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October update: The Taverners – sustainability

23 October 2009
October update: The Taverners – sustainability

"We tend to do everything because we believe it is right, not for promotional purposes."

Roger Serjent and his wife, Lisa Choi, don't believe that sustainability as a sales tool is the way to go at the Taverners, at Godshill on the Isle of Wight.

"If people ask us about it, we tell them but we don't want to ram it down their throats," Serjent adds.

He admits there is no corporate social responsibility policy in place and that decisions are based on running costs rather than ethical reasons. But that's not to say the Taverners is short of green credentials.

When it comes to new equipment or light fittings, the couple will usually plump for the greener option as it works out better for their cost base in the long run.

Most of the produce used in the restaurant is sourced on the island and diners are able to see from the food miles chart that, in fact, much of it is in yards.

They share animal welfare beliefs with the local farmers who supply their meat, and consequently the Taverners was recently entered into the RSPCA Good Business Awards.

But the couple's reason for staying local is that the food is better. "If lettuce and asparagus have been picked in the past hour or so, we believe it will taste better as a result," Serjent says.

Lee Cash, co-founder of the Peach Pub Company and mentor to Serjent and Choi, commends their decision to stay local. "It's great that they recognised the gap in a market where most of the food arrives on the island in the back of a freezer van," he says.

Aside from the local produce, the Taverners is very much a community business. The couple have donated a vegetable patch to the local pre-school children who visit weekly to tend it.

"We also operate a barter system whereby locals bring in excess home-grown fruit and veg and trade it for beer or the like," explains Serjent. "We've had a really good year for plums, damsons and figs."

Recycling at the pub takes place when it doesn't negatively affect the overheads. "We don't separate our glass and cardboard for instance, as the bin companies all want extra money for providing the bins," Serjent says. "But the majority of vegetable peelings are composted and rainwater is collected for gardening and Lisa is constantly turning off the lights.

"We recycle envelopes for scrap paper and newspapers and wooden veg boxes become kindling. The plastic veg trays are reused and often taken by local gardeners."

While they recognise the benefits of adopting sustainable practices, Serjent believes it is important they fit the business. As yet, Serjent and Choi have found that the number of customers interested in green issues is still fairly small.

However, Cash is advising them to think more about the good PR sustainable business practices can create. "Be positive about the things you are doing, as environmental issues are not going to go away," he says.

"As a business you can deal with it at some point in the future when the government starts imposing taxes, or you can plan ahead today."

High Street, Godshill, Isle of Wight PO38 3HZ01983 840707

See video of Lee Cash speaking at the Arena lunch

OCTOBER UPDATE

Business at the Taverners is booming for Roger Serjent and Lisa Choi, particularly since they were included in Michelin's latest Eating Out in Pubs guide.

"We are now full every night and most lunches, with people booking two to three weeks in advance for weekends," Serjent says. "We are turning away 40 to 50 diners a night as we just can't do the numbers from our kitchen in the style of food we want."

The pub has also featured in an Independent article about the Isle of Wight and "gourmet Godshill".

To meet the growth in demand, the couple have employed two new front-of-house staff and another kitchen porter is starting to take on waiting shifts as well.

However, recruitment isn't always plain sailing at the Taverners. "We are trying to recruit a sous or head chef but are just not getting any applicants of the right calibre," Serjent explains.

The ongoing dispute with landlord Punch Taverns over the dilapidated external staircase to the upstairs flat has finally reached a resolution. Punch has agreed to a rent reduction for one year if Serjent and Choi make the repairs themselves, and no rent increase for the second year.

Christmas menus have been finalised and bookings for three courses at £23.50 are already full for key dates.

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Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

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