High Street Restaurant and Pub Chains Rated for Seafood Sustainability

Date posted: 19 January 2017

Lack of Clarity on the Menu leaves Diners in the Dark when making a Seafood Choice

A lack of information about the sources of seafood is one of the biggest barriers for diners trying to eat seafood sustainably, analysis by Fish2fork and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) shows.

Eleven high street restaurant chains and pubs were assessed on the sustainability of the seafood that features on their menus.

Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia came out top, closely followed by Harry Ramsden’s, Beefeater, Cote Brasserie and Carluccio’s. Prezzo, Wetherspoons and Itsu were at the bottom.

Researchers found that, even when high street restaurants and pubs buy seafood that is caught or produced responsibly, it can be difficult for the diner to tell which have made the effort to seek out sustainable supplies.

However, Fish2fork and MCS are delighted that high street chain restaurants and pubs are increasingly willing to switch to sustainable seafood.

The latest assessment follows the autumn 2015 project which looked at the sustainability of seafood served by 12 chains.

Since then, Fish2fork and MCS have revised their scoring system, making it harder to achieve blue fish ratings. Of 11 chain restaurants and pubs newly assessed, totalling more than 2,000 branches across the UK, just three failed to meet minimum standards of sustainability in the Fish2fork assessment criteria, which include the need to be transparent about sourcing.

“It is fantastic that some of the UK’s most popular restaurants really are making an effort to seek out sustainable sources of seafood, often as a result of engaging with Fish2fork ,” said Tim Glover, managing director of Fish2fork, the online restaurant guide. “But we are troubled that it is so often difficult for diners to know how sustainable a restaurant’s seafood is. We would urge restaurants to make a greater effort to make it clear on their menus where their seafood comes from, though we recognise that it can be difficult for them to get detailed information from suppliers. Sustainability is a vital ingredient in any dish, but diners shouldn’t be left to guess whether it’s there or not.”

Head of Fisheries and Aquaculture at MCS, Samuel Stone said: “It’s brilliant to see so many high street restaurants now seeking more sustainable seafood, yet they need to bolster traceability and do more to tell their diners about the seafood they are serving. “When eating out on the high street, diners need to know they aren’t going to be consuming seafood that is red rated or listed as Endangered. Telling diners where and how seafood has been produced and using the various seafood ecolabels available is key to this.”

Eight restaurant chains surveyed over the last ten months achieved Fish2fork blue fish ratings, denoting sustainability practices that meet or exceed the minimum standard. This marks an improvement from the 2015 Chain Restaurant project in which more than half (seven out of 12) used seafood from overfished areas of the sea or failed to be transparent about the origins of their fish and shellfish. During the latest ratings process six of the 11 restaurants changed their sourcing practices to be more sustainable. These included Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia which have improved their Fish2fork rating enormously over the last year. Cafe Rouge now gets a 3.5 blue fish rating and Bella Italia 3 blue fish, making them highly sustainable restaurants.

Tim Doubleday, Chief Financial Officer, Casual Dining Group which includes Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia, said: “We recognise the profound responsibility all restaurant businesses have in sourcing fish ethically and sustainably, and as such taking it extremely seriously, striving to be recognised as a leader in this area. In partnership with government bodies and respected organisations such as Fish2fork, we have worked hard to scrutinise our supply chain, systems and processes to categorically ensure sustainable sourcing across all our brands - Cafe Rouge, Bella Italia, Las Iguanas and La Tasca. We are delighted to be recognised in this way by Fish2fork and look forward to building on our partnership in the future.”

Other restaurant chains praised by Fish2fork and MCS for their level of seafood sustainability are Harry Ramsden’s, Cote Brasserie, Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Carluccio’s and Eat. More restaurant chains will be assessed by Fish2fork and MCS later this year. Transparency over the sources of king prawns and sea bass were the types of seafood used by chain restaurants giving the biggest causes of concern. Wetherspoons and Prezzo both failed to make it clear either on their menus or direct to Fish2fork where their king prawns derived. Itsu has prawns on its menus but fails even to say what type are used. Similarly Prezzo served sea bass but failed to make clear if it was farmed or wild.

A lack of transparency and information makes it impossible for the public to be sure the seafood being served is from well managed fisheries and fish farms. Together Fish2fork and MCS are working to ensure that all seafood eaten or traded in the UK is from well managed fisheries and fish farms that have as little impact on the marine ecosystem as possible.

The ratings: Cafe Rouge 3.5 blue Bella Italia 3 blue Harry Ramsden’s 2.5 blue Beefeater 2.5 blue Cote Brasserie 2.5 blue Carluccio’s 2.5 blue Brewers Fayre 2 blue EAT 2 blue Wetherspoon 0.5 red Itsu 0.5 red Prezzo 1 red The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is the UK charity dedicated to protecting our seas shores and wildlife.

MCS campaigns for clean seas and beaches sustainable fisheries and protection of marine life.

Through education community involvement and collaboration MCS raises awareness of the many threats that face our seas and promotes individual industry and government action to protect the marine environment.

MCS provides information and guidance on many aspects of marine conservation and produces the annual Good Beach Guide the Good Fish Guide as well as involving thousands of volunteers in projects and surveys such as MCS Beachwatch.

Fish2fork is an online guide that rates restaurants according to the sustainability of their seafood their sourcing policies and on the information they provide to the public on the sustainability of their seafood. Fish2fork was founded in 2009 by Tim Glover and Charles Clover following the success of the award-winning documentary film The End of The Line which changed attitudes to buying fish.

The chain restaurants were rated according to the information on their online menus websites and from what they directly told Fish2fork.

The restaurant chains assessed in the project all have at least 30 branches nationwide have a seating area and serve at least three species of seafood.

Fish2fork ratings are on a scale of 5 red fish the worst to 5 blue fish the best. With 5 red fish at the bottom of the scale ratings improve half a fish at a time to rise to 4.5 red fish 4 red fish and so on until 0.5 red fish. From here ratings rise from 0.5 blue fish to 5 blue fish.

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