Good Business: Jamie Grainger-Smith, Think. Eat. Drink

Think. Eat. Drink aims to deliver high-quality catering that doesn’t cost the Earth. Bethany Wrede Peterson chats to founder Jamie Grainger-Smith to find out how it’s done

The Good Business column catches up with people who are leading social change. It is created in collaboration with Impact Hub Islington, a co-working and business incubation space in London for socially minded entrepreneurs.

Bethany: Jamie, tell us about your business.

Jamie: Think. Eat. Drink (T.E.D.’s) overarching mission is to change the hospitality industry for the future of the planet without the sacrifice of style, quality, taste or customers’ experience.

T.E.D encompasses four different areas to meet a variety of needs: a consultancy service, event organisation and catering, a membership scheme of responsible suppliers and its own seasonal and ethical T.E.D restaurant in King’s Cross London.

What’s the backstory to T.E.D? How did it come to fruition?

I’m a restaurateur by trade. I’ve been involved in food and drink over 20 years alongside Jamie Oliver and Ben O’Donoghue amongst others.

One day Jamie took me to one side and told me he had an idea to set up a charity called Cheeky Chops – it gets youngsters back into the kitchen and gives them an opportunity. I loved the idea. So Fifteen [the restaurant the project eventually became] was launched to the world in 2002.

“We need to have a certain amount of respect about where our food and drink are coming from because if we’re not careful it’s all going to implode.”

After that I set up Acorn House with another chef, which became London’s (if not the UK’s) first urban eco-friendly restaurant. At that time I thought it would be great to set up a membership scheme for a vetted supply chain for the food and beverage industry because nobody’s done it and there’s a lot of green-washing out there.

T.E.D. restaurant was born out of an old DIY shop. It was empty for eight years. Every element of the restaurant from the coffee to our fruit and veg to our wine list to our interiors has an environmental or ethical stance. Hence, Think. Eat. Drink.

Is there consideration for staff management in an industry that is notorious for poor working conditions?

Absolutely. We try our best to look after our staff. It’s a very fickle industry in the sense that people come and go all the time. But some of my staff members from Fifteen and Acorn House are still with me – that’s 12 years on now. The thing is, if the restaurant has the right ethos, you find people stick with you. It rubs off, and that’s what’s very exciting. One of the things that I’d love to do is set up my own training programme based around staff and human resource considerations in the hospitality industry. Training is in my blood.

T.E.D. has won numerous awards since opening in London – are there plans to open another branch elsewhere?

I’d love to, absolutely! But in London, because I think London still needs a lot of education when it comes to thinking, eating and drinking differently. It inspires me to say “Wake up people!” We need to have a certain amount of respect about where our food and drink are coming from because if we’re not careful it’s all going to implode, isn’t it? But I’m desperate to open another restaurant!

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Where do you see T.E.D.’s influence in 10 years’ time?

I’d like to take it down to the individual, and let you make conscious decisions as a consumer where you want to spend your money. So, you can say that operator over there – 70 percent is owned by the farmers, they use green chemicals, or whatever. I’d like that power to be with the individual.

What’s one piece of advice you can offer to anyone setting up in the food and beverage industry?

Just have respect – respect and responsibility. Do your research. There are companies out there that are trying to do stuff differently that can give you a service that doesn’t cost the earth, so to speak. Take that extra day researching your supply chain, cause it’s that supply chain that’s going to make a difference. Just be passionate and care about the future of the planet. Planet and people – that’s what it’s about.