Planting ideas

The new Doltone House venue at Darling Island has a six-star green rating.

The new Doltone House venue at Darling Island has a six-star green rating.

Once you’ve earned your green credentials, how do you market them to customers? Some restaurateurs and venues have a few ideas… Rob Johnson reports

It’s a simple idea, but an extremely cool one. When Doltone House in Sydney’s Pyrmont printed up flyers for its new six-green-star-rated venue at Darling Island Wharf, they did so on ‘seeded paper’. When you’ve finished with the flyer, instead of throwing it out, you can plant it—and the seeds implanted in the paper will grow into a lemon-scented bottlebrush.

As a gesture it has great cut-through—even though it’s unlikely to make a huge difference to climate change, or even to the venue’s carbon footprint, few people can resist saying, ‘how cool is that?’ when they realise what can be done with the flyer.

While many restaurants and venues have embraced the idea of creating a sustainable business, fewer of them are actually promoting it to attract new customers. But done well, as Doltone House has shown, promoting sustainability can give you a real point of difference in a crowded market.

According to Dolton House marketing manager Carmela Signorelli, pushing green credentials has given the venue a real point of difference, particularly with the corporate market, both locally and further afield: “Corporations at the moment are a lot more conscious of sustainability issues. The wedding market is a bit slower, because sustainability is a lesser concern than having a beautiful venue. So we target corporations because they’ll be more responsive.”

The company has a strong incentive to market the green angle. Its latest venue, Darling Island Wharf, is in a building that reduces greenhouse emissions by 70 per cent as compared to a normal office building (their other venues are at Jones Bay Wharf, around the corner from Darling Island, and in Sylvania Waters). Paul Signorelli, managing director of Doltone House, was inspired by the environmental initiatives of the building. “Our plans for the internal fit-out were specifically created to complement those of the building,” he says. “By adopting and expanding on the green philosophies of the building itself, Doltone House aims to lead the way into the future by providing the
greenest venue in Sydney.”

The interior is clad in a variety of ‘environmentally honest’ and durable materials: recycled, green-minded, low-toxin emitting and built to last. Eco-ply flooring and stone are the obvious green materials used throughout the site—yet even the carpet in the event centre has green credentials.  The event centre bar is made from a durable marble with a high-quality finish, while a counter crafted from recycled Ironwood from Queensland is the focal point of the bluestone-clad cafe downstairs.

‘Greening’ a site of this scale adds an extra 15 per cent to construction and fit-out costs, which would give anyone an incentive to drum up more business. Doltone House is planning to market their green credentials strongly to event organisers and professional conference organisers in the entire Asia Pacific region.

Targeting any marketing message boasting your green credentials makes a lot of sense, although it’s much easier if your customers already fit a demographic that is likely to be responsive to that message. When David Campbell first started promoting the provenance of certain items on his menu at The Book Kitchen, in Surry Hills, it was really just stating a standard that inner-Sydney residents were already familiar with, and sympathetic to: “The sort of food we were serving was very capable of using organics, and the locals were used to paying a price for organic and biodynamic products,” he says. “But we also used a lot of secondary cuts of meat—we let the primary cuts go off to Quay and Aria, and we’d use the secondary ones.”

He didn’t try to push the sustainable angle apart from noting on the menu whether something was biodynamic or organic: “As far as identifying locations of produce, that’s evolved naturally.”

He points out that, even in a yuppie-heartland like Surry Hills, some customers still just don’t care where their food has come from, and no amount of marketing sustainable cred is going to impress them: “Some people want to know everything we’re using. There are just a couple of different extremes—I’d say 60 per cent don’t care, and others want to get really involved in it.”

The common point between venues like Doltone House and restaurants like The Book Kitchen is the drive for sustainability starts with an internal commitment—there’s no point in putting a green tinge on your marketing if you’re not already fully committed yourself.

For David Campbell, the move to sustainability was a natural extension of his training with Neil Perry and Kylie Kwong. “I was an apprentice at Wokpool and Neil and Kylie were really into the location produce came from, and how it was grown, and we were getting produce from Neil’s farm up on the central coast,” he recalls. “It wasn’t a matter of being fashionable— just a natural progression.”

In May last year, David and his wife Nicole decided to move down to Berry on the NSW South Coast, where they opened a second restaurant, the Hungry Duck. “It was in pursuit of being able to be closer to produce,” he says. “While we love Surry Hills, we wanted to be able to be closer with the farming animals, fruit and vegetables. While in Surry Hills our suppliers are good, it’s just a different way of life. Also we’ve got a young family.”

They have embraced sustainability partly as a lifestyle choice, but also as a business decision: “Particularly in the Hungry Duck, which has been our main focus for the last 18 months, we harvest rain water, and recycle all our vegetable waste—less than half the rubbish we create here actually goes into the bin. In Surry Hills, we don’t have the capacity to recycle as much, but we do what we can.

“Personally, I think eventually we will all look at making sure things become more sustainable or we’ll just run out of food. We just won’t have enough to support us. I guess it’s a lifestyle choice for us, but we also feel it’s a necessity.”

Similarly, at Doltone House, the commitment came first and the marketing plan followed naturally. Sales staff are encouraged to pass on tips to customers to help them create more sustainable events. “We want to educate potential customers as well,” says Signorelli. “It starts with us, and we see so many potential clients, it’ll spread from there. We wanted to set a benchmark for the industry.”

She points out that it’s early days for Doltone House’s green campaign: “We’re not really going to know how well it’s gone yet. I think we can only gauge the long-term success of the marketing in 12 months or so—it’s a start today.”

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