Matt Whiley, owner of Sydney-based cocktail bar with a twist, RE, has always seen the impact of waste from a young age. “My granddad instilled values in me when I was eight years old. We’d drive to the local country supermarket and when they’d closed for the day they would throw out bread and all kinds of food waste. One day we got bananas and I thought it was the grossest thing ever, but then when we sat in the garden eating banana sandwiches everything tasted as it should. He would even freeze and share with the rest of the family,” Matt explains.
These shared experiences have shaped who Matt is today and the values he brings to his business. RE is redefining the hospitality industry’s approach to waste. He says, “To this day I see everyone who walks into the bar as an eight-year-old me, ready to re-think how they see food waste.”
We set out to be as zero waste as possible – that hasn’t changed. But, how we get to that point has changed. We’ve challenged ourselves to not generate any waste before it comes into the venue. That is the biggest decision we’ve ever made.”Matt Whiley → Owner, RE
Crediting past failures as valuable learnings, “It’s not about getting stuck in the failure. It’s about learning from the mistake and moving forward.” Matt’s new venture involves simultaneously challenging and inspiring his team to innovate their menu by taking ten of the highest waste-generating foods and transforming them into menu items. “I believe limiting your views to one item, or one thing actually makes you more creative. Globally there are different things wasted in different parts of the world. Rice is wasted a lot more in Asia and in tropical countries, bananas are wasted. So we wanted to highlight the ten most wasted items in the world and then find ten unique and different ways to utilise those ingredients and release the recipes as a resource for everyone.”
The mission doesn’t stop at food. Everything you taste or touch at RE has been reused, recycled, or supports their mission – including their business tools.
“We’re trying to not generate waste. We use Square KDS everywhere so we don’t generate any paper waste. We use reporting to analyse everything in terms of what’s selling and what’s not selling to figure out how we can be more sustainable in terms of our portion sizes, what’s being wasted, and what’s not being wasted. It’s integral to what we do.”
As for future plans? Matt is about to open a new venue in late 2023 and beyond that has big ambitions for the future of the hospitality industry. “We’re working towards like a three to five-year goal of taking all food waste from all farms and distributing it to hospitality venues for free.”
You can learn more about how Square powers RE here.