Reduce Your Footprint: Maray
Maray is a group of three restaurants based in Liverpool and Manchester, dishing up small plates of Middle Eastern-inspired fare alongside creative cocktails while working to become more sustainable. We spoke to Director and Co-Founder Thomas White about how the team at Maray ensures their day-to-day operations reflect their values.
A net positive effect
“As a business, and as individuals, sustainability has to matter,” says Thomas White, Director and Co-Founder at Maray. “For our team at Maray, it’s important to us that we operate in a way that reflects our values, to the best of our ability and using the tools at our disposal. We want to know that our business is creating a net positive effect on both our community and the environment.” With the world changing rapidly and likely to continue doing so in the foreseeable future, Thomas says, “it’s important to be able to look back and say that, as a business with a platform, we operated in the most responsible way we could.”
It is true that the biggest challenge of building a sustainable operation is the cost, says Thomas. “When we committed to signing only green electricity contracts back in 2017/2018, we were able to absorb the higher cost, as the economic climate was less hostile than it is now,” he says. Of course, sourcing higher welfare meat and more sustainable fish comes at a premium, but when coupled with food inflation, this means everybody’s gross profit margins have been eroded. “There is a limit to how much guests are willing to pay to dine in a more sustainable restaurant,” he says, “so we’re all treading a fine line right now.”
The flip side of this is happier customers and improved recruitment, both of which have a positive effect on the bottom line. “Sustainability is incredibly important to both our people and our guests.” With staffing an ongoing problem across the industry, management at Maray is savvy enough to understand that working towards sustainability also makes it easier to find and hire great people. “We know that our team wants to work in a business that strives to reduce its carbon footprint. We want to be a company they’re proud to call their home – and to do that we have to reflect their values.”
Reducing Maray’s footprint
At Maray, working to reduce overall footprint – in terms of carbon, water and waste – comes in many forms. They’ve implemented a paperless billing system and use only FSC-approved paper for all printed materials, such as signage and menus. Working with EauVation water systems eliminates the need for buying water with plastic packaging, instead providing fresh, filtered water right from the local supply.
“There is no gas used at any of our sites and 80% of our menu is plant-based,” Thomas continues. “We offer the cycle to work scheme to our employees, all our energy suppliers are green energy contracts, and we work with Carbon Neutral Britain to offset our footprint.” They do this through the Carbon Neutral Britain Woodland Fund, which supports global reforestation, deforestation prevention and woodland management projects that have a positive impact on local biodiversity.
One initiative that Thomas finds especially rewarding is their choice to work with local suppliers wherever possible. “These relationships are very strong,” he says, “and we know that our guests really appreciate local products.”
Maray and the Food Made Good Standard
“We came across Food Made Good a couple of years after we started our business,” Thomas says. Initially, their interests mostly lay in sourcing high welfare meat, more sustainable fish and better quality produce. “Being a startup, we had originally considered the wider parts of CSR inaccessible – but then we realised that the Food Made Good assessment was a structured way for us to identify both the quick wins and the more long-term initiatives that would make us a better business.”
Maray underwent the FMG evaluation for the first time in 2018. “We actually scored zero stars on our first assessment, which was a surprise – and a massive wake up call!” he says. Luckily, the team had the right attitude, viewing this as an opportunity for improvement and feeling motivated to earn those stars. Their hard work paid off, and Maray was awarded one star in 2019, following this up with a very impressive two-star rating in 2021.
It has to matter to you
“My experience is that this isn’t a box-ticking initiative for a business looking for a quick marketing win,” says Thomas. “It has to matter to you and you have to commit to it. Guests care more and more about the environment and their health, so if you are not committed to doing business in a more sustainable way, you will be left behind.”
From this perspective, it’s critical that businesses bring their customers with them on their sustainability journeys. Maray is adept at communicating their sustainability work to their guests, not only on their website but also in the welcome email when people sign up to their newsletter. “Our work with Carbon Neutral Britain and our FSC paper rating are featured on our menus,” says Thoma, “and we promote opting to eat more vegetarian and vegan options through our annual Green January campaign.”
Looking ahead, the team is finding ways to separate more food waste and planning to forge as many new relationships with local suppliers as possible. “As we open more new sites, we’re also eager to introduce more energy efficient approach to our builds.” We’re eager to see how Maray continues their pursuit of that net positive effect.
Learn more about Maray’s sustainability initiatives at their website. Click here to read why ‘Reduce Your Footprint is one of the 10 focus areas of the Food Made Good Framework, or find out how the Food Made Good Standard can benefit your business.
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