory management, to control expiration dates.

Possible if: you have the opportunity to connect with your customers (bookings are more reliable than  the number of people “interested” on Facebook…).

Save money

Require anticipation


  • For the  Zero Waste Festival,each participants had a meal included in the price of their ticket and were asked to choose their dish upon arrival. For last minute participants, extra uncooked food which could be easily stored (such as raw fruits, vegetables and nuts) was also available.


Zero Gachi works with private actors to improve their stock management through their product etiquettes. The entrepreneurs help to alert when the expiry day approach, and enable the shops to sell the products at discount price, instead of throwing them away

Meal Canteen, is a start-up which provides a solution to restaurant order forecast. With their mobile app, customer can preorder their meals in the restaurant of their choice. As a result: no more surplus order, stock optimization, and less waiting line for the end consumer !

See our collaborative database: click here
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#2 Adapted portions and dishes

Make sure that people get portions that they enjoy and can eat entirely, even if it means smaller plates. Get feedback from your clients on the different size options.
Check produces ‘ specifications: can some products last longer ? helping you adjust ? You might adapt your menues to take it into account

Possible if: you train your employees
Also have communication material to explain the different size available.

Save money and 
differentiate yourself

Require anticipation

Different container sizes


  • At restaurant Le Bichat (Paris) small portions are served but people can come back and ask for more grain or vegetables.

See our collaborative database: click here
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#3 Take away options

Incentive customers to take their remaining food with them, provide take away packages. Many customers would like to do it but don’t dare to ask. Help change this old habit!

Possible if:
To ensure you adopt a sustainable packaging, check our article on packaging
Train your employees to systematically offer a take-away to customers (up to 25% of clients don’t ask for doggybags)

Gain trust and differentiate yourself

Require anticipation and a bit of extra time: for your employees to pack remaining dishes.
Cost money:
 depending of the kind of packaging you’ll opt for.


The brand Gourmet Bag is an incentive launched by the french government in order to invite customers to bring back left over food from restaurants. Common practice in the United States under the name “doggy bag”, this french denomination aims to be the gourmet way of reducing foodwaste in restaurants.

See our collaborative database: click here
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#4 Valorize food surplus

Give your food surplus directly to charities (or to organisations who will do the intermediary).
Sell food that will expire soon at discount price
In the kitchen, generalize alternative uses of surplus: e. g. non-presentable pieces of fish in broth,

Possible if:
– Caterers must be informed beforehand,
– Legal documents and inventory are required,
– Be sure that the cold chain is been maintained,

Financial earnings: in case there are tax incentives, or if you sell at discounted prices products that would have been thrown away
Gain trust: by showing that you care.
Engage your employees asking if they know any charities that might be interested

Cost time,
Requires anticipation.


  • The French national Stadium – Stade de France – collaborates  with The Chaînon Manquant: after the games, the assosiation gather all unsold food from the snack areas, to redistribute it to local charities  and people in needs.
  • In term of food resources, Serge Ampoulange, owner of Domaine de la Rhonie, explains in this article and video how hevalorize food surplus in his kitchen, such as turning leftover egg whites into meringues.


  • Phénix, a social enterprise based in Europe, diverts unsold food from waste to alternative places/uses such as charities, animal feed or recycling. In 2017, the enterprise has notably worked with the festival Rock en Seine on food waste prevention
  • Too Good to Go Through an app, groceries stores and bakeries can find a new way to sell their surplus: the surprise boxes ! Creating visibility for the stores, these boxes also give access for the consumer to products that are Too Good to Go for a reduced price, a win-win situation !

Check your local charities or see our collaborative database: click here
Suggest new ones: click here

#5 Suppliers awareness

Make waste management one of your bid’s selection criteria and contractual requirements when looking for suppliers/caterers.
When relevant, you can sensibilize them and even suggest training to zero waste

Possible if: Your caterer stays committed throughout the process. They might need reminders and follow ups as you start implementing these new actions.

Gain trust: by showing that you care.

Requires anticipation
to find a committed  local supplier / caterer


During Makesense events, Disco soup,  (social cooking of supermarket surplus that would have been thrown away), are organised to feed volunteers and participants. It’s a fun and practical way to raise awareness, and  there’s a free buffet !


With a mission to feed people in need and to develop youths’ culinary education, la Tablée des Chefs acts as a food bank, collecting and redistributing food. Their force is they were able to gather the restaurant industry by involving the chefs, cooks, foodies and confectioners under their social mission, creating a positive social impact in France, Canada, and Mexico.

Check our collaborative international database for local solutions to your waste management issues: click here
Suggest new ones: click here

#6 Collect and value

Composting, feeding animals, anaerobic digestion… read our article about recovering organic waste to explore in details different solutions.

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This article is part of our toolbox
“Tackling  waste in tourism & events”

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Thank you to our authors as well as our expert proofreaders who contributed to fact-checking the content. Like the entire toolbox, this article has been created thanks to the collaborative effort of:

The Future of Waste community