Three Money-Saving & Sustainable Strategies for Menu Planning
Thursday, March 15, 2018
By Julia Spangler
When I talk to event planners about sustainability, one concern I hear frequently is that there isn't a budget for it. ILEA is a member of the Events Industry Council, whose recent survey about sustainability and event planning found that 75 percent of events will pursue sustainable initiatives only if they are cost-neutral or cost-saving.
Thankfully, there are a lot of ways to reduce costs and be sustainable at the same time! Let's look at three money-saving and sustainable strategies for menu planning.
Choose proteins other than lamb and beef.
A simple switch in the primary protein in your entree can have a big environmental and cost-saving impact. According to a study by the Environmental Working Group, lamb and beef are the two proteins that emit the greatest amount of greenhouse gases as they are produced. These proteins also tend to be more expensive.
Switch lamb and beef with lower-cost protein alternatives like chicken, fish or even vegetarian proteins like seitan, tofu or legumes, to reduce both your catering bill and the greenhouse gas emissions of the event.
Cut down on courses.
When served a multi-course meal, guests often don't clean their plates for one or more of the courses. They may get full before the last plate comes out, or they might want to save room for their entree by leaving earlier courses partially or totally uneaten.
If you regularly plan this style of meal, enlist your catering staff to begin monitoring how much food is left on plates at the end of each course. If more than 25 percent of the plates are coming back with a significant amount of food left on them, you might be serving more food than your guests want to eat. Consider cutting one or more courses to save money and reduce food waste. You may also see the added benefit of guests not feeling so lethargic after a long, heavy meal.
End with just a little sweetness.
Rich desserts used to be the spectacular capstone of a banquet, but now due to a variety of health concerns like diabetes, allergies and gluten sensitivities, many guests may choose to skip dessert, leaving you with a hefty bill and significant food waste. Even guests who enjoy indulging at the end of a meal may find themselves too full to eat a decadent cake or pastry creation.
To end a meal with a sweet note that can be enjoyed by the widest range of guests, replace a conventional plated dessert with a square of gluten-free, vegan dark chocolate at each place setting. (Improve your sustainability even further by choosing a brand of chocolate that is fair trade and organic, as well!) You'll eliminate the expense of plated desserts, reduce food waste and give health-conscious guests a touch of decadence.
Following these money-saving and sustainable strategies for menu planning will help you cut your catering expenses as well as reduce the environmental footprint of your event. For more budget-friendly ways to plan sustainable events, check out the blog and resources on my website.
Julia Spangler helps organizations and event professionals reduce the environmental impact of their events in order to preserve our planet and deliver great guest experiences. Her services include recycling, composting, food waste prevention and floral donation, as well as sustainability consulting, training and education.