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Benefits of Catering Services Adopting Sustainable Practices

When it comes to overall sustainability choices, catering services have an outsized role in making decisions that can have a significant impact. There are hundreds of small moments where catering companies can decide to decrease the environmental impact at an event. These decisions range from the food being cooked all the way to the decorations that are associated with the party.

Fortunately, in today’s world, becoming a more sustainable catering business is not only the right thing to do but it is more financially feasible than ever before. Demand for these types of considerations from customers is at an all-time high and opportunities to make positive change in cost-effective ways abound. 

Developing sustainable policies

The first step in making lasting changes in any catering service is the overall company policy. Polices are the bedrock of how companies form and operate and any changes in policy will serve as a roadmap going forward. Company policies also help to tell the business’s story to potential customers.

Looking at and updating different standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the business is the place to start. For instance, the SOP related to food sourcing can be updated to reflect changes in policies about purchasing local food for events. Likewise, SOPs for waste management can be updated to ensure that everything that can be composted is. 

Practices to improve sustainability 

Making a catering business more sustainable at first can seem daunting, but there are actually a lot of small changes to make that can seriously add up. Many of them can actually save money over the longer term. Changes that might be made include things like: 

  1. Eliminating single-use plastics and packaging and replacing them with items that can either be composted or reused. 
  2. Using a self-service beverage station rather than cans and bottles
  3. Developing a system for composting food waste
  4. Incorporating a local, seasonal menu which can reduce transportation emissions and enhance the freshness and flavor of food. 
  5. Serving more vegetarian dishes which are often cheaper, healthier, and better for the environment. 
  6. Developing a partnership with a local NGO to donate leftover food after the event
  7. Use energy-efficient equipment for cooking 

Food waste is undoubtedly one of the biggest costs and challenges for most catering services. Strategies to help manage this can play a big role both in cutting costs and reaching sustainability goals. There may be opportunities to work with local food pantries or other groups that work with underfed populations to make sure any leftovers make it into somebody’s belly. 

Other options include donating scraps and other compost to local farms which can use the decomposing material to enhance soils. Some farms may even take food scraps and incorporate worm decomposition, which produces some of the highest quality soil around and is great for growing the next round of vegetables for your catering business.   

Another way to boost sustainability and cut costs is to produce much of the food used in the catering business yourself (see the Fall issue of Catersource for more on this topic). This might mean running a small farm on the side or managing a large, permanent garden where veggies and shrubs can be pulled and used seasonally for both food and some of the decor. This could greatly reduce the cost of purchasing produce for catering while also boosting freshness.   

If there’s an unused space available for your garden, you could even organize a fundraising effort to buy it and restore the space by removing debris and improving soil quality. You’ll be simultaneously improving the local environment and cutting food costs down the line. Such an effort can be a public-facing endeavor that could really benefit your brand as well.  

Enhancing brand reputation 

There is a lot of demand out there for more sustainable alternatives to many of the products customers are interested in today. Research suggests that the vast majority of people are willing to spend more on companies that are invested in making the world a more sustainable place. Given this demand, incorporating local, sustainable ideas is likely to be a boon for business. 

Local food that is delicious can also greatly boost your catering brand. Find creative ways to share your story and your sustainability efforts with guests. Sharing this story humanizes the business and brings to light all of the incredible things your company is doing to become more sustainable. Be sure to share the work across social media networks and build a strong following. 

Catering companies have many opportunities to expand their sustainability practices in ways that are not only better for the environment, but may also enhance their business. Updating policies, incorporating the sustainable practices that make the most sense for the business, and sharing the sustainability story are part of an ever-evolving process that can ultimately benefit you.  


Ainsley Lawrence

Freelance Writer

Ainsley Lawrence is a freelance writer that lives in the Northwest region of the United States. She has a particular interest in covering topics related to good health, balanced life, and better living through technology. When not writing, her free time is spent reading and researching to learn more about her cultural and environmental surroundings.