Reduce Your Footprint: Dishoom
We spoke to Adam Raffa, Head of Sustainability at Dishoom, to do a deeper dive into how reducing their footprint is embedded into operations across each of their locations.
Dishoom is a restaurant group with locations in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh and Brighton. Founded in Covent Garden in 2010, the brand pays homage to the food, history and culture of all Bombay, bringing deep, rich flavours to the UK in casual, comfortable settings. Behind the scenes at Dishoom – past the welcoming interiors, friendly team and hearty fare – lies a continuous commitment to sustainability.
“Being a part of the food system means we feel a responsibility to lessen any negative impacts we have on the environment,” says Adam Raffa, Head of Sustainability at Dishoom, observing that the foodservice industry is one of the major contributors to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and a large consumer of energy and water. “Sustainability matters to us because we would like to keep serving our guests long into the future – and we believe we’ll only be able to do this if we are looking after the planet and the people who visit and work in our cafés.”
Getting everyone on board
Persuading stakeholders to change their habits – often longstanding and deeply ingrained – is one of the biggest challenges that Dishoom faces in its work to make its operations more sustainable. “Quite often, we’re asking our people and partners to devote time and energy to initiatives for which they won’t see the immediate results, or that result in positive impacts that are hard to quantify. Thankfully, our team has been receptive to changes and want to know how they can help.”
He contrasts this lack of tangible results with those of providing great customer service, where the impact is evident. “We know we have given guests a positive experience when they look visibly happy or give their thanks to the team,” he explains. “Operating in the most sustainable way possible is just as important to us, but it’s harder to see the benefit before our eyes.” This makes communication key when it comes to getting the team on board. “It’s important to share the positive impacts of our actions with the team – as well as the potential negative impacts if we do not make these changes.”
Reducing Dishoom’s footprint
A priority for Dishoom’s team is reducing the group’s footprint. “Climate change and water scarcity are two of the biggest problems that we face as a species,” says Adam. “Since the food system is particularly intensive in terms of GHG and water usage, this is also the area with the biggest potential for improvement.”
Acknowledging the complex nature of this work, Dishoom reached out to Small World Consulting (SWC) and Mike Berners-Lee to ask for guidance and direction as they began grappling with the task ahead. “We felt that their expertise would give us the information and detail that we needed to help us focus on what was most important.”
Using the feedback provided by SWC, the team was able to identify which of their activities were responsible for the most GHG emissions. Armed with this knowledge, they could then focus on the practical changes they could make to reduce their emissions.
So, what does this look like in practice? “We’ve made a lot of progress in reducing our energy consumption,” says Adam. “We’ve switched to renewable tariffs, replaced inefficient bulbs with LEDs, installed timer devices on our extractor fans and a host of other maintenance changes. Having made these initial changes, we are now evaluating where else we can reduce our footprint,” he says. They’re also purchasing offsets that are equivalent to their Scopes 1, 2 and 3 emissions - Dishoom is supporting carbon avoidance projects in India that focus on providing renewable energy to both households and businesses.
A considered approach
One initiative of which Adam is especially proud is their 2023 effort to reduce their carbon footprint in the new Permit Room location in Brighton. As for most restaurants, the majority of Dishoom’s GHG emissions are embedded in their supply chain. “Since red meat has a significantly higher footprint than poultry or vegetables, we decided to de-list lamb from our menu and maximise the number of vegetarian options.” As a result of this considered approach, the all-day menu at Permit Room contains no red meat and 70% of the dishes are vegetarian or vegan. “We estimate that plate emissions due to this change will be at least 10% lower in Brighton,” says Adam.
Dishoom is also proud to support the good work being done in the Forest of Marston Vale. “This is a 61 square mile project in Bedfordshire where we plant a tree for every Dishoom employee, every year. On a once industrial site, this charity has already restored tree cover from 3% to 15%. We’re really excited to help them reach their goal of 30% tree cover - it’s a fun day where we can make a tangible difference and everyone can get involved”
The Food Made Good Standard at Dishoom
Dishoom has been involved with The SRA for over 10 years, and took the Food Made Good Standard for the first time in 2018. “We wanted to take the Standard to get the most robust evaluation of sustainability in our operation and understand where we could improve.”
The management team was impressed with the level of detail required by the evaluation. To gather the information required, they had to work closely with almost every team across the organisation. Once they had completed the process, they were left with more ideas as to how to improve their level of sustainability.
“For any organisation thinking of taking the Food Made Good Standard,” Adam continues, “it’s important to engage with your wider team early in the process to ensure they can each give their full attention to their relevant section within the question set.”
The impact of the FMG Standard
Taking the Standard has had multiple benefits for the business. Dishoom decreased its carbon intensity by 5% last year, and the team is aiming to reduce this further in 2024. “We’ve also made our supplier policies and standards more robust and mutually beneficial,” says Adam.
The process has also given their employees a better understanding about what the business is doing in terms of sustainability, which they can in turn communicate to guests. Dishoom is now developing sustainability-related modules that will be included in onboarding and training for all new employees so that they, too, can talk confidently on the subject.
Now, having completed the Standard for the second time, the process continues to inspire new initiatives at Dishoom. “In the first part of this year, our restaurants are trialling natural cleaning products to reduce our footprint,” says Adam.
We love to see Dishoom’s commitment to reducing their footprint and we can’t wait to see where they go from here.
Read more about Dishoom at their website. Read more about why ‘Reduce Your Footprint is one of the 10 focus areas of the Food Made Good Framework, or click here to learn how the Food Made Good Standard can benefit your business.
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