By Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association
In March, we had the pleasure of judging the sustainability category at the Publican Awards. On the shortlist, Revolution Bar Group and the Peach Pub Company. To be fair, the latter were very worthy winners. Perhaps it was a slight case of sustainability envy that drove Revolution to purchase Peach for £16.5m seven months later.
One of the last handovers Peach Founder and Managing Director, Hamish Stoddart, did with the new owners was on all things sustainable, or, as they’ve called it for some time – Making Life Peachy.
We caught up with Hamish as he was about to indulge in what he described as his sustainability guilty pleasure – flying (at a carbon cost of 8 tonnes) to Kenya where he’s been working on a conservation project for the last five years. He shared his proudest achievements, biggest challenges and plans for the future.
When did you start thinking about sustainability at Peach?
“From day one at the Rose & Crown in Warwick we said we felt gastropubs had to be about proper produce. That meat sourcing and serving meat from happy cows, pigs and chickens. At that time it was all about the produce.
“Then, because we knew Raymond Blanc, through my business partner Lee (Cash), we followed what he was doing, particularly in terms of sustainable fish.
“That carried on for about ten years and we kind of realised that we were probably ahead of the game but weren’t really telling anyone about it. That’s when we started putting provenance front and centre of the menu.
“In terms of the environmental side of things, we started to join the dots in about 2017. That’s when we got involved with the SRA and we got our education and structure from them.”
What excites your team – how did you get them on board?
“We’ve always attracted people who want to do it right. Once you hire people like yourself then you realise you want similar things and you work towards them as a team. The revelation has been giving people the opportunity to make decisions for themselves. In 2017 we created the Bigger Peach team, with one chef and five others, plus me. We pledged to make everything we did better, even if it was going to cost the business a bit. There’s still a list of about 100 things, but over the years we’ve changed loads and reviewed the list every single month, using the SRA framework as our guide.”
What’s been the greatest sustainability challenge?
“The thing that’s worried me the most is fish because you only have to take your eye off the ball for a second and you lose track of what you should and shouldn’t be serving. That makes it so hard to develop menus. The other one is energy for sure. Our 21 pubs are mostly in old, not particularly well-insulated buildings that use loads of gas and electricity, a huge environmental cost and a bill of £80-100,000 for each site. Pubs and restaurants are going to have to find a way of halving their energy use.”
What’s been your proudest sustainability achievement?
“What I’ve loved is gradually chipping away at everything in the pub, thinking about what we can improve and then actually doing it. A big part of that has been about giving the team the freedom to come up with ideas, so that now you genuinely know if you are in a Peach Pub.
What’s surprised you?
“That actually is not that hard if you have enough engagement, you know the direction of travel and just get on and do it.”
Now you’re coming out of day-to-day involvement in hospitality, what makes you optimistic about its future?
“I think I can see that the good guys who are doing it right are winning, and people will continue to eat out in those places even if they know they have to pay a bit more.”
What’s next for you?
“Immediately – I’m hosting an event with Race to Net Zero, an initiative I’ve started to get more gastropubs on the road to net zero. I’m passionate about supporting more pubs like Peach on this journey. So do come and join us at Greenwood, Victoria at 2pm on 24 November for some practical advice and net zero speed dating.