Future-proofing pub food

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Sustainable food: it could be using farmed fish or avoiding meat but here, MA discovers how you can be greener with your food offer
Sustainable food: it could be using farmed fish or avoiding meat but here, MA discovers how you can be greener with your food offer

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Avoiding meat, consuming farmed fish or cutting out the distance food has to travel are all key aspects in creating a more environmentally friendly future.

Concerns about the environment are playing heavy on the minds of more and more pubgoers.

A new report titled Future Shock – produced by CGA in association with UKHospitality (UKH) – predicts that sustainability will become the key issue for hospitality businesses.

In the report’s research, more than two out of 10 people (22.7%) said they would be willing to spend more when eating at a restaurant, pub, bar or hotel for a reduced carbon footprint.

Meat free

Meat substitute producers Meatless Farm says its own research shows that 25% of British consumers planned to eat less meat in 2020 in order to benefit the environment.

Meatless Farm account controller Sarah-Jane Virr explains: “Reducing red meat consumption and changing the global food system is essential for the environment.

“Out of home is a huge market and will play an integral role in helping to make the changes needed to the global food system and, ultimately, to the environment.”

Her advice is that sometimes simple changes are the best, explaining: “For pub and restaurant operators, this doesn’t mean that there’s a necessity to reinvent the whole menu, this could be anything from creating a new dish to simply offering plant-based versions of your best-selling meat dishes, such as lasagne, or familiar pub classics, like bangers and mash.”

Sustainable food


When it comes to supermarkets and shops, nine out of 10 consumers were reportedly more likely to buy seafood that is labelled as ‘environmentally responsible’, according to a report from Natural England.

The report Sea fisheries: steps to sustainability ​states the percentage of UK fish stocks harvested sustainably and left at full reproductive capacity has increased since the 1990s, but that figure had only gone up to 25% within 20 years.

This enthusiasm is matched in the service industry too. Multi-site operating Liberation Group highlights its commitment to using sustainable fish as something that has provided a commercial boost to them.

Liberation Group, operating managed pubs on the Channel Islands and in the south-west of England, has been working with fish supplier Direct Seafoods to improve the sustainability of dishes served across the group.

Executive chef Alice Bowyer says: “We work seasonally with everything we serve, but particularly with fish. We’ve done a lot of work to develop that, and our menus are now very much driven by the fresh fish that is on offer.

“We acknowledge and understand what it takes to get good-quality fresh fish into our kitchens, and as executive chef I have a huge respect for UK fishermen.

We’ve worked with our chefs on understanding which fish and seafood is good, and when.

“It works both ways. As a company, we have a commitment to sustainability and it also makes commercial sense.”

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One menu change has been to replace salmon with farmed trout from The Test and Itchen chalk stream rivers in Hampshire.

The switch was met with a positive reaction from customers, who are interested to learn more about where the food on their plate comes from.

Bowyer explains: “Customers absolutely love it, and in most cases, thought it was a better flavour.

“There are information sheets that Direct Seafoods put together to tell customers about the trout, where it comes from and its sustainability.”

Another change has been to serve calamari dishes with cuttlefish instead of squid.

Bowyer says: “We have a very popular calamari dish on most of our menus, and that’s gone down ever so well made with cuttlefish.

“With a species like cuttlefish, there may need to be a little more customer education, but it’s also about how we present it, and people like and understand calamari.”

The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent non-profit organisation that sets a standard for sustainable fishing with its own certification for wild caught fish and seafood.

Only two pub companies – JD Wetherspoon and Premier Inn’s Beefeater and Brewer’s Fayre brands – presently meet the MSC’s strict supply chain requirements.

MSC commercial manager for UK & Ireland Seth McCurry explains the value of its ‘blue tick’ to the eye of the pubgoer.

He says: “It tells customers that their fish or seafood comes from a certified sustainable fishery and can be traced along the supply chain, from ocean to plate.

“Strong supply chain traceability is vital for preventing seafood from being mixed up and mislabelled. Choosing fish with the MSC eco label rewards sustainable fishing practices and contributes to a healthy marine environment.”

This advice comes as 81% of British seafood consumers believe that in order to save the ocean the public must only consume seafood from sustainable sources, according to research from Globescan.

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Grow your own

Pubs with access to a garden can make small changes to their kitchen operation by using herbs and garnishes grown onsite, in addition to other types of fruit and vegetables.

For many sites, those operating in cities or without substantial outside space, the opportunity to grow your own may not be possible.

However, one pub that has come up with an inventive way of sourcing produce is the Malt in Derby. Its licensee Laura Bowler launched a scheme to use produce from city residents’ allotments in the pub’s dishes, to reduce travel miles of fresh food.

Bowler says: “It’s easy if you do specials; you just design the dishes around the produce. We often flag regulars’ produce on the menu as we use it.

“Customers love it, the quality and taste are great and the pricing works well for us.”

Bowler lists the fruit and vegetables the pub’s kitchen needs on a ‘barter board’ and growers are paid the retail price in pub gift vouchers redeemable against food and drink. She is now considering setting up a village community allotment to source food from.

Savings can be made by making changes to your kitchen and its equipment. Pub group Mitchells & Butlers has a scheme where it by refurbishes and reuses old, formerly redundant, kit. It estimates that it has reduced its use of landfill by 274 cubic metres in the two years that the project has been running.

This scheme saw the pub company’s Toby Carvery site in Maidstone, Kent, make cost savings of more than £60,000.

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