How One Restaurant Group Is Leading The Industry Towards A Sustainable Future
From introducing plant-based foods in their menus to championing the locavore movement, F&B establishments in Singapore have taken steady steps towards sustainability in recent years. But one restaurant group has endeavoured to integrate sustainable practices throughout its business. Since 2018, The Loco Group, which operates Mexican restaurants and bars including Chico Loco on Amoy Street, has introduced various measures to reduce its carbon footprint.
It first adopted the Little Green Steps programme by conscious platform, Green is the New Black, and introduced initiatives that address “what we consume and what we waste”, shares group general manager Will Leonard. These include transitioning to using sustainably-sourced locally farmed barramundi and installing in-house filtration systems, where still or sparkling water are filtered through.
Last January, it engaged environmental consultant Mark Harding to review and calculate the carbon footprint from its restaurant operations. It has since set out to reduce direct emissions, and also purchased verifiable carbon credits generated from a forest conservation project in Congo, which provided an immediate offset. For its efforts, The Loco Group became the first independent F&B operator here to achieve carbon neutrality last year.
For Leonard, who spent nearly a year gaining knowledge on eco‑conscious practices, this is just the beginning. “Everyone I know in the industry has learnt or figured something out on their own. But if we could make it easier for everyone to collaborate, it would help us magnify our impact. We’re only four restaurants; if we’re going to have a bigger impact, it’s from influencing other people.”
To foster this knowledge sharing and accelerate impact, The Loco Group has brought together 11 other companies to form Singapore’s first F&B Sustainability Council—proving the need for collective action when it comes to tackling the environmental challenges facing the industry.
Founding members include hospitality and lifestyle companies The Lo & Behold Group, Spa Esprit Group and Grand Hyatt Singapore; restaurant and bar operators The Cicheti Group, Grain Traders and 13% Gastro Wine; gourmet food retailer The Providore; premium beverage distributors Proof & Company, Trouble Brewing and The Better Food Distribution Co; and foodservice distributor Selva Foods.
“While highly competitive, the F&B sector is also a highly social and supportive community. We often work together to overcome challenges, and the future of our planet is no different. By pooling resources, learnings and best practices, we can make a meaningful difference in the journey towards a sustainable Singapore,” says Paul Gabie, CEO of Proof & Company.
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At the first quarterly round table in January, council members highlighted food waste as a major concern. “Most of our food waste is what’s leftover on plates. This is a big portion of our overall waste, or about 600kg per week for our four restaurants. There’s currently very little option besides throwing them in the bin,” shares Leonard. “With food digesting technology, there are solutions but they need to be accessible in a size and cost that can be scaled to every restaurant.”
Spa Esprit Group’s farm-to-table restaurant, Open Farm Community, is addressing food waste through menu optimisation and composting. Head chef Oliver Truesdale-Jutras explains, “Our menu is designed to be compact, focused on products, and virtually waste-free. We pickle broccoli stems, make kimchi and sauerkraut out of unripe papaya, order on a short cycle so our product rotation is tight, and have an insect farm on our premises that can handle 5kg of food waste per day.”
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As a first step, council members will undertake a carbon emission assessment with Harding to ascertain their carbon footprint. Proof & Company is also funding the first carbon footprint audit of spirits waste as a complimentary resource. Gabie shares this sobering fact: “In 2020, the world will produce 40 billion glass spirit bottles, equivalent to 22 million tonnes of carbon emissions. A vast majority of these will end up as landfill waste.”
The premium beverage distributor recently launched ecoSpirits, the world’s first low-carbon, low-waste spirits distribution technology. Six single-use glass bottles are eliminated each time the ecoTote, a patent-pending tamper-proof and shockproof glass vessel in an aluminium enclosure, is filled with a premium or craft spirit. “An ecoTote eliminates more than 1,000 single-use glass bottles over its life cycle. This equates to more than 500kg of carbon emissions saved,” enthuses Gabie.
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Select council members have also pledged to join The Loco Group in partnering with Swedish tech start-up GreenSteps Group, which is currently engaged in reforestation exercises in Uganda and Tanzania, to mitigate their carbon footprint. Leonard explains, “GreenSteps geotags and geolocates every tree planted. It comes down to traceability and making sure that the money we invest, that we’re telling our customers we’re investing in, is actually happening—and that’s really important.”
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- Photography Darren Gabriel Leow
- Art Direction Matilda Au
- Grooming Benedict Choo
- Images The Cicheti Group, ecoSpirits, The Lo & Behold Group and The Loco Group