Boda Bars – Innovation in Leith and in Sustainability

On the 3rd of October 2003, two Swedes, Anna and Mike drove off the ferry in Newcastle towards Edinburgh, more specifically Leith Links. The place to be… according to our short previous experience of the city. We moved to Leith without the common prejudice about the wonderful home of Trainspotting.

What we didn’t know then, was that our plan to stay for 1 year would turn into 14 years and the establishment of 6 bars and restaurants.

In 2004, the act of opening a bar on Leith Walk with lit candles, colourful curtains, coffee, a wine menu and a no swearing policy was considered radical. We had to throw out 30 people within the first 6 hours after opening Boda Bar. However, within a few weeks most of those 30 men came back with their wives to enjoy the wine and ambience.

13 years later– it feels like most of Leith has changed to embrace this radical way of having lit candles in a bar.

Innovation can sometimes thrive when there is no prejudice in the way.

With running several premises comes a lot of responsibilities; to the staff, customers, premises and for licensing but, we believe our most important responsibility is sustainability. Both financial and environmental.

If you are not surviving financially, the premise may close and staff will lose their jobs. Environmentally is not so obvious, but all of us in the hospitality industry have a huge responsibility to the environment. We consume lots of energy and water and create lots of general, glass and food waste.

Boda bars have, over the last few years, reduced how much electricity, gas and water we use. Sometimes it is so much easier saving £100 than making £100. We also believe we can inspire our guests to be more environmentally friendly.

We have recently introduced a bottle deposit scheme, fill up your bottle with water OR hand it in and get 10p off your coffee.

We have also taken away all the straws from our bar tops because straws are in most cases unnecessary and generates plastic waste. In a nice cocktail a straw is needed but not in a normal gin and tonic.

Currently we are working with Resource Efficient Scotland to see how can we reduce our food waste.

Approximately 9, 450 000 kilos of food are wasted by the hospitality industry in Scotland every year, this equates to £70 million in costs. (Overall food waste in Scotland is 1.3 million tonnes which is 20% of Scotland’s Carbon Footprint )*. A simple calculation shows that each kilo wasted food equals £7.4. In a restaurant like Joseph Pearce’s, we have roughly 20kg of waste per day that is £150 in wasted ingredients, as well as uplift costs. Obviously, some of it is unavoidable potato and onion peels, but 18kg out of 20kgs is plate waste. 90% of the food waste in our bars comes from leftovers from the customer Recording the numbers of spoilage, preparation and plate waste on a daily basis is something we currently are doing in order to target the ‘waste hot spots’ and ensure measures we put into place works to reduce food waste, this is beneficial, both for environmental and financial sustainability.

We believe we can not only change our business to create less food waste but also inspire our guests to change their outlook on food. We believe less wasted food is a great way of celebrating the love for good food. LOVE FOOD HATE WASTE.
*Source: Zero Waste Scotland*

by Anna Christopherson, Founder, Boda Bar (and other Swedish bars in Edinburgh)

Anna will be speaking at our food and drink conference: Ambition and Innovation: The future of food and drink in Scotland. Get your tickets here.