e all learn as little children that there are rules at table: 'Be sure to eat it all up or else you'll have it again for breakfast!" At adult age, there are different rules. 'All you can eat' appears to be one of them, whenever buffet-style dinner is announced as an event's highlight. Some guests actually consider that to be an invitation to overindulge instead of savoring and enjoying. That in itself is not deplorable and for everyone to decide for themselves. But it's amore pressing issue if the eyes and plates are bigger than the belly. In Germany alone, almost 13 million tons of foodstuff are scrapped into garbage cans per year. In private households, an average of 85.2 kilograms of food go to waste per year; adding that to the amount of waste produced by farmers, food processors, grocery retailers and the catering industry produces the total amount of 12.7 million tons.
Georg Broich believes it's really difficult to appeal to guests' sense of responsibility at this point: "The structure of guest attendance at events is usually very heterogenous. Many visitors to events will not want to deal with this issue at festive occasions, instead they want to indulge and pamper themselves. Events simply implicates this, and quality dining is always a highlight," said the CEO of a catering business in Düsseldorf.
He's much more annoyed about 'no-shows', i.e. guests accepting invitations but not coming. That's frustrating both for hosts and for catering businesses as well. "So you prepare 1,000 meals and then you have only 600 people coming. Now that's real food waste," said Broich. "We think that throwing less food away is the most important aspect when it comes to sustainability, because food not eaten is used to generate bioenergy. And that really hurts." It's become much more complicated to simply donate food to relief agencies. He's upset about bureaucratic hurdles: "They have to go through all kinds of paperwork, and we don't have that kind of time with perishable foods."
A caterer not economising will not be able to survive in the long run, knows Georg W. Broich.
Customers are the ones most eligible to keep food waste at a minimum. They can decide if caterers need to hold all foods available throughout the entire day and/ or evening – or if it's an option for one or the other dish simply to be eaten up. If an event extends over an entire day and into the late hours and food is not at the center of attention but instead lectures and negotiations, hosts might want to ask themselves if they really need to have all dishes available at 19:00 hrs.
In all other respects, there's quite a lot ongoing in terms of sustainable catering. "Bio, regional, seasonal – ten or 15 years ago, we only very rarely had inquiries with these criteria," he said. And they had really been genuine challenges, he remembers: 'bio' was not yet mainstream, organic foods were hard to find in sufficient quality and quantity, costs in 90% of all orders exceeded budgets. "There were hardly any farmers or suppliers capable of making that kind of delivery. The situation today has changed entirely."
And there's something else as well: a new generation is now advancing to the executive level, and this age group is aware of the significance of sustainability. "Inquiries are now much more detailed and to the point," said Georg Broich. "The younger generation is acting very responsibly when it comes to these issues."