Analysis from the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Fish2Fork, the campaigning sustainable fish restaurant guide, assessed 11 high street restaurant chains – totalling more than 2,000 sites across the UK – and found that all but three met the Fish2Fork minimum standards criteria, including the need to be transparent about sourcing.
However, the research also discovered that even where the fish and seafood is responsibly sourced, it can still be difficult for diners to know whether or not this is the case when they order.
Overall, Cafe Rouge and Bella Italia came out top, followed by Harry Ramsden’s, Beefeater, Côte Brasserie and Carluccio’s. Prezzo, Wetherspoons and Itsu were at the bottom of the list.
Eight of the chains achieved Fish2fork blue fish ratings, showing that their sustainability practices either meet or exceed the minimum standard.
This marked an improvement from Fish2Fork’s 2015 Chain Restaurant project, in which seven of the 12 chains studied were found to be using seafood from overfished areas of the sea, or had failed to be transparent about the origins of their fish and shellfish.
Café Rouge and Bella Italia were the most improved brands in the study, gaining 3.5 and 3 (out of the top score of 5) each, marking them as having good to excellent sustainability standards.
Harry Ramsden's, Côte Brasserie, Beefeater, Brewers Fayre, Carluccio’s and Eat were also highlighted for good practice.
In contrast, lowest scorers Prezzo, Wetherspoons and Itsu allegedly failed to make it clear – on menus or to Fish2Fork – which types of prawns, seabass and other produce they used, and where they were from.
More restaurant chains are due to be assessed by Fish2fork and MCS later this year.
Tim Glover, managing director of Fish2fork, said: “It is fantastic that some of the UK’s most popular restaurants really are making an effort to seek out sustainable sources of seafood. 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. Diners shouldn’t be left to guess whether it’s there or not.”
Samuel Stone, head of fisheries and aquaculture at MCS, 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.”
Tim Doubleday, chief financial officer at the Casual Dining Group, which includes high scorers Café Rouge and Bella Italia, said: “We recognise the profound responsibility all restaurant businesses have in sourcing fish ethically and sustainably, and as such take it extremely seriously. We have worked hard to scrutinise our supply chain, systems and processes to categorically ensure sustainable sourcing across all our brands.”
THE FULL RATINGS
Café Rouge: 3.5 blue (good to excellent)
Bella Italia: 3 blue (good)
Harry Ramsden’s: 2.5 blue (good)
Beefeater: 2.5 blue (good)
Côte Brasserie: 2.5 blue (good)
Carluccio’s: 2.5 blue (good)
Brewers Fayre: 2 blue (good but some weaknesses)
EAT: 2 blue (good but some weaknesses)
Wetherspoon: 0.5 red (minimum requirements not met)
Itsu: 0.5 red (minimum requirements not met)
Prezzo: 1 red (minimum requirements not met)