Opus leads the way on sustainability

Guest post by Ellen Manning

Opus leads the way on sustainability

The Opus family is no stranger to success. The trio of venues has seen Opus at Cornwall Street mark its 10th birthday this year, Cafe Opus at Ikon named a ‘local gem’ by The Good Food Guide 2016, and Bar Opus at One Snowhill’s reputation for cocktails go from strength to strength.

The group has recently scooped yet another accolade after being named the most sustainable independent restaurant group in the Midlands by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).

In an age where sustainability is becoming more and more important – you only have to look at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest mission, his War on Waste, not to mention the work Birmingham’s businesses are doing in general to promote sustainability [Here’s Ellen’s previous guest post], this is a big deal.

The latest accolade has seen the Opus family named a ‘Three Star Sustainability Champion’ by the SRA, a not-for-profit organisation which encourages restaurants to improve their social and environmental impact. As well as being the only independent restaurant group in Brum to get the accolade, its 82% rating puts it in the 9% of SRA members. The SRA awards One, Two or Three Stars depending on how a restaurant rates against the categories of Society, Sourcing and Environment. Opus’ results ranged from 90% – 100% for its efforts including sourcing local, seasonal and ethical food, to having a sustainable supply chain, being committed to community engagement, responsible marketing and treating people fairly.

Opus team visit to Worcester Produce

According to executive chef Ben Ternent, there’s a direct link between ethical sourcing and great tasting dishes. Ternent has handled the sourcing of produce since April 2015, focusing on market fresh, seasonal ingredients and free-range livestock. “Frankly, it’s all about the ingredients that you start with,” he said. “There is a definitely a direct connection between ethical, quality sourcing and the delicious flavours on the plate. My team love the sourcing side and get fired up by meeting the farmers and visiting the farms – they take real pride in the produce.”

And Sarah Hepburn, Opus’ sustainability champion, said: “Supporting sustainable, British food is so important to the Opus family – from sourcing fruit and vegetables from Worcestershire to fresh fish from Brixham Market – we only buy seasonal, ethical ingredients. Receiving this recognition from the SRA is a fantastic achievement, and is a testament to our team’s passion and commitment.”

For BrumHour guest blogger Ellen Manning found out a bit more about the big sustainability push at Opus from Ann Tonks, managing director at Opus Restaurant. Here’s what she said:

Why is sustainability so important for a restaurant like Opus?

Ann Tonks: “Sustainability is really at the heart of what we do. To us, it is not just about sourcing sustainable produce but also working to create a sustainable city. No one can thrive in isolation, so we have to think long term about our actions and the impact of those actions on food and our community. For example, we source most of our produce from Britain which has a positive impact on the British farming and fishing industries and means there is a low carbon footprint.

“All of our livestock is free-range and raised with minimum farmer interference, as with our fruit and veg, which means they are low on antibiotics, making them high in nutrients and healthier for our customers. From a community point of view, a vibrant urban scene is vital to our business so we strive to help make our city irresistible to the people who live and visit here by being highly involved in our local community.”

Is sustainability important for your customers?

Ann Tonks: “Not everyone cares about sustainable products, but we’re noticing that more and more are beginning to. There is a direct correlation between ethical, quality sourcing and the flavours on the plate and, as our style of cooking is unfussy, we allow the flavours of the ingredients to shine through. We started our Source dinner series as a way of introducing our customers directly to our farmers and fishermen. Our goal was to convert customers into people who care about the source of their produce and we wanted the customer to care that we source well. Sustainability is a partnership between farmer, restaurant and customer.”

Is sustainability big in Birmingham?

Ann Tonks: “I think there are some great environmental and social initiatives in Birmingham to make the city and businesses more sustainable, and there are some really exciting programmes. We can all improve and be a bit more joined up. I’d love to see more restaurants get involved in the Sustainable Restaurants Association (SRA).”

Is it a big deal to be declared number one?

Ann Tonks: “We are absolutely delighted to have scored so highly in the SRA’s exacting standards and to have improved so much in the past year. To achieve 82% and be in the top 9% of the country’s most sustainable restaurants, just shows how seriously we take this issue. The fact that the SRA looks at community involvement and staff welfare, as well as environmental impact makes this a very worthwhile process.”

Opus has had a great year of success as it marks its 10th birthday, how do you feel about this and what’s next?

Ann Tonks: “What a decade it has been! We’ve lived through the highs of the first few years when we opened, the lows of the recession, the current recovery and the transformation of our city. This is such an exciting city to live and work in. We are very proud to be part of the city’s transformation. What’s next? Time will tell!”

Thanks to Sian at Clive Reeves PR.

You can follow guest poster Ellen Manning on twitter here: twitter.com/eatwithellen and blog here eatwithellen.com

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