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Sustain / Food Legacy / For caterers, hospitality, hotels and events organisers

Executive dining specialists Restaurant Associates support MSC fish

Restaurant Associates provides executive dining to companies across the city including leading law firms, investment banks and innovative marketing agencies. By working with consultant chefs Restaurant Associates delivers award-winning food in top London restaurants. The catering firm employs over 2,300 team members within the M25 and serves up to 250,000 customers every day.

Restaurant AssociatesCeline Aubry, the Lifestyle Manager for Restaurant Associates, explains that: “Our clients actively challenge us to deliver the highest standards on all aspects of sustainability. With this in mind, we have taken our long -standing commitments in sourcing sustainable seafood to the next level by entering all 135 restaurants into the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification programme. In September 2011, we signed the Sustainable Fish City pledge and committed to achieving MSC certification across all of our restaurants by September 2012. Following our close collaboration with the MSC over the last few years, becoming MSC certified across all Restaurant Associates sites was the logical next step."

A commitment to training

Restaurant Associates is a division of the larger multinational catering company, Compass. Celine Aubry continues, "With Compass Group UK & Ireland’s head office holding the MSC certification, many of the procedures required to meet the MSC's chain of custody requirements were already in place, providing a great starting point for the Marine Stewardship Council. The next step was to develop communication materials to help introduce the certification to our managers, chefs and clients. We developed our own roadmap to certification named 'MSC 8 simple steps' - and introduced this to our teams during our quarterly forum. We also gave guidance to our managers and chefs on how to train their team and assess their knowledge using the MSC quiz. At the same time, the '8 simple steps' leaflets were sent out to all our restaurants along with the MSC DVD and introduction kit that formed the first stage of the training. Since then, we’ve issued regular updates and reminders to our teams, followed up on their progress and offered guidance where required."

Andy Harris, Managing Director, Restaurant AssociatesOn signing up to Sustainable Fish City, Andy Harris, Managing Director of Restaurant Associates, said: “Restaurant Associates has a long-standing commitment to sourcing its seafood as sustainably as possible. We serve 250,000 customers daily and with 85% of our clients London-based, signing the Sustainable Fish City pledge will have a huge impact on the fish being served in workplaces and restaurants across London.”

The process of self-audit

The MSC’s audit requirements recently changed for better with an easier process, which removed the need for internal audits across all restaurants. To replace the internal audits and allow Restaurant Associates to track their teams’ progress, they created an online self-audit; very similar to an online questionnaire. After each site registers online, they are asked to comply with the site agreement for chain of custody and are prompted to answer eight questions relating to the progress made on the '8 simple steps' to certification. The response to the audit is automated and restaurants immediately find out if they have passed or failed the self-audit and receive guidance relevant to their status.

The advantage of having an online tool is that all results are logged and the report can easily be retrieved and passed on to the external auditor prior to the external audit.

Building trust through an external audit

As Restaurant Associates is early on in the assessment process, they have only had a handful of sites audited. Whilst the auditors asked some questions that were not necessarily covered in the 8 simple steps, Restaurant Associates reports that they were very helpful and guided them to make sure that the correct process was followed. "We found the process very useful and insightful and received good support from the audit team," says Celine.

Promotion to clients

"We held meetings with our clients to notify them that Restaurant Associates was going through the certification process and made sure they were all fully engaged and supportive. The MSC team came to our eight certified restaurants to promote MSC fish and help raise awareness amongst our customers. They have been very supportive in providing assistance at every step.”

Top tips from the Restaurant Associates experience:

  • Make it easy for the teams to understand both MSC and the certification process
  • Provide your team with clear guidance and support
  • Make sure every team member has been trained
  • Follow up on the team’s progress and keep them updated
  • Make full use of materials provided by the MSC as they provide a good introduction to certification and relevant support along the way
Visit the Restaurants Associates website at:
Find out more about the Marine Stewardship Council at:

Food Legacy: The campaign, launched October 2011, is inspired by the London 2012 Food Vision adopted by the organisers of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Food Legacy asks caterers, restaurants, event organisers and hospitality organisations to commit publicly to taking steps to improve the healthiness, ethics and sustainability of the food they serve.

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