Drawing on data gathered through semi-structured interviews, participant observation and document analysis at five-star hotels in UK and Germany, this paper examines the competing pressures driving waste generation and prevention at different stages in the food production and service cycle. Primary data indicated that senior managers recognised the potential savings that could be achieved by preventing food waste. Despite this, many wasteful practices were normalised within routine operations. This was partly attributed to the corporatised business model and brand strategy in which premium pricing and luxury experiential propositions potentially transformed food waste reduction strategies into sources of risk. Past research generally categorised food as being edible or inedible. In contrast, the terms usable/unusable are proposed and this paper discusses how corporatised practices and value propositions rendered usable foods unusable. It considers how this type of corporate system frames waste problems and thus solutions, leading to various consequences. The discussion also explores how those systems shaped the organisational culture and the agency of staff who engaged with the service cycle at and across multiple points. The findings of this paper are based on primary data collected from a small number of corporately governed luxury hotels. Consequently, the closing parts of this paper outline how the insights generated here could be applied to the study of alternative organisational arrangements and operational types.