Treating Staff Fairly: BiBi
Located on Mayfair’s North Audley Street, BiBi is Chef-Patron Chet Sharma’s debut restaurant, celebrating light, elegant Indian food focused on provenance. The ever-changing menu is informed by the seasons with a deliberate, considered use of herbs and spices guided by cultural heritage and traditional wisdom.
We spoke to Chet about his approach to staff wellbeing and how this has direct benefits for operations at BiBi.
With a family background rooted in agriculture, a sustainable approach to food is something that comes naturally to Chef-Patron Chet Sharma, further honed through his years in the hospitality industry. “Working at restaurants such as Mugaritz and L’Enclume – both of which have their own farms and foraging programmes – confirmed how important the role of high-end restaurants can be in shaping public opinion and dining trends,” he tells us.
This approach can be seen throughout operations at BiBi, where the kitchen team chooses only exceptional British and Indian produce and fosters close relationships with suppliers who share the same values: minimal environmental impact and high welfare standards. The time and care taken to source ingredients is reflective of the team’s dedication to quality and craft, and this attention to detail permeates into other aspects of the business – for example, finding creative solutions for kitchen waste and investing time into cooking delicious and nutritious staff food.
A moral imperative to act
Once BiBi was up and running, it was time to measure and improve their sustainability work. The team felt that the Food Made Good Standard was the best way of assessing restaurant operations, empowering them to understand how they could push things even further. “Not only is it a moral imperative to act on sustainability issues,” says Chet, “but it’s becoming increasingly important for our team and guests to engage openly with sustainability, so it’s been a pleasure to share our FMG journey with them.”
Chet mentions the holistic approach of the FMG Standard, saying that this can surprise people. “Most people just associate sustainability in restaurants with actions such as buying local or avoiding cling film.” One of the three key focus areas of the Food Made Good Framework is ‘Society’, evaluating the impact a restaurant has on its team, its customers and the wider community. This resonated strongly with Chet. “Ultimately, without people, restaurants would cease to exist – as we have seen from the ongoing staffing crisis. Prioritising our team means that we can sustain the restaurant and ensure longevity and quality.”
A restaurant’s biggest asset
Chet is passionate about treating his staff well – a multi-faceted area that includes considerations such as working hours, HR policies, training opportunities, diversity and culture. While staff wellbeing is an area that has often been overlooked in restaurants, he believes that “having a positive, consistent and engaged team is a restaurant’s biggest asset. By treating staff fairly, you can improve retention rates, save money on new starters, increase sales and reduce stress from being understaffed,” Chet says. At BiBi, this has been essential from day one. “No decision is made without asking this question: ‘How will it affect our people?’.”
Taking the Food Made Good Standard has only served to strengthen this ethos. “The Standard has helped refocus our commitments to making BiBi a better place to work and helping our staff to learn and develop,” Chet explains. “When assessing our brand values or implementing initiatives around improving staff welfare, we can use the Standard as a benchmark to ensure we are best in class at everything we do.”
Challenges and benefits
Building a sustainable operation is not without its challenges, and cost is often seen a barrier for implementing sustainable solutions – particularly in the current economic climate, with price hikes across energy, labour and food. “However, to flip that perception on its head,” says Chet, “being more resourceful – and therefore more sustainable – does lead to savings, particularly within areas like single-use materials, energy and waste.”
For any business that is considering signing up to the FMG Standard, Chet’s advice is to focus on the journey, rather than the result. “Don’t fixate on the stars as an end goal – they are a nice addition, but the real value is in the process,” he says. “The questions you will be asked are essentially a guide as to how to make your restaurant operate more sustainable. Take your time completing the questions and consider what you need to do to improve your answers. That work – combined with the guidance provided in your final report – will give you an action plan in the making.”
The Standard gives the team at BiBi reassurance on where they’re doing well and shows where they need to improve. “Having these observations has been really helpful for streamlining our attention,” Chet says; indeed, taking a holistic approach to sustainability does mean there is a lot to consider. “It’s not just focusing on carbon reductions, but thinking about the team, the community, animal welfare and so on,” he says. “The feedback from The SRA highlights where our attention will be most valuable and helps us to channel our resources in an informed way.” This approach has made their sustainability practices as impactful as possible, resulting in lots of positive feedback and support from customers as well as the BiBi team.
Next steps for sustainability at BiBi
Eager to continue their sustainability journey and always keen to get staff involved, as part of the JKS Ambassador Programme BiBi now has individuals from across the business representing different topics including sustainability, wellbeing and EDI. “This is a huge opportunity for our teams to develop skills, have their voices heard and drive success from the bottom up,” says Chet.
We look forward to seeing where this “positive, consistent and engaged” team goes from here.
Learn more about BiBi’s sustainability work at their website. Read more about why staff wellbeing is a part of what it means to be sustainable, or click here to learn how the Food Made Good Standard can benefit your business.
THE FOOD MADE GOOD STANDARD IS BETTER THAN EVER! HERE'S HOW...
- Food Made Good
6 REASONS TO BE EXCITED ABOUT OUR FANCY NEW WEBSITE
- Food Made Good
NEW PARTNER ALERT! BONIVIRI IS BRINGING FOOD MADE GOOD TO ITALY
- Food Made Good