Aghast about the way plastic was affecting beaches in Bali during her travels in early 2018, Emma Banks, MD of JRG Dubai made an immediate commitment to eliminate single-use plastic throughout the company’s extensive outlet portfolio. This week she shares her learnings so far as part of the GulfHost Restaurant Development Conference panel discussions.
Talking Sustainability & Addressing Food Waste
- It’s a journey that requires agility. In 3 weeks the JRG Dubai team removed single use plastic from most of their restaurants and within a year they will have stopped a million pieces of plastic go into landfill.
- Creativity is necessary. JRG have introduced initiatives including 100% plastic-free takeaway boxes, non-disposable guest glasses and a zero food waste policy that sees excess cuisine being used to feed their staff in place of a food allowance. (The latter also facilitates team bonding and better nutrition.)
- Removing single use plastic needn’t affect CAPEX, it is about thinking differently. Using a twig of Rosemary in place of a swizzle stick in your house beverages, for example.
- Removing plastic means working hard with packaging suppliers on price. Be prepared to beat them up to the point where they will match you and in return, offer to meet them with volume.
- When you get the opportunity to build new outlets, ensure to make bigger changes in terms of MEP. JRG recently introduced a cooling system to their two new restaurants in Dubai Hills. The system will provide chilled water being served from table carafes for just AED 15 inclusive of free refills - which also provides an attractive price point for drinking water.
- Sustainability is an ongoing commitment. As part of their journey, JRG have opted to provide line caught fish, local fruit and vegetables and organic produce wherever possible.
- The industry is fast catching on. Ian Ohan, Founder of Freedom Pizza was one of the region’s first plastic-free pioneers alongside Emma, and now players such as Gates Hospitality and Liwa are demonstrating their willingness to seek out plastic-alternative suppliers. Meanwhile globally, conglomerates such as Starbucks can be seen investing millions of dollars to remove plastic from their outlets over the next five years.