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Food with Thought: How Restaurateurs Are Going Sustainable

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Sustainability is nothing new in the food and drinks industry. From Fairtrade coffee through to organic, locally sourced vegetables, there is a smorgasbord of sustainable products for both the general public and the savvy restaurateur.

Sustainability has progressed from a buzzword often mentioned at trendy local farmers’ markets to an actual business model. The restaurant business can be ruthless, so for a restaurant to project an image of caring for something other than profits is refreshing and gives the business a conscientious character that appeals to the evermore-ethical patron.

The concept of a sustainable restaurant is now even an officially lauded practice with the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s Awards recognising achievements of those in the sector. Even French chef extraordinaire Raymond Blanc rates restaurant sustainability over and above Michelin stars.

With sustainability seemly taking hold in the restaurant industry, what does a sustainable restaurant look like today? How are they run and what are the benefits?

What is a sustainable restaurant?

According to the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s criteria, there are three clear ways a restaurant can be deemed sustainable:

One: Sourcing

The types of produce a restaurant uses is the primary standard for being deemed sustainable. Is your eatery’s menu composed of food that is seasonal and local? Is the meat you use organic and are the eggs free-range? Is the coffee you serve fairly traded? Sourcing produce from farmers who are committed to caring for the environment and cooking with fish that is sustainably caught all go towards making your restaurant a sustainable one.

Two: Environment

Thinking about the supply chain transportation you use and its environmental impact. Making sure your waste is kept to a minimum, properly disposed of and monitored. Restaurants can further sustainability efforts by making their business energy efficient (electricity, gas, heating and water) too.

Three: Society

It’s not just the produce a business sells or the facilities it’s housed in but the people also count towards sustainability. Having an excellent equal opportunities ethos in your recruitment process at all levels, encouraging and offering healthy eating to employees all back up the restaurant’s sustainability. Aside from employees the other people to consider are the general community. Engaging with local schools, charities and communities adds a personable and caring facet to a restaurant business.

Exemplary models

Pret A Manger are a great example of how sustainability can be incorporated into a business model. Not only do they have organic coffee that is fairly traded and from sustainable farming practices, but they also use 100% British organic milk in their drinks.

Pret A Manger have carefully and cleverly achieved the SRA’s suitability criteria of sourcing and environment, easily and to great effect.

And the chain doesn’t stop there. Pret are heavily involved in societal issues and support over 40 charities. One of their most visible endeavours is the giving of unsold food to the homeless at the end of each day. Not only is this a wonderfully humanitarian act for a business to participate in, but it builds a very positive image to the public in comparison to many food outlets binning out-of-date foods and other unnecessary wastes.

And it’s not just Pret making the most of unsold products in the name of sustainability. Tristram Stuart’s Toast Ale brews beer from unsold bread and the unused heel of loaves from sandwich makers. Stuart came up with the ingenious idea having grown up on a farm. He noticed how much of the food that was thrown away or given to the pigs to eat was actually still fit for human consumption.

“I grew up with a strong relationship with the land,” he said. “The pigs made me see how food waste and environmental degradation are so intertwined.”

As a result, Toast Ale was born. And it’s not just environmental sustainability that Toast Ale is conscious of. Societal sustainability is also taken well in hand with all profits of Toast going to Feedback, an environmental advocacy organisation, founded by Stuart to combat food waste.  Having launched in 2016 in the UK, Toast Ale made waves in the US this year and the company soon plans to launch in South Africa and Iceland too.

One of London’s best rated sustainable restaurants is The Clerkenwell Kitchen.

Nestled in one of London’s most trendy areas, The Clerkenwell Kitchen specialises in great food created from produce that is locally sourced and from traditional farming methods.

Founders Emma Miles and Laura Hern are dedicated to their restaurant “being a sustainable company” and they are passionate about quality produce that is conscious of animal welfare and fairly traded. The restaurant’s meat and dairy products are free-range or organic, whilst the fish is line-caught, where possible, as well as being from sustainable stocks.

Miles and Hern say their “suppliers are chosen because they offer the best quality and flavour as well as sharing our commitment to traditional farming methods and fair trade.”

And their commitment continues even through to offering diners beers and ales locally sourced from London’s Crate Brewery.

The benefits of being a sustainable restaurant

Why should my restaurant be sustainable? Well, aside from the ethical and conscience train of thought there is actual financial benefits to being a sustainable eatery.

By being a sustainable restaurant (and with clever and clear marketing) diners will view your brand favourably. By working with local producers, independent farmers and organic suppliers you’ll be opening up a world of possibilities of future business deals and brand alignments.

You’ll be able to get involved with your immediate community (be it a local farmer’s market, school or even the shop next door) by making your ethos clear and seeing where opportunities and interests overlap.

And the “sordid topic of coin”? You can make a surprisingly healthy rate of return.

The Trustcott Arms achieved Three Star Sustainability Champion status in July 2013. By taking part in the FoodSave programme owner Andrew Fishwick saw both environmental and financial benefits.

The Maida Vale pub took park in a four-week audit of their food waste by way of the Winnow Waste Monitor system. Despite covers rising 44% during the FoodSave programme, food waste was reduced by 22%, translating to an annual reduction of 1.9 tonnes. In total, the Truscott Arms saved £108 in food waste per week. This is worth an astounding £8,175 a year when charges in sales are considered.

With the rise in sustainable restaurants continuing to rise and food business entrepreneurs now seeing that it is a viable way to make a name for an eatery, it’s clear that this “trend” won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

To explore where your next suitable restaurant property could be, make an enquiry or arrange an appointment with us.

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