In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of dietary requirements at conferences in all around the world. This is due to a number of factors, including an increase in the number of people with food allergies and intolerances, as well as an increased awareness of different dietary requirements, such as veganism and vegetarianism.
Mark Field, operations director of The Victory Services Club, explores the challenges around plate waste and suggests ways that event organisers can take to reduce it.:
Consider and collaborate with audience before selecting your menu
The demographic of your audience should influence what you choose; an older audience may appreciate smaller portions, or two course rather than the traditional three.
Sharing the menu in advance may flag up some issues too; if you are proposing lamb, but 50% of your audience does not like it, you can then look at choosing a more appropriate meal option.
Gathering dietary requirements in advance
Meals with one or more dietary requirement make up around 40% the dishes we serve at the Club – that is a lot of potential plate waste.
Event organisers have a responsibility to ensure that their delegates’ dietary requirements are met, but they also have an obligation to gather this information in advance and to feed this to their venue.
By knowing in advance what dietary requirements are needed, caterers and venue chefs can prepare just the appropriate amount of food, reducing the risk of excess food being thrown away.
Offering smaller portion sizes
Another way to reduce plate waste is to offer everyone the option of smaller portion sizes. This not only helps to reduce the amount of food wasted, but it can also be beneficial for attendees who prefer smaller portions.
Encouraging attendees to only take what they need
Organisers can also encourage attendees to only take what they need, by providing information on the amount of food that is available and what will be available to eat later in the afternoon break or at dinner. They can also encourage attendees to take smaller portions if they are unsure of how much they will eat.
If you have a high percentage of dietary requirements, consider how you can adapt the whole menu to suit your biggest dietary group. Our chefs have created entire menus that are naturally (and not obviously) gluten free, dairy free or vegan. They then have a universal platform to add different options too – instead of the usual approach which focuses on taking things away and replacing.