Contract caterer Bartlett Mitchell was recently awarded Two Star Champion status by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) for its sustainability credentials. Sally Grimes, the company's quality standards mentor, spoke to Janie Manzoori-Stamford about the importance of responsible hospitality to the business
Bartlett Mitchell was the first foodservice operator to complete the SRA's new company assessment. What did it involve?
It took about a month to go through the assessment and, although we missed out on the top score of three stars by just one percentage point, it was an excellent result for our first assessment. The cost of becoming a member varies according to the size of the company, but we felt the quality of support and knowledge they brought to the table far outweighed the costs.
Why was it important to Bartlett Mitchell to do this?
We actively consider our corporate social responsibility impact and we wanted to have an assessment that reflected the work that we, as a foodservice operator, have complete control over, rather than where we have to follow a client's policy. We recognised the value of developing a relationship with the SRA, which acknowledged that we are an active company
What other CSR initiatives has the company been involved in?
Loads of initiatives, from food waste controls to wormeries. We recently developed our Spotlight project in conjunction with the Big Conversation, where we commit with local schools to offer work experience and apprenticeships to build relationships with young potential caterers of the future.
How important are a caterer's CSR credentials to clients these days?
Over the past five years, we have seen a big increase in demand from clients and potential clients for more information about our CSR credentials and today, it's all about measurement and proof, too. For example, they want to know about meat sourcing, food miles, ethical sourcing, food waste, community involvement and team satisfaction levels, so it's really important for us to be proactive.
Thankfully the company was set up on pretty strict CSR principles, so the biggest change for us has probably been in formalising and measuring some of the CSR activities that have always been part of our company.
What's next for Bartlett Mitchell?
Well, there's the matter of Three Star status to attain with the SRA - that 1% gap keeps me awake at night - and our Spotlight programme. We also have 15 units going through the individual assessment process with the SRA, and we're running roadshows to make sure our customers know exactly what we've been up to.