Purpose -Social marketing and other types of targeted behaviour change interventions should appeal to an individual’s personal values in order to improve their effectiveness. However, there is currently little understanding of what these values are in relation to food waste. The purpose of this paper is to identify the values underpinning the specific behaviour of plate waste created in a residential food service setting. Design/methodology/approach In semi-structured interviews (n=50) laddering techniques were used to identify links from behaviours through individual’s rationalisation for that behaviour to their personal values. The aim of the questioning was to uncover underlying drivers that lead to plate waste as well as those barriers to reducing it. Findings The values identified as being most important are hedonism and self-direction. The specific aspects of these values for plate waste reduction interventions are not compromising on the individual’s enjoyment of the meal and meeting their health goals. Effective interventions include pre-ordering meals, reducing food options provided, reducing plate size, removing food tray and finally, information campaigns to raise awareness. Originality/value The study provides insights into the personal values that influence behaviours resulting in plate waste. The study is the first to determine the links between this behaviour, rationalisations for that behaviour and personal values.