Photo of Neil Forbes and the kitchen team at Cafe St Honore; winners of the Sustainability Restaurant Award 2022
Edinburgh Business for Good and Edible Edinburgh were delighted to sponsor the first Sustainable Restaurant category at the recent Evening News Edinburgh Restaurant Awards. The new award was judged by the Sustainable Restaurant Association and we asked Tom Tanner of the SRA to tell us about what they do and how you can spot a sustainable restaurant.
If there were any positives to come out of the pandemic, a greater awareness of the role food plays in our lives and in particular the positive choices we can make, given the right information, would be one of these positives.
People wasted less food during lockdown, they discovered producers on their doorstep and took a much greater interest in where their food came from and how it had been produced. In other words they learned to value food more.
There are some signs that this interest in sustainable food is receding. We cannot be sure about the reasons for this however one explanation for the more recent move back to old habits could simply be about economics and time. We’re all feeling a bit poorer on both fronts right now.
While for many, if not most or all restaurants, the pandemic was extremely painful and damaging, it did open up some new avenues which reached new customers. Meal kits, deliveries and farmers markets were all tried and in plenty of cases, successfully tested.
Here at the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), we love seeing initiatives like Edible Edinburgh’s new Sustainable Food Directory. All those people who developed a taste for more conscious eating want a trustworthy guide, one that provides credible information and reassurance. That’s exactly the reason two restaurateurs and two sustainability experts set up the SRA back in 2010. Ever since then we’ve been on a mission to support the whole UK hospitality sector to serve up Food Made Good, which doubles as the name for the programme we offer like-minded restaurants, pubs, caterers etc.
To claim any connection to us, businesses have to complete our Food Made Good Sustainability Rating, recognised as the global gold standard for measuring progress – a 200+ question set across ten key areas of sustainability, as defined in our framework across the three pillars of Sourcing, Society and Environment. Those that reach the requisite thresholds then receive their Stars – One for over 50%, Two for over 60% and Three for over 70%.
There is no more comprehensive way for a restaurant to understand where they are at on the sustainability journey and the report provides them with a roadmap for further improvements as well as ample recognition for all the good stuff they’re already doing.
What this also does is work as a terrific way of communicating to customers. Consumers now have a heightened sense of greenwash and restaurants making false or woolly claims about their climate credentials soon get sniffed out. A Food Made Good rating provides the ultimate third party certification.
Cafe St Honoré stands out as an Edinburgh restaurant that’s most definitely been walking the walk, rather than just talking the talk, since former Scottish Chef of the Year Neil Forbes opened the doors. After years of achieving Three Stars in the Food Made good Rating, Neil and his team were proud winners of the Sustainability Award at the 2022 Edinburgh Restaurant Awards. Perhaps it should go without saying that visitors to Café as it’s affectionately known by regulars, get to enjoy nothing but the finest produce from Scotland and the wider UK larder – whether that’s meat, seafood or fruit and veg. Neil’s got his own allotment to boot.
Furthermore, he recognises the worth of his other greatest asset – his people. Most of his team have been with him for years – in an industry that’s haemorrhaging staff, that’s no accident. He looks after them – a four day working week being one important element of the package he’s built. All this scores well in the Treat Staff Fairly section of the Food Made Good Rating.
Another factor is the working environment, environment being the operative word. Earlier this year, taking advantage of a tax incentive, Neil invested in an induction hob. As well as putting a big dent in his energy bill, he and his kitchen colleagues are basking in the joys of a cool kitchen. It’s good for planet, people and profits.
That’s just one example. Readers will no doubt already have their own favourites. Sustainable seafood lovers may champion Ondine. For those of a meaty persuasion, Hawksmoor sources exceedingly good steaks. Students at the University of Edinburgh are treated to Three Star Food Made treatment too.
With the Sustainable Food Directory and more restaurants completing the Food Made Good Rating, food lovers in Edinburgh will be able to eat out ever more confident that their meals won’t be costing the earth – at least not in every sense.
For more information about the SRA and its Food Made Good programme, click here.
Tom Tanner, Press and PR, Sustainable Restaurant Association.