Mark Selby is co-owner, together with Thomasina Miers, of Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca, which is set to launch its fourth London outlet in Soho next month. He spoke to Kerstin Kühn about the new site and its strong environmental focus – it is the first restaurant to achieve Building Research Establishments Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM) accreditation
Caterer Tell us about the new site
Mark Selby It’s our biggest site to date with a 145-seat dining room on the ground floor and a cocktail/tequila bar and additional private dining space for up to 30 in the basement. It’s the first time that we’ve got a space people can book. We’ve also set ourselves ambitious challenges from an environmental point of view and have brought in a third-party consultancy to assess what we are trying to achieve.
Caterer What is the BREEAM assessment?
MS It’s an environmental assessment method for buildings, which is usually used for big, newly built offices. It’s rarely used for fit outs in existing buildings as it’s much harder to change the structure of these. We were definitely held back by what we inherited in terms of the building, so we were never going to get an “excellent” assessment, but we did achieve a “very good”. We used 90% of the waste generated from the build of the restaurant, including the wooden floors from the previous business, and 99% of the plasterboard we’re using is recycled.
Caterer What are some of the environmental policies you’re implementing in the restaurant?
MS On a small scale we’re implementing water-efficient showers for our staff to encourage them to cycle into work. We’ll also have an on-site compost machine which means we’ll have very little food waste. We’ll give the compost to our customers along with chilli seeds so they can grow their own chilli plants at home. We’ve created two waste rooms and will recycle all of our glass, cardboard and oil. Our sourcing policy is very ethically minded – all of our chicken and meat is British and either free-range or organic, and all of our fish comes from sustainable sources.
Caterer Tell us more about the tequila bar
MS Tequila is a big passion of Thomasina and mine yet it’s quite an unknown product in the UK. In the tequila bar we want to showcase the best of Mexican tequilas by offering both classic and more unusual varieties. Most people think of tequila as a shooter and associate it with getting drunk. We want to change that by making them respect tequila more and realise that it can also be enjoyed as a sipping drink.
Caterer Where do you see Wahaca in five years?
MS We’re always looking to expand but it has to be the right site and we’re in no hurry at all as we want to keep up the quality of our offer. If I had to put down numbers though, I’d say in the next five years we’re hoping to grow to about 10 restaurants.