News / Bristol Food Union

‘We need a complete overhaul of what it means to run a food business’

By Martin Booth, Sunday Jan 9, 2022

The outgoing director of Bristol Food Union has warned our city’s food and drink industry that “normal is not coming back”.

In an article for her Reap & Sow newsletter, Aine Morris says that advocating for Bristol’s restaurants has recently “become a struggle”.

Morris, the ex-chief executive of Abergavenny Food Festival and former director of communications at the Sustainable Food Trust, writes that she “no longer (has) much faith in certain parts of the industry as it currently exists”.

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Bristol Food Union was founded in March 2020 as an informal collective of restaurants, food businesses and community food organisations.

It has since grown to become a non-profit social enterprise with more than 200 restaurants, bars, food producers and community projects becoming members.

On January 24, a one-day event at the Harbour Hotel will focus on what should happen next at Bristol Food Union, as the organisation asks how our city’s food community can continue to support each other in the future.

 

In her most recent newsletter, Morris wrote: “Aside from having reached my personal threshold for tolerating hospitality’s cultural patriarchy, I’ve increasingly found myself in a role where a large part of the job involves advocating for Bristol’s restaurants.

“And that’s become a struggle, because a) I no longer have much faith in certain parts of the industry as it currently exists; and b) I don’t have the same mandate to speak on their behalf as I did at the beginning of the pandemic.

“I am increasingly disappointed that those in the position to influence the most change, are those that have the least interest in truly transitioning to a fairer, more inclusive industry. Especially not if doing so involves a long, hard look at our own roles in maintaining the status quo, or challenging realisations about the unsustainable ways we run our businesses.

“It is not enough to simply say the industry ‘needs to change.’ We need to start to explore, in specific and tangible ways, how and why it needs to change, and by when?”

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Morris says that “what’s needed right now is a complete psychological overhaul of what it means to run a restaurant or food business”.

She says that all staff must be paid a living wage “and offered inspiring career development paths”.

She also advises against opening any more restaurants, saying that “the best hope of success lies in developing a strong core brand and diversifying revenue streams, so whether it’s dine-in, or food-to-go, or meal boxes, or whatever, all become additional strings to one, more resilient bow”.

To subscribe to Morris’ newsletter, Reap & Sow, visit reapandsow.substack.com

Main photo: Bristol Food Union

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