Why is sustainability an important issue in your business?
It's something Steve and I feel quite passionate about. People often ask me what the big food trends are and I think sustainability has to be the main one. The human race isn't getting any smaller, so everybody has to think about the way they do things.
We've been on the sustainability journey for a while now. I came back to work at Logan Brown in 2006 and Steve was already pushing for us to become more sustainable then, so we've just continued to move along with it. We signed up for the Enviro-Mark programme in 2010, so we've been doing that for quite a long time.
It feels good to know you're doing something right. We have a few people who come and work for us, and as they stay they pick up and adjust to our business practices and hopefully they take them with them when they move on.
What are some of the things you do in the business to make the operation more sustainable?
It's just a part of so many things we do, and some of them are really simple. We were getting some nice lettuces grown in Pukekohe, for example, but then we came across another supplier that was 40 minutes north of Wellington, so it made perfect sense for us to shift to something that wasn't going to have so much carbon involved in getting to us.
When we were becoming Enviro-Mark accredited we looked really closely at who our suppliers were and where things were coming from. We've worked pretty hard on that and we don't use a lot of things that are imported - a couple of vinegars and some spices maybe.
We get a lot of people coming from Europe, the States and Australia and it's nice to have something served that's so local and that has that story that goes with it. You build up all these relationships with the suppliers and the growers, so we can pass on those stories and customers love it.
What other kinds of commercial paybacks are you seeing from some of your initiatives?
There are lots. For example, we've always used tablecloths in the restaurant and our linen bill for those alone each year was something around $50,000. It was quite a lot of money, the process uses a lot of chemicals, and one of the companies we were using was washing them in Palmerston North, then sending them back to Wellington. I said to Steve 'why don't we look at getting some decent table tops made to save on the linen?'
It worked out at about $14,000 to put new tops on the tables, which are going to last for a number of years, and that was the end of the tablecloths. That was something we did recently, and it's created a substantial saving. There are so many things like that you can do in a business if you stand back and take a look.
It's the same story with rubbish. We used to have three big bins that we'd fill up with general waste every day along with a little bit of recycling. But now we recycle all our boxes, bottles and polybins, and we compost our food waste, so we have just one bin of non-recyclables that's usually half filled for pick up every day. Not putting out so much rubbish saves us thousands over a year.
I understand that sustainably sourcing fish has also been a focus. Can you tell me about that?
That's been a big one for us. We always like to use seasonal products, and we aim to source only responsibly caught fish. I think we're fortunate in New Zealand that we still have a wild fishery and I think it's managed very well, but we've made the call not to use anything that's caught by trawling.
For example, we used to use some flatfish species like turbot, which are a beautiful fish, but it all has to be trawled so we stopped. We also stopped using tuna five or six years ago. At the moment I'm using moki, which is pretty unusual, and kingfish. Every now and then we get some handline-caught kingfish from one of our suppliers, so you know the name of the person that caught it and the boat they were on. People love that story.
Has that been the biggest challenge on your sustainability journey?
It was a challenge initially, but it's gotten easier because we have some great suppliers here who have helped along the way. Ultimately change has to be led by demand for these kinds of products. If it was just me doing this, nothing would happen but if there are a few industry leaders who can get out there and say 'this is the way it should be', then the customers will also start demanding it.
Coming up in Your Business: The end of the year is rolling in, and it's a time when businesses are saying thanks to their employees and supporters. So what are some of the ways small businesses say thank you customers and staff at the end of the year? If you've got a story to tell about what you do to say thanks and why, drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org