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Biodegradable Catering Dinnerware

Sustainable Catering Plates, Cutlery and Cups

As a caterer, I recently had the opportunity to bid for a job feeding 500 people for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This was not unusual and my small company had provided similar meals to a variety of different functions in the past. The concert/retreat was scheduled for mid-fall and the church wanted hot food for each of the three meals, including beverages and food.

As the client and I sat down to discuss her needs, several unforeseen requirements surfaced.

Requirement #1

The venue was a on a ranch located outside of the Dallas city limits, a long haul to transport food and keep it hot.   


  1. Breakfast: We decided to prepare breakfast at the central kitchen and haul it to the venue in insulated transport containers—which keep food at safe serving temperatures of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, for up to 8 hours or more. The breakfast menu consisted of a large breakfast sandwich of a fried egg, ham or sausage and cheese between a sliced English muffin, a hash brown potato patty and fresh fruit. Hot coffee or tea would be served as the beverage.
  2. Lunch: We decided on a large single-serving entrée of thick hearty stew with sourdough bread for lunch. We would also prepare lunch at the central kitchen and haul to the site at the same time as we took breakfast. The time between serving breakfast and lunch was easily within the range that the insulated transport containers would keep it at a safe temperature. Apples were served as a dessert.
  3. Dinner: Shredded barbecue sandwiches, grilled mixed vegetables such as long thick strips of red and green peppers, seasoned sliced potatoes, green tomato slices and other vegetables along with a double-handful of chips.

Problem #2

  1. Disposable plates, cutlery and napkins: The next requirement was more difficult. The rancher agreed to allow his property—specifically a large meadow—to be used as a site for a religious retreat/concert for a local church. However, he refused to allow any paper, plastic or other disposable tableware for use during mealtime. He was convinced it would blow all over his property and be there for years to come. Therefore, we had to serve meals without any typical choices of dishes, cups or cutlery.


  1. Breakfast: We decided to serve the breakfast on an individual size, edible pizza crust. The crust could be eaten, thrown away or even if it did end up on the ground, it would decompose or serve as food for the wildlife and be gone very quickly. Paper napkins would be available. At breakfast each guest would receive a large mug with a screw on top and imprinted with the name of the church and the date of the concert/retreat. We didn’t anticipate anyone throwing away this valuable, useful and sentimental souvenir of their church experience. The mug would be used for the beverage at each meal.
  2. Lunch: We served the large orders of stew in an extra-large soup bowl made of a ball of sourdough bread with the top cut out and the soft inner bread removed. This is the same bread bowl that is served in expensive restaurants and it is delicious and typically eaten after the stew is consumed. Coffee, tea and soda—served from a portable post-mix unit— were available for self-service by the guests. Biodegradable plastic spoons, made from field corn, were acceptable to the rancher if the group would make every effort to take them home to throw away. Paper napkins would be available.
  3. Dinner: The barbecue sandwich, grilled vegetables and chips would also be served on individual size pizza crust with paper napkins. Coffee, tea and soda—served from a portable post-mix unit— were available for self-service by the guests.