When it comes to eating out ethically Bristol deserves a pat on the back. Local food markets thrive, corner shops stock organic fruit and veg alongside bottles of Dragon Stout and even the chains sell beer brewed around the corner. But some of the city’s proprietors have gone that extra mile.
Copyright caught up with one such foodie legend, Griff Holland, co-owner of Friska, the café chain that scooped the prize for the UK’s Best Ethical Restaurant in the 2014 Observer Food Monthly Awards.
Obviously ethical practice is a very important factor in your business, is this a principle you founded Friska on or is it something that came later?
Our motto is ‘Feel Good Food’ and that has been there since day one. One of the reasons we started Friska is that we wanted to be a part of something that we felt really good and proud about and with that has to come, we believe, a genuine belief about doing the right thing and being responsible.
I don’t use the word ethical necessarily, I think most of the stuff we do should be standard practice anyway. I don’t think recycling and composting should be an ethical choice, anyone who wants to run a business to be proud of should really take that approach and the degree to which you follow that through I guess depends on the individual.
Being a responsible company and doing things we are proud of has been there since day one. So since day one we’ve had free range meat on our menu. Since day one quality has been at the centre of what we do and that idea of taking pride in what you do comes from the way the business conducts itself.
Do you think your approach benefits producers and communities outside of the city?
I’d certainly like to think so. Our coffee isn’t Fairtrade its direct trade, it’s sourced within the speciality coffee market. Fairtrade is an amazing tide mark for responsibility, but where it really has the biggest value is in the commodity market. When you move into the speciality coffee market, by virtue of it being the best, the farms are able to charge a higher price anyway. Our coffee is responsibly sourced. It comes from Brazil’s most sustainable coffee farm and like us they have a commitment to doing things properly. We deal with companies we know and trust locally and companies and producers that we’re proud to use internationally.
Friska has cafe’s dotted around Bristol and beyond.
There can be a mark-up on ethical produce, do you think consumers in Bristol welcome and accept any premiums?
I’d actually dispute that. You always need to be mindful of our price point. If you look at our prices I don’t think people are paying that big a premium for the provenance and quality that we offer. I think it depends on what market you’re going for. We want to the best place to go for breakfast, lunch and coffee every day. We need to be able to compete on price, but the real value in our offer comes from everything else that we do. If we were four quid more expensive than everywhere else then no-one would come, or they might come once a week. So yes, I think people in Bristol are more aware and are more conscious consumers but you should always, no matter which market you’re competing on, offer value for money.
So what has winning the Observer award done for Friska? Have you seen a spike in interest?
Within the food community, yes. Our customers are pleased when we win these sorts of wards but awards aren’t the reason that they come and awards aren’t the things that keep them coming back. That comes down to the last lunch that they had here or the last interaction they had with one of our front of house guys. Awards are great for getting you on the map but they come and go with the wind. You have to base your reputation on your product and service rather than awards and press releases. We’re only as good as the last coffee we serve.
Visit www.friskafood.com to find your closest cafe.
Want to get direct trade produce delivered to your door?
- Try this site for coffee: www.unionroasted.com
- For a sweeter deal visit : www.hotelchocolat.com. or head down to their Cabot Circus shop for a selection of sustainable speciality chocolates.