A creative approach to sustainability and menu innovation has helped Drake & Morgan become a more efficient business, according to director Graham Hall.

Hall was speaking at MCA’s Pub Conference last week as part of a panel session on sustainability, chaired by Zero Carbon Forum founder Mark Chapman.

Part of Drake & Morgan’s strategy is to “have fun” with measures to reduce waste, helping teams become more involved in the process.

“Food waste has been one of the biggest things for us,” he told delegates. “We’ve got products coming out of kitchens that are then turned into drinks, for example wine made with watermelon skins and oxidised champagne to make foams.

“That way, the teams get involved, and we’re seeing real benefit on the bottom line.”

The bar and restaurant operator has DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) boards and ‘green’ boards that are all employee-led, Hall highlighted, adding that employees are keen to work for a sustainable business.

Putting food waste into “clear numbers” and placing it hand-in-hand with innovation has helped keep teams engaged.

“The teams are inherently competitive – they want to deliver the best sales and scores on advocacy.

“They want to be part of the process and hear what we’re planning.”

While Drake & Morgan does a “heavy amount of volume, especially on drinks,” the business is relatively small and has been agile in partnering with more sustainable suppliers.

“We can pivot and change where needed,” Hall explained.

He pointed to the business’ relationship with Wildfarmed, which supplies regenerative flour and butter, and local brewer Gipsy Hill, which uses regenerative barley in production.

“There’s not many good things that came out of all the inflation we’ve seen, but one is the knock-on effect on sustainability,” he added. “We’ve seen average reductions of 13% across our business.”

When it comes to communicating the strategy to the customer, the business has been careful to help guests make better choices – but also to strike the right balance.

For example, menus feature carbon labelling, but solely for low-carbon items.

“Do you really want to highlight the 2,000-calorie burger on your menu, or items that are more carbon-heavy?” Hall explained. “We need to be careful we’re not putting too much in their face, but we do help people make better choices.

“Customers and employees do want businesses that can share their journey of doing the right thing…it’s about getting the message across, the right way.”