Authority Magazine
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Authority Magazine

Reducing Food Waste: John Brooks of BTTS Holdings On How They Are Helping To Eliminate Food Waste

All credit goes to Food Rescue US who has built a “bridge” between us, as a leading event venues and catering company, and local nonprofit organizations all throughout central Ohio. That connection and partnership has led to us being able to have excess food from our clients’ events taken to various organizations in need throughout central Ohio. We are on pace to donate over 10,000 high quality meals in 2021 alone.

It has been estimated that each year, more than 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to more than $160 billion worth of food thrown away each year. At the same time, in many parts of the United States, there is a crisis caused by people having limited access to healthy & affordable food options. The waste of food is not only a waste of money and bad for the environment, but it is also making vulnerable populations even more vulnerable.

Authority Magazine started a new series called “How Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies and Food Companies Are Helping To Eliminate Food Waste.” In this interview series, we are talking to leaders and principals of Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies, Food Companies, and any business or nonprofit that is helping to eliminate food waste, about the initiatives they are taking to eliminate or reduce food waste.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Brooks.

John Brooks is the President and Managing Partner of BTTS Holdings, the largest, exclusive event venue operator in Central Ohio with five venues, in-house catering, floral design and a strong focus on giving back. John has led the charge growing his company and has helped his staff weather the pandemic and evolved in order to bring his company’s clients value in the ever-changing event space world.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

We are a family owned and operated local business. My mother had a very successful wedding day directing business. My path was commercial real estate investment and development. We partnered to do an event venue together from the ground up in 2005. 16 years later, that has led to 4 additional venues in Central Ohio, a wedding floral studio and large catering company. So, not a specific story but a familiar tale of family entrepreneurship, opportunity, and hard work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company or organization?

So many stories! At the beginning of 2020, I played a video at our Key Staff meeting that said “Never forget, ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.” At that time, I was concerned that things were too easy, too good and we were becoming satisfied, not sharp. Two months later, in March we know what happened. Our business was mandated closed by the state of Ohio for 3.5 months. Then, operated under severe restrictions for 12 months. I had no intent for that meeting to be so prescient and was often reminded by our staff of the same, but we made it!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made many! It wasn’t funny at the time, but I am often reminded by teammates about missing names or forgetting names. During a very, very busy and hectic time of phone job interviews, I was continually interrupted. I jumped back on the phone while having a line on hold and hard copy resumes all over my desk. Now one of our cherished, key staff members — Kristen, I called by the wrong name three times in a 30-minute phone interview. It was so embarrassing! She actually thought it was some sort of high level, interview test, while it was simply me being too busy.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I define Leadership by modeling the behavior, actions, temperament of the desired culture of your organization. I firmly believe anyone and everyone can lead, at least themselves! I hear often that is easy to identify the leaders within your organization. Is anyone following them, regardless of title? Leadership for me is authenticity, challenging, encouraging, and intently listening.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly — Micah 6:8

Do what you can, with what you have where you are. — Teddy Roosevelt

Ancora Imparo — Michelangelo (still, I am learning….)

For me, simple is better. Walk humbly, do what you can, keep learning……

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. What exactly are we talking about when we refer to food waste?

Food that is purchased and prepared to be eaten that gets thrown away.

Can you help articulate a few of the main causes of food waste?

For us, in the catering industry, it stems from the cardinal rule of never running out of food. Nothing puts a caterer out of business faster than a reputation for running out of food. Quite often, we prepare buffets for large-scale, high-end weddings and events. You have to prepare more than enough food based on industry averages. We always send extra, just in case.

What are a few of the obstacles that companies and organizations face when it comes to distributing extra or excess food? What can be done to overcome those barriers?

Candidly, it has been a 7+ year obstacle we have tried to tackle unsuccessfully in various ways. Caterers are simply not setup to distribute excess food from large scale events. Between our 5 venues, we typically average 12 plus events a week with over 1,800 guests. We would reach out to many homeless shelters, food pantries, and nonprofit organizations. They were not set up to handle large scale donations of already prepared food. There were food licensing issues, timing, logistics, and labor to help facilitate. We were so thankful that FoodRescue.US began their Columbus, OH chapter.

Can you describe a few of the ways that you or your organization are helping to reduce food waste?

All credit goes to Food Rescue US who has built a “bridge” between us, as a leading event venues and catering company, and local nonprofit organizations all throughout central Ohio. That connection and partnership has led to us being able to have excess food from our clients’ events taken to various organizations in need throughout central Ohio. We are on pace to donate over 10,000 high quality meals in 2021 alone.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help address the root of this problem?

  • Food safety (proper temperatures, etc.) is certainly important, but a deeper understanding and empathy from local Health Departments who provide oversight and licensing could prove beneficial. Also, working with for profit and non-profit companies to provide safe flexible options to distribute prepared food to those in need.
  • Understanding creates empathy. As a catering company, exposing this issue to clients allows them to be part of the solution. We can have an unforgettable event while balancing the desire to not be wasteful.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. It is ok to say I don’t know. In February of 2020, we began to hear about a mysterious virus. In early March it was all over the news. Governor DeWine canceled the Arnold Classic, the largest fitness festival in North America and one of the top economic weekend drivers for Central Ohio. Things got very real. No playbook, no textbook, no podcast I have ever listened to described ‘What to do when your business is mandated closed by the government due to a pandemic.’ Daily briefings of our team began. At first, I thought I needed an answer, a solution, every time. I quickly realized none of us had answers, things were changing daily. Collaborating with my team and saying ‘I don’t know’ became a familiar and comfortable phrase. We began to say, I don’t know. But, let’s take the little we do know and make the best decision possible. A humbling experience but something that drew us all closer as a team.
  2. Listen, listen, listen-to understand not just to respond. It is ok to change your mind. Once you have all the facts and data, make the best decision possible and don’t wait too long to change course.
  3. Change is best when it comes from those closest to the action. Most initiatives fail for lack of energy, effort or financial resource. If you truly believe in a new initiative, put your absolute best of everything to it.
  4. We have a very large florals division. One day, one of our director level staff was tasked with a floral delivery to one of our venues. The entrance to the venue is at the top of a fairly steep long walkway. The Director spent 4 trips walking florals up and down the steep long walkway. This took approximately 20 minutes. The Director thought “wow, this would be so much easier with a dolly or cart. I could get this all done in one trip instead of 4 or 5. A week later he asked the regular delivery person. “Would you like a dolly or cart for your deliveries at the venue?” Delivery person replied “Oh my gosh, yes, that would save so much time.” They were doing a job, that could be done much easier (saving the company time and money) and all they needed was a cart. The reason they did not have one is because no one took time to engage them and say “What is one thing we could change as a company that would improve your job here?” — A Cart!
  5. Work/Life Balance is a myth. There is simply Life and our life at home and life at work often affect one another and that is ok. (i.e. “leave your problems at the door simply goes against the grain of us as humans”). Allow space for people to find their life balance.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

You can make a profit with a purpose. Make a profit AND a difference. Regardless of what your passion happens to be; Believing that your work matters and you matter is energizing and allows you to connect your work to a greater good. We allow our staff to take one day of PTO each year to volunteer at one of their charities of choice (there is a wide array and something everyone will connect with). We want staff to see their daily work allows us to give back to these charities. Integrating our work (where most of us will spend the vast majority of waking hours) with our passions to lift up others…… world changer!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

I am breaking the rules here because there are people, but maybe if we tag them all one will see this): Simon Sinek, John Maxwell, Adam Grant, Pope Francis, Denzel Washington.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

LinkedIn — john-a-brooks

Instagram —

This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.




In-depth Interviews with Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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Martita Mestey

Martita Mestey

Entrepreneur | Investor | Connector | Inventor

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