Written by Nathan Havey – Corporate Caterer Team Member

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  If we care about the planet, we all know that we should be looking at ways to do those three things.  As we observed last month, corporate catering is almost by definition, a single-use, waste-intensive industry.  But there are real things you can do to plan your impact IF you can get organized.

Reduce – 

This one is a no-brainier.  Reducing what you use and eliminating all waste is the textbook definition of efficiency.  The more efficient you are, the higher your profit margins and the lower your impact on the environment.  This goes for everything from the number of napkins, forks and mustard packets you send out with an order, to the appropriateness of the amount of food you deliver per person.  We’re not saying skimp, we’re saying get it right.

A feedback form can be very helpful for this.  Try sending an email survey the following afternoon, including questions about the appropriateness of quantities delivered.  This can help you to reduce, while providing an opportunity for excellent customer service.

Reuse – 

This one is a bit more challenging – but we have some outside-of-the-box ideas.

 Delivery Bags – Rather than the disposable plastic ones, get some reusable fabric ones.  Many clients use the plastic bags to collect the trash and toss it – and if you are concerned about that, maybe include one trash bag for them as a service, but keep your reusable fabric delivery bags.  That would save money over time too, as you’d only need to buy your fabric bags once.

Reusable Platters – Think tupperware concept here.  You deliver the reusable platters, they use them, and then stack them neatly (possibly in the reusable bag you left them) to be picked up later.  We know, we know – sending your driver on a second round to pick all of that up is a non-starter.  BUT – what if the deal was that your driver would pick up the stuff NEXT TIME they order from you?  That would give them a great incentive to order from you again.  If you made this your policy, it could be a fantastic business idea that eco-conscious clients would appreciate.  Additionally, you could setup a rebate for future orders.

Recycle –

There is a reason the recycle symbol is cyclical, with each piece feeding into the next.  Too often we focus only on the part of the cycle where we choose to put our ‘trash’ in one bin and our ‘recycling’ in another.  That’s great – and we need to do that – but the other role you can play in the re-cycle, is making sure you are buying products made from what you put in the recycle bin and not products made from virgin resources.

Post-Consumer Recycled Products – This is a big one for our industry.  Make sure your utensils, paper, platters, cups, bags are all made from post-consumer recycled paper and plastic.  If your distributor doesn’t carry them, ask for them, or get a different distributor.

Biodegradable Utensils – Alternatively, biodegradable materials are great too.  Corn-based plastics are widely available and they make a big difference.

You can help your clients recycle too.  If you are using disposable bags, consider specifically marking one for food waste (if your city has a composting program), and one for recycling.  This is a service that many clients would love.

The bottom line with all of this is that as you get organized, consider the impact of the materials you use, the purchasing choices you make, and the ways you can make paying attention to things like this set you apart from your competition and win you repeat business.

Published by Michael Rosman

Michael Rosman has spent more than three decades in the food industry. He built a $1.8 million a year corporate drop-off catering operation from the ground up in suburban Boston. Throughout his company’s steady growth he kept detailed records of the process. His membership website is a compilation of tips, tools, templates and behind-the-scene trade secrets that he and his team have created over the years.

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