Corporate Social Responsibility

Bringing sustainability to fine dining

Choosing to enjoy a special meal at a top restaurant is always a cause for celebration. But there’s a growing awareness of the impact that dining out and enjoying far-flung produce can have on the world around us. Caroline Underhill, our Global Marketing Director and Head of CSR, looks at the shift towards sustainable dining and the impact of schemes including the Green Michelin Star.

Dining at renowned restaurants is one of the most enjoyable ways to enjoy some quality time with friends, family or business acquaintances. But in recent years, it’s become clear that the ability to enjoy our favourite foods anywhere in the world, and at any time of the year, has significant implications for climate change. Food miles are astonishingly high accounting for around 25% of heavy goods traffic on UK roads and 3 billion tonnes of global carbon dioxide emissions each year.  With 2023 classed as the hottest year ever on record, awareness and concern for the carbon impact of food miles and the distance food and drink has travelled to reach us is on the increase.

As consumers, there’s a growing awareness of the need to shift some of the ways in which we choose to enjoy our free time, and the role we all play in changing practices for the good of future generations and our planet. When it comes to dining, more than a third of diners in the UK are already actively seeking more sustainable experiences. Alongside this growing trend to enjoy the same experiences in a more sustainable way there are commercial factors too – restaurants have to respond to consumer demand and demonstrate how they’re playing their part in global issues. Sustainable approaches can also be more efficient, and increasingly, help attract and retain staff. It’s notable that the hospitality sector across the board is reacting too as some countries roll out anti-waste laws with even fast food chains in France introducing reusable containers for fries!

The fine dining sector is taking action too. To help drive more sustainable dining, Michelin introduced a new Green Star rating for restaurants in 2020. This award recognises restaurants which are at the forefront of sustainable practices and who are inspiring others to follow. Those leading the field will be adopting more ethical and environmental standards, using seasonal, local ingredients, reducing waste and removing plastic and other non-recyclable materials from their supply chain.

In a bid to introduce more sustainability into our own fine dining experiences, our team in Dubai held their latest client event at the Michelin Green Star restaurant, BOCA. This forward-thinking restaurant is located in Dubai’s International Financial Center (DIFC), close to our office and offers a modern Spanish menu, created purely from regional ingredients. As well as including local produce, BOCA works closely with growers, farmers and fishermen across Dubai and the Gulf region. In addition to its eco credentials BOCA also champions other areas of social responsibility; its leadership team is female, and it operates with 100% renewable energy.

The Fry Group clients enjoyed a sustainable drinks and canapés reception on BOCA’s outdoor terrace before being treated to a culinary journey featuring a low-emissions four-course meal, paired with sustainable wines. The choice of BOCA felt particularly relevant against the backdrop of COP 28, the latest United Nations Climate Change Conference, which was hosted in Dubai. The highlight of the evening was a special address by Omar Shihab, the Founder and Chief Sustainability Officer of BOCA. This allowed our guests to hear from Omar about his vision for local food and farming, foraging, new food sources, and how he transformed his passion into an award-winning and sustainable culinary concept.

“Thank you to The Fry Group for entrusting us to host some of your clients in the region over a climate-conscious meal. You and your guests may be delighted to know that the impact of the overall dining experience didn’t exceed 15 kg of carbon – we track all our events after undertaking an independent audit and carbon emissions report last year. As a result, we now plant a Mangrove tree, which can sequester 850 kg of carbon in its lifetime, to counter the impact of each event. Planting this one Mangrove more than offsets the entire event which The Fry Group held with us.”  Omar Shihab, Founder and Chief Sustainability Officer, BOCA

Feedback from the event was very positive, and many clients appreciated the opportunity to enjoy a meal which was more environmentally conscious and chat about the role of sustainable dining. It’s always good to know that the steps we’re taking resonate, and we look forward to continuing to make more sustainable choices with other events in the future.

Find out more about the Michelin Green Star award scheme along with a list of Michelin Green Star Restaurants globally here.