In Malaysia particularly, food waste is a prominent issue. It is reported that Malaysians waste up to 15,000 tonnes of food a day. 8,000 tonnes (about 60%) is considered as avoidable food waste. You can play a role in reducing food waste. Food portioning is an area that most caterers struggle with because there is always a concern of under supply or excessive wastage. Below are some ideas that can be of guidance:
• RSVP vs “no shows” vs at-the-door > While you will already have a definite number to cook for, you have to consider these factors. If you are catering for a paid event, you would have better control but for free events, there will be about 25% of no shows. A good yardstick is to buffer 2% extra for the last-minute arrivals.
• Noodles / pasta / rice > You do not need to portion a regular sized serving per diner as there is usually plenty other food to fill them up (unless the buffet only consists of carbohydrates alongside one protein and few vegetables).
• Plated over Buffet? > it may seem a buffet comes as more cost effective to the client but observe most catering gigs and there are plenty leftovers. From a strictly portioning point of view, plating food leads to less wastage although you may require more staff to serve.
• Think through the plan > so many times we see items served as just an afterthought or to fill a category such as fruits being a default dessert. If you notice overtime that guests aren’t crowding the fruit station, what else could you offer that is fairly simple and appealing for guests to want to eat? Could you serve fruit in a more attractive way?
• Keep Continental Breakfast lean > Continental breakfast have been found to generate a lot of waste. People who eat at buffet breakfasts have started to become conscious of consuming too much noodles, rice and high-calorie pastries, particularly if they are going to be sedentary at a conference. You can recommend clients to have lighter food options or at times, ala carte can come up cheaper than standard buffet package. Keep the unlimited coffee, tea and water going – it won’t cost you much anyway.
• Bar Service > guests love open bars but drinks cost is hard to measure in advance. To ensure that drinks do not cut into your profits, caterers use a ticket system. Depending on the client’s budget, guests will receive a specific number of tickets to redeem their beverage at the bar. Any extra drinks will be paid in cash by the guest.
• Serving Equipment > Ladles, measuring cups, size of plate helps to ensure consistency especially at a plated service event. This takes the guesswork out of the staff’s mind and with the right platter size, guests will not feel there is inadequate food.