If sustainable dining is to be well and truly mainstreamed then high street operators hold the key. That’s why we asked three of the best to join us for a discussion at Conscious Hospitality about taking green eating to the very heart of the high street. Andrei Lussmann, of the eponymous Fish & Grill restaurants, Griff Holland of Friska and Orla Delargy from Leon.

All three agreed that finding a focus for your sustainable efforts is key to success and ensuring that your attention is centred on what makes sense to your business. So at Friska, Griff said, they would love to be a zero waste restaurant, but, as a takeaway business they decided to focus on recycling and they are now a zero waste to landfill business. They also decided that animal welfare is really important and so they tell the story of their free range meat to their customers because they believe this is something they care about too.

Leon’s focus is more firmly defined as they describe themselves as dual business – part restaurant, part campaigners, with a mission for everyone to eat well. It’s a journey on which they want to take everyone with them and their mission and values dictate their actions.

Convincing customers of the quality of your product must come first, as far as Andrei Lussmann is concerned. “Then you hit with the sustainability, under the radar.”

Then Andrew hit the panel with the 64 million dollar question…If sustainability was on your balance sheet how do you see the value in it?

Orla said 30% of business value is ‘brand value’, while Griff argued that having good values and standing for something was key to attracting quality staff. Good people make good food and good experience, he added.

And how you communicate what you do to customers is almost as important as the actual doing. Andrei said that the public could smell a lack of authenticity from a mile off. Telling stories in a way that’s convincing and real- that’s what makes people trust you. While for Orla and Griff communicating sustainability is about choosing simple bitesize messages on core topics you and your customers care about.

For at least two of the businesses on the panel, growing pains could be a concern and there might be pressure from investors who’ve recently pumped money into Leon and Lussmanns. How do you satisfy people with a beady eye on the bottom line? Orla said the whole reason someone took a £17m plunge on Leon was because of their values and vision. Without them, they’d be nothing.