Oakman Inns opened its first pub in 2007 and now operates 13 sites in the Home Counties.
For Peter Borg-Neal, the Chief Executive, the success of the company lies in its ethos. He says: “I work with a simple mantra of: Work hard. Make money. Be nice. Have fun. Do good. Never give up.” The approach has helped Oakman win numerous awards, including Eat Out’s Pub Company of the Year and The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For. Oakman joined the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2013 and, after achieving One Star in its first sustainability rating, progressed to Two Stars in October 2014, having implemented a number of significant changes.
Oakman has always strived to make its pubs genuine community hubs. Peter says: “A business should make sustainability part of its philosophy, part of how it behaves on a day to day basis.”
Peter is convinced that of the business benefits. “I believe that in the longer term it will drive innovative ideas that will reduce costs as well as environmental impact,” he adds.
After achieving One Star in its first Sustainability Rating, Oakman Inns drew up an action plan for improvement with its SRA Account Manager, who then helped them implement those changes.
Peter says it’s the sourcing improvements of which he is most proud, this was evidenced in a short film Oakman made about some of its suppliers. Oakman now has a written sustainable seafood sourcing policy, helping to ensure it only serves customers responsibly caught fish. The company also now sources Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar. The company made improvements across the business – reaching out across each of the SRA’s three main pillars of Sourcing, Environment and Society. Waste management is a key area that Oakman acted on following its first rating and it now separates food waste and uses surplus ingredients for staff meals. Oakman also introduced Good Food Talks – helping visually impaired people access their menus, and offers work placements for local schools.
Oakman is rightly proud of having achieved Two Stars for each of its 13 sites. As well as making significant improvements to its sourcing policies, the company can deservedly point to the fact that invests heavily in its staff – most notably paying the Living Wage, as defined by the Living Wage Foundation – £7.85 per hour. Peter says: “Well trained, highly engaged people will be more productive, will do more to delight customers and will be less likely to leave. All of these things will help with profitability.” The company has also invested £50,000 in staff training in the last year.
Peter is convinced that making steady progress is the way to ensure that sustainability will be of the greatest benefit to the business. “We’ve improved in a piecemeal fashion by learning from others and adopting ideas we stumble across. We have found the SRA very helpful in this regard as they set benchmarks that we can all work towards and provide ideas,” he adds.
Having improved from One to Two Stars, Oakman is now determined to achieve its third star. Peter says: “There are cost implications but there is an implicit responsibility to do the best you can with your cash – and that includes costs related to sustainability.” To achieve that goal, the company is working on further significant changes. Improving its energy efficiency and communicating all the great things it does, are two major areas Peter has identified. The company is also looking to appoint sustainability champions at all 13 pubs to help drive more new initiatives.