New research from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) suggests that Welsh diners want restaurants and cafes to serve more sustainable meals as eating out restrictions are eased.
The national survey suggests that more Welsh diners are concerned about environmental issues than ever before, and the number worried about issues such as climate change and deforestation has risen by 32% since lockdown.
Diners are now keen for restaurants, pubs and cafes to offer a range of options that allow them to act on their enhanced environmental concerns. For instance:
- 75% would be likely or very likely to order a dish in which vegetables replaced meat
- 30% would like at least half the dishes on the menu to be vegetarian
- 31% would like meat dishes in reduced portion sizes
- 57% want outlets to source from at least one local farmer or fisherman
- And 57% want to be able to take their leftovers home
Simplifying Sustainable Food
The SRA believes that translating abstract sustainability issues into specific dishes or meals increases consumer engagement and understanding. This is evidenced by the fact 52% of people they surveyed said they thought a menu focusing on local and seasonal produce was important, but almost eight in 10 (79%) said they would consider, be likely or very likely to order a specific dish made with local and seasonal twists on familiar dishes.
Mexican street food specialists Wahaca have been card-carrying members of the SRA for years. They have always tried to minimise the environmental impact of their business by featuring plenty of veggie options on the menu, but their meat is really meticulously sourced too – I included them in my blog post on where to find high welfare meat on the menu in Cardiff a while back. They also swap out traditionally imported ingredients for more local options, like the unusual UK-grown beans they use in their Bean & Crumbled Feta Tostada – see below.
Independent restaurants in Wales are also flying the flag for sustainability. In Cardiff, Nook and Dusty Knuckle Pizza are both members of the SRA; Dusty Knuckle won the ‘people’s favourite’ category at the Food Made Good awards in 2018 – find out more here. Both businesses champion the use of seasonal ingredients, local suppliers, and a focus on using less and better meat.
At Nook in particular, there are only ever two meat dishes and one fish dish on the menu at a time – it’s my favourite place in Cardiff to take friends and family who might feel a bit skeptical about treating vegetables as a main event, rather than just a side dish.
Over in Carmarthen, The Warren is an award winning, family-run restaurant, headed up by executive chef and owner Deri Reed. Deri – who also goes by the moniker of the ‘ethical chef‘ – won ‘Sustainable Chef of the Year’ at the 2019 Food Made Good awards – find out more here. At The Warren, his menu focuses on simple, honest & wholesome food using local, seasonal and organic produce.
And in Brecon, at the Felin Fach Griffin, their sustainable seasonal menus change daily. In winter, you might have venison from the nearby Welsh Venison Centre, and in summer, Welsh lamb with peas picked that morning from their own kitchen garden.
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Lunch menu chef? Trying out produce from @marketgardenfelinfach with local lamb from a great supporter of ours who graze their small flock in Llandefalle @mezzofizz Bbq local lamb Courgettes Roscoff onions Ricotta Quinoa Garden herbs Rosemary I’m going to demand staff food like this all the time! #menutesting #stafffood #supportlocalpowys #supportlocal #seasonaleating #rusticoplates
But these aren’t the only independents serving sustainable meals in Wales – there are plenty of Welsh restaurants (who aren’t currently members of the SRA) putting this at the top of their agenda. A recent campaign by the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective aimed to draw attention to this, and encouraged consumers to #EatIndieWales as a way of making sure that your favourite restaurants could continue to support a network of local growers, farmers, and producers around Wales. Find out more here.
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This month, we’re asking everyone to get back to their favourite restaurants, eat independent and support local. But why? Independent food and drink businesses are crucial to Welsh farmers and growers. Pawel Wisniewski of @paulsveg grows fruit and veg on his 17-acre plot outside Abergavenny with his wife and a team of four. He says: “The independent restaurants we work with, from neighbourhood bistros to Michelin-starred chefs, are a really important part of our business. The contracts we have to supply restaurants in Cardiff and around us here in Monmouthshire give us the security of regular income, which is good for business and for employing staff. With some, we’re planning a year ahead so we can grow specialist varieties just for them. Eating at these independent places supports us and our local team.” #EatIndieWales 🏴
It all adds up
The SRA is keen to highlight that if diners swapped to a more sustainable meal just half the time they ate out, it could save the equivalent of 368,000 tonnes of carbon. That’s the equal of the entire population of Swansea (225,000) flying to New York and back, or to planting or 1,288,000 trees. The saving would also be enough to offset the entire personal carbon budgets of 150,000 people – or a whole city the size of Oxford.
Raymond Blanc OBE, President of the SRA, said: “It is very encouraging to see so many people are wanting and willing to choose a sustainable dish. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that they act on their good intentions. As chefs, we not only have to source and serve food that tastes amazing and has a minimal impact on the environment, but also show people what sustainable food looks like. If we all choose #FoodMadeGood the potential rewards are enormous for restaurants, our networks of local growers and of course the planet.”