Discussing the future of food with The Sustainable Restaurant Association

Discussing the future of food with The Sustainable Restaurant Association

Posted on: 11 Jan 2019

As the New Year dawns, many of us are becoming increasingly conscious about food. In particular, thinking about where it’s come from, if it’s good for us, and if it’s bad for the environment. The industry needs to adapt to become more eco-friendly and sustainable and those at the forefront of this movement are known as The Sustainable Restaurant Association. Championing for positive, healthy, lasting change within the food sector- they play a huge part in guiding restaurants in the right direction. We catch up with them to discuss Bristol’s role in all of this, as it has long held a reputation for being a socially and environmentally progressive city. We talk about its wonderful, award winning restaurants, how The SRA came about, its purpose and how they can help restaurants to “be good”, amongst other things. 

Mark Sainsbury and Andrew Stephen by Chris Hoebridge

Explain a little bit about how The Sustainable Restaurant Association came about?

The Sustainable Restaurant Association was founded in 2010 as a not-for-profit organisation by Giles Gibbons, Simon Heppner, and two restaurant owners, Henry Dimbleby MBE (Co-Founder of Leon, Co-Author of the School Food Plan and Founder of StreetFeast) and Mark Sainsbury (Founder of Moro, The Zetter Group & Grain Store). The SRA created a unique framework to simplify the complexity of sustainability for the industry.


What is the purpose of The Association?

To accelerate change toward an environmentally restorative and socially progressive hospitality sector in the UK.


What in your opinion, does make a restaurant ‘good’?

The SRA’s Sustainability Framework contains 10 key areas which highlight best practices that make up a ‘good’ restaurant or food service business. The 10 key areas are:

Celebrate local & seasonal

Serve more veg & better meat

Source fish responsibly

Support global farmers

Treat staff fairly

Support the community

Feed people well

Value natural resources

Reduce reuse recycle

Waste no food

10 Key Areas SRA

What can restaurants do better in Bristol?

Bristol boasts some of the most progressive restaurants in the UK. In common with all operators across the UK though Bristol restaurants can take inspiration from some of the real trailblazers in the field. The number one step for restaurants to going further, faster on many of the key sustainability issues is to take a step back and review. That means for example, assessing what single use plastic items are essential to the business, measuring and monitoring food waste, monitoring energy use and reviewing the balance of the menu, in terms of the meat to veg ratio. 


With Bristol being the foodie hotspot that it is, how integral do you think the city could be to the sustainable food movement?

Absolutely – can inspire others – Thali with its tiffin tins, helping to make takeaway food less wasteful, Boston Tea Party with its no disposable cup policy, Poco Tapas Bar as winner of the Food Made Good 2018 Business of the Year. We chose Bristol as the place to launch our One Planet Plate campaign in March 2018. The city’s restaurants responded, and the nation followed. Almost 2,000 served a One Planet Plate in 2018 – a dish designed to help diners use the power of their appetites wisely.


Poco in Bristol: photo credits to Poco

Talk about the types of services you can offer to restaurants/businesses?

We help members identify challenges, find solutions, and celebrate successes.

Our framework provides a straightforward and practical means for any foodservice business to identify the ten key sustainability focus areas. Our Sustainability Rating assesses member businesses against these ten areas, under the three pillars of Sourcing, Environment and Society.

We provide members with a detailed report based on their priorities and the opportunity areas identified in their Sustainability Rating, which will help record and track improvements year on year. Members also connect to our online community; a bustling hub of collaboration and idea-sharing to help them find the solutions they need. Our busy annual calendar of events also provides a platform to meet (and sometimes eat), learn and inspire.

Members who score over 50% in the rating can display a star on their menu or in their window. Those who score more than 60% earn two stars and those who exceed 70% will achieve the highest possible three-star rating. If members excel in one or more of our Food Made Good key areas, they’ll be invited to enter our Food Made Good Awards along with other leaders in the industry.


What are your core values? What do these core values give/promote? Talk about your three pillars for the company.

Sustainable foodservice comes in a multitude of shapes and sizes and our framework has been developed to reflect this. Our three pillars of Sourcing, Society & Environment, take a broad and holistic view of food businesses. So, whether they’re serving locally sourced ingredients and high welfare meat, inviting community groups to use their space, or investing in training to help their team use less energy and water, our framework captures all of the good things food businesses are doing.


What does Poco’s win mean for Bristol?

Bristol should be proud of being home to the UK’s most sustainable restaurant – as rated by the SRA. It adds further weight to the city’s claim to being among the most progressive food cities in the country. The win should also inspire other restaurants in the city and surrounding area to explore the fabulous array of local producers and farmers.

Poco Brunch Bristol: photo credits to Poco

What made Poco stand out from other restaurants?

The top 20 SRA-rated restaurants are all operating to a high standard of sustainability. It’s Poco’s unswerving commitment to connect customers with its meticulously chosen selection of like-minded suppliers, and its steely adherence to a root to fruit and nose to tail ethos to ensure every last scrap is eaten not wasted, that helped it edge in front of the competition.


What are some of the most important aspects to winning a Food Made Good Award, and what should restaurants do to get them?

We reward businesses across all aspects of their operation; from how they source their food, to how they dispose of it. Ten of the categories are built around the SRA’s Sustainability Framework, highlighting best practice in the areas that make up a ‘good’ restaurant or food service business. All seventeen awards are open to SRA members, however there are two awards that non-members can enter. The awards are designed to reward industry-leading good practice and to inspire others to follow. Winners will generally have succeeded in implementing a plan to overcome a challenge which fellow operators can replicate.


Why are the Food Made Good Awards important?

The Food Made Good Awards are an annual celebration of everything that’s good about the foodservice industry and the incredible people who work in it. It’s not just about celebrating the winners, but also sharing the secrets of success. By doing this we can motivate and inspire others, as well as impart solutions to challenges that affect all businesses.

Food Made Good Awards by Chris Hoebridge

What are some benefits that the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) gives that people might not know about?

As well as the industry, standard sustainability rating and the Food Made Good Awards, new members of the SRA sign up to be part of a community – both real and virtual. That means restaurants as diverse as a high street chain and a small independent café or pub, whether in Bristol or Bradford can connect via our online Food Made Good hub, collaborating and idea sharing. IN the real world, the SRA offers a growing calendar of events and campaigns in which members can participate.


To find out more about The Sustainable Restaurant Association, click here.


Article by:

Hannah Moll

Hannah recently graduated with a degree in English with Writing. She is an avid writer, freelancer and creative. She is currently writing her first full-length novel and a collection of poetry. Always out and about in Bristol's music scene, she attends music events on a weekly basis.