The procurement of catering services offers many opportunities for the circular economy. Whereas for other product groups the circular aspects mainly involve the technical cycle, for catering services it is the biological cycle that matters most. For this product group the focus is on minimising and subsequently high-value processing of residual flows. This includes recovery of nutrients and energy.

In its category plan, the Dutch Central Government has clearly defined what it understands by ‘circular catering’. With regard to the circular procurement of food there is some experience at international level. In addition, there are various examples of catering facilities with a circular concept. These may serve as inspiration for the circular procurement of catering services.

Aspects of circular catering

The principles underlying the circular economy can be applied to catering in various ways. With regard to food, the following aspects deserve attention:

  • Protein content: over time, shift the plant/animal protein ratio to 60/40 or even 70/30.
  • Origin: ask suppliers to use local and seasonal food as much as possible.
  • Food waste: prevent food waste in banqueting by interfacing actively with the event organisers.

In addition, the following aspects are relevant for the operational management of restaurants:

  • Restaurants: minimise the consumption of water and energy and use renewable energy.
  • Packaging material: Minimise the use of packaging material where possible and only use monopacks if this is necessary to prevent food waste.
  • Equipment: assess the viability of maintaining ownership of, for instance, coffee dispensers or small kitchen equipment, and focus on Total Cost of Ownership.

Decide which aspects are important to your organisation and conduct a market consultation to involve market players.

Concerns regarding procurement of circular catering services

Various principles have been defined for the procurement of circular catering.  Use the following four questions to challenge suppliers to develop a circular catering concept.

  • Prevention: what is being done to prevent food waste?
  • Production: how, where and when is the food being produced?
  • Logistics: How is the food packaged and transported?
  • Residual waste: what is being done to ensure that waste retains the highest possible residual value?

The focus on prevention of food waste might seem superfluous but in practice we see that there is still a lot to be gained in this area. Find a partner that knows how to take your organisation forward in this respect.

Concerns regarding the circular procurement of hot and cold drinks dispensers

The procurement of hot and cold drinks dispensers is also governed by a number of principles: Use these principles to challenge suppliers to develop a circular drinks dispenser concept.

  • Machine: to what extent does the machine comply with circular principles, is the energy consumption reduced and is preventive maintenance used to extend the service life?
  • Coffee, tea, sugar and other additives: to what extent is the production of these items sustainable and socially fair?
  • Cups: to what extent are the cups reusable, biobased and the same throughout the building?
  • Residual waste: to what extent is high-value reuse of residual waste, such as coffee grounds or used cups, part of the supplier's business process?

Catering facilities with a circular concept

Circular concepts are becoming increasingly common in catering. The following three concepts have a unique story to tell:

  • Restaurant InStock cooks with food waste from supermarkets. Products that are discarded by supermarkets, for instance due to damaged packaging or an expired best before date, are transformed into nourishing restaurant meals, InStock has restaurants in Amsterdam, The Hague and Utrecht.
  • Paviljoen Circl has a kitchen without gas and with direct current instead of alternating current to reduce the loss of energy. To reduce energy consumption, hardly any products are being refrigerated and other storage and preparation methods are being used.
  • Restaurant The Green House (Dutch) works towards a ‘plugless kitchen’ (without electrical connections) and primarily uses local and seasonal products in its meals. The temporary pavilion can be disassembled completely after its expected life cycle of 10 years.


  • Clearly define what you understand by circular catering, and which aspects you will be focussing on.
  • Agree with your suppliers on a growth path over the contract period, so new developments can be incorporated.
  • Be inspired by existing circular catering concepts!

Inspiring examples

Background information

Suggestions and/or additions?