In recent years the conversation around sustainability in the drinks industry has helped take the term from trendy label to consequential movement.
“It’s not about being opening a bar and being 100 percent sustainable; it’s more about undertaking a conversation.”
According to Toby Marshall, venue manager at Merivale’s Charlie Parker’s, this ongoing conversation tends to lead naturally to more sustainable decisions.
“Five years ago this conversation might have seemed hipsterish, but it can influence people. It’s about promoting the concept, not stating how sustainable your bar is out of 10,” he told Hospitality magazine.
Sustainability is no longer a buzzword that gets bantered around; instead, it’s becoming a part of the industry’s fabric. The shift is akin to that seen in the foodservice half of the industry and this is evident in the operations of Charlie Parker’s.
“Sam Egerton and I have spent a lot of time with chefs and we’ve incorporated that into the bar,” said Marshall. “Chefs are always focused on utilising produce to its utmost, working with the seasons and evolving their menus continuously.
“We’ve really taken it as an opportunity to think about how we put our drinks and the whole menu together, like utilising an ingredient throughout the menu so that we use produce to its full extent.”
On the current menu, for example, the bar has several drinks that use everything from the fennel blossom to the seeds and branches. Beyond the drinks themselves, Charlie Parker’s has implemented a number of initiatives to reduce their use of resources.
“We don’t use coasters anymore; our menu only has one drink that needs a straw on it at a time; our straws are corn based so they break down in the compost; we look to donate that compost to local community gardens; we are looking to develop our own garden so that we can close the loop a bit; we have three styles of bins – one for green waste, one for glass and one for general waste,” said Marshall.
“We have our own sodas, which we make from recycled ingredients. For example, we make a citrus soda from the skins of citrus left over from the juicing process, so we don’t have to stock lemonade and therefor have less glass wastage.”
Public House Management Group’s group bars manager Kurtis Bosley has also noticed that while sustainability has been a trend in the industry for a number of years, the last 12 months have seen a massive uptake.
“Obviously it’s one of those buzzwords that’s been thrown around a lot, but, until recently, I don’t think there’s been too many people who have stood up in the bar world, putting their hand up saying they’ll champion the movement,” Bosley told Hospitality.
To ease the pressure their bars put on resources, PHMG has also focused on reducing waste by getting the most out of individual ingredients.
“We can juice the lemon and use the citrus in our cocktails; we can use the pulp to make fruit leather coasters; we can take the rind and make olio saccharin or we can give the excess rinds to 42 Below [vodka], which they can use to make soap that we then use in our bathrooms,” said Bosley.
“It’s about being more efficient, especially during downtime. What we’ve found is that our bartenders have become more thoughtful and we’re actually saving a lot of money.”
A tight relationship between the bar and kitchen team has also driven progress.
“What’s not being used in the kitchen we try to use in the bar and vice versa. For example, instead of throwing out the riberries I was using in a shrub, Ben [Varela, group executive chef] made a dessert with them. Eggs are a really big one. Every bar goes through so many egg whites and the yolks get thrown out – they should go straight into the kitchen,” said Bosley.
“It was hard working out how we could use all these things in different ways and it’s taken us a long time to get to where we are now, but it’s paid off.”
Marshall knows it can be daunting to look at the task of making a bar sustainable, but ultimately, he argues, it’s about a combination of all the little things and continuing the conversation.
“People are starting to realise how it can benefit their business. Every venue is its own. Some examples we’ve executed wouldn’t suit other venues. But the conversation around some bars doing no straws programs gets people thinking about what they can do,” he said.
That conversation has been crucial to PHMG’s sustainability initiatives.
“The bartending community is tight nit, the ideas get pushed around. Things will go through five or six different minds before it gets back to our bar,” said Bosley.
“It’s about that ongoing journey of looking at your decisions in an environmentally sustainable way, [as well as] community sustainability and professional sustainability for staff,” said Marshall.
“Pushing boundaries often be dismissed as controversial, but the roll on effect having that mindset has can progress our industry. Finding influence from other industries or aspects of life can start fascinating trains of thought. Don’t be afraid to ask why we do something habitually.”
This article appeared in Hospitality magazine’s May issue. Subscribe to the magazine for more content like this.
Image: Woollahra Hotel
Credit: Dominic Loneragan