Community and Sustainability
BLACKFRIARS SUSTAINABILITY POLICY
At Blackfriars, we are fully committed to operating in a sustainable way. We source our produce as locally as possible and aim for high welfare and sustainability standards. We strive to reduce our environmental impact and always endeavour to fulfill our social responsibilities and provide healthy and sustainable food to our customers. Similarly, we believe it is our responsibility to encourage our suppliers and contractors to minimise any negative environmental and social effects associated with the products and services they provide.
We joined the Green Tourism Business Scheme in November 2007 and then went on to become members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association in July 2010. In line with the broad focus areas of the SRA we have looked to improve our overall sustainability not just in the food that we purchase but also our environmental impact and social engagement as well.
Our aim is to continually increase our commitment to sustainability and communicate to our staff, customers and suppliers our commitment to sustainable food, minimising environmental impact and increasing social engagement.
To allow us to meet our aims we try to provide tasty and appealing food that is nutritious and contributes to a healthy diet. We aim to raise staff, customers and supplier awareness of the environmental and social benefits effects of a sustainable diet, via promotion, product information and awareness raising activities. We aim to constantly monitor our energy and waste policies and seek to limit our environmental impact. We support the communities we engage with, including customers, employees, the local community and the institutions that support them. We examine this Sustainable Policy annually, amend targets and communicate findings (including progress and gaps) to staff, customers and suppliers and compile annual targets in order to monitor progress.
As part of our ongoing membership with the SRA we monitor our progress in regard to three key areas: sourcing, environment and society. Our current plans are as follows (those marked with (*) are specific current SRA pledges)
Local & Seasonal
We change all our menus at least five times per year to reflect food that is in season. We continue to source as much local produce as possible – ideally within a 50 mile radius, or within Northumberland, North Yorkshire and Cumbria (at least the North of England!). Our beef and lamb is all locally sourced whilst our fish is either straight from the North Sea or from Scotland (Salmon, scallops etc). We have never served tuna, ostrich or any other ‘exotic’ imports.
Examples of our favourite suppliers include:
• Cheese and other dairy products from: www.parlourmade.co.uk, www.doddingtondairy.co.uk and www.northumberlandcheese.co.uk
• Honey from Robson’s Chainbridge Honey Farm www.chainbridgehoney.co.uk
• Bread flour from www.gilchesters.com
• Rapeseed oil from Yellow Fields, www.rapeseedoil.co.uk or www.oleifera.co.uk
• Potatoes from www.heritage-potatoes.co.uk
• Free-range eggs from www.pennineeggs.co.uk
We make preserves, pickles or chutneys etc to make the most of seasonal produce. However, we can’t source everything locally and recognise the need to import wine, coffee, chocolate and some sugar, as well as some fruit and vegetables. We will also buy rabbits and other items from France if we think they’re better than their British counterparts.
Environmentally Positive Farming
Throughout the year, we take our staff on various visits to markets and farms including Gilchester Organics, Carroll’s Heritage Potatoes, Heatherslaw Mill, Northumberland Cheese Company and Chainbridge Honey Farm.
In 2014 we plan to take our staff on at least one visit to an ecological farm or fish market (*); source an additional 20% of our produce from an ecologically certified producer (e.g. Soil Association, LEAF Marque, Rainforest Alliance) and deal directly with at least three farmers or primary producers.
In 2014 we will source at least 10% organic or biodynamic wine, beer or cider and rare breeds varieties from at least two producers.
In future years we will take part in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or similar scheme and will write and implement an SRA-approved sustainability agreement with at least two of our suppliers.
Ethical Meat & Dairy
All of the eggs and meat used at Blackfriars is free range or RSPCA Freedom Food certified. All our dairy produce is now organic.
In future, we will write and implement an SRA-approved sustainability agreement with at least two of major meat or dairy suppliers
All the fish served at Blackfriars is either straight from the North Sea or from Scotland (Salmon, scallops etc) other than the occasional use of Global Gap-Certified Bream or Bass from the Mediterranean. We have assessed all the fish and seafood on our menu according to the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) Fishonline ratings and only serve fish listed as ‘Fish to Eat’ and have implemented a Sustainable Fish Sourcing Policy agreed with our fish supplier. Otherwise, we have never served tuna or other exotic species from half way around the world. Every year we take our staff to the fish market at North Shields and actively engage them seafood sustainability.
In the future we will look to obtain MSC Chain of Custody Certification.
We serve triple-certified coffee and tea which is all Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Organic Certified. Our sugar is also Fairtrade.
Blackfriars has a system for packaging take-back and reuse with at least 80% of our suppliers. For example, our wine suppliers take back all their packaging. We help our suppliers make their deliveries more sustainable by ensuring they only deliver to us once a day and encouraging use of 'green' transport. We almost never use air-freighted produce and aim to totally eliminate use of air-freighted produce in 2014.
We accurately assess our energy use, by measuring our consumption every month, and reduce energy consumption by at least 10% in 2014 (compared to previous period).
We have completed an audit of our lighting and have switched to low-energy bulbs and LED’s where possible. We have adopted a strict ‘switch the light/hob/appliance off policy and regularly run staff training sessions on energy efficiency and staff practices to reduce energy consumption.
In the future we will switch to a renewable energy / green energy tariff; fit electricity or gas submeters to monitor kitchen energy use and set targets for reduction; develop a Climate Change Strategy and accurately measure and reduce our carbon footprint.
We always offer tap water to our guests as well as bottled mineral water which we always source from the UK.
In the future we will replace bottled mineral water with in-house filtered water. We will review water use and commit to reducing water consumption by at least 10% and write and implement a Water Saving Policy and conduct staff training on efficient water use practices .
We separate our glass for recycling and food waste for composting or anaerobic digestion. Compostable waste goes into our Jura Composter and Scotty Hot Box with the resulting compost being used in our half barrels used to grow herbs for the restaurant. Most of our packaging is collected by its respective supplier.
In 2014 we are hoping to buy a larger Ridan Composter for all our food waste.
Our waste and rubbish disposal is all dealt with by Viola who separate and recycle everything partly through providing us with containers to separate out glass, plastic, tins, paper, cardboard and waste fod etc with the rest being separated and sorted once it reaches their recycling facility.
In 2014 we plan to assess our waste output more thoroughly and commit to reducing waste by a further 10% by developing a Waste Reduction Policy and conduct staff training on waste reduction practices; and communicate to customers through the menu, website & waiting staff that unfinished meals can be taken away.
We have a commitment to buying recycled or FSC certified paper and paper products. All print materials are on recycled material. We use environmentally friendly cleaning products which arrive as very high concentrates to minimise transport costs. When we built a toilet in our Workshop in 2010 we installed an environmentally friendly hand dryer as well as disposable bathroom paper towels.
In 2014 we plan to recycle our ink cartridges and reduce paper-based post received by 10%.
In the future we will aim to source only sustainable materials (e.g. FSC certified wooden furniture) and use environmentally friendly products (e.g. low VOC paint).
At Blackfriars, we always accommodate food allergies and offer vegetarian / vegan options and promote these options. We also ensure all front of house staff receive training regarding serving of alcohol and our liquor licence.
Blackfriars supports Streetsmart which raises thousands of pounds for homeless charities during November and December every year. Since StreetSmart was established in 1999, it has raised over £3million for over 90 different homeless charities. It works by us adding a voluntary £1 to each table bill at the end of the meal during the months of November and December. At the end, we pass on the total money raised to StreetSmart who then use all of those £1s to support reputable charities in Newcastle.
We also support Restaurants Against Hunger which was launched in 1998 by Action Against Hunger. The campaign raises vital funds for the worldwide fight against hunger by inviting food lovers all over the UK to help make a difference by eating out.
Owner Andy has been an active member of the EAT! Newcastle Gateshead Food festival Steering Committee since its inception back in 2007. He is also an active member of Newcastle Food which promotes the Newcastle Food Charter and regularly appears on BBC Radio Newcastle to talk about the importance of a healthy diet and food issues in general.
Knowing how to cook, buy fresh vegetables, and why carrots are good and crisps can be bad, should be normal life skills. Unfortunately, convenience foods and cookery’s low priority on the school curriculum mean many children grow up with scant knowledge of one of life’s great joys. Adopt-a-school is run by the Academy of Culinary Arts which aims to get food, food provenance, cooking and nutrition back on the school agenda.
Blackfriars Restaurant has adopted several schools in the region including Westerhope Primary School, Harlow Green Juniors and South Gosforth First School. Andy, the owner, and his chefs run workshops with the children teaching them basic cooking skills, where food comes from, how to shop and how to use their taste-buds. They’re always fun and very messy!
We also take part in the ‘Let’s get Cooking’ scheme which also promotes healthy eating in schools.
Blackfriars has actively helped and supported a number of Charities over the years including the RNLI and Percy Hedley Foundation as well as:
St Oswald's Hospice for which over £1,000 was raised in 2009
Evening Chronicle Sunshine Fund for which over £1,200 was raised in 2010
Sir Bobby Robson Foundation for which over £700 was raised in 2011
Marie Curie is Blackfriars chosen charity for 2012
Cyrenians Fareshare North East for which we raised over £1,000
We consider all charitable causes though tend to support those closer to home and particularly those involving children.
Treating Staff Fairly
At Blackfriars we have always provided staff with at least one healthy meal per day. We ensure our tipping policy is clear and transparent and understood by staff, and is available to our customers. Our tipping policy stipulates that 100% of tips go to the staff who agree how the money is distributed. Blackfriars pays for the credit card commission and accountancy costs of the tips process.
We also offer additional staff benefits such as participation in the Cycle to Work Scheme, staff pensions and staff development training and mentoring. We encourage staff feedback with management support for positive change of staff conditions.
We raise customer awareness about our approach to sustainability and our sustainable food options through our website, our e-newsletters and general printed material, and include a system for customer feedback through our business reply cards. We publicise sustainable transport options so diners can reach our restaurant through public transport, walking and cycling. We try to educate our customers on sustainability issues through our Food Producers Map.
Looking forward, we will carry out sufficient monitoring of our sustainability targets and review our objectives annually.
In 2012 we achieved the Sustainable Restaurant Association's Three-Star Sustainability Champion Status (see www.thesra.org) - the only restaurant in Newcastle to do so!
Food Producers Map
Below you can see our hand-drawn map of favourite food and drink producers: