CEO Mark Bering and F&B Manager Magnus Toft Pedersen talk about their reflections and specific initiatives surrounding the Organic Cuisine Label. Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort is the first eatery in western Himmerland to receive the Organic Cuisine Label.
Why did Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort obtain the Organic Cuisine Label?
Mark: “We made a conscious decision to prioritise organic foods and sustainability throughout our value chain, from the power we use to the soap and cups in our rooms. We want to give our customers great flavours and fantastic ingredients, providing a high-quality food experience. And they can see that we put a lot of thought into everything we do.”
Magnus: “We do it out of love for nature and for the people who eat our food. The trend today is to go green and eat less meat. But it’s also about not compromising on the quality of the ingredients we use.”
How did you get started?
Mark: “I’ve thought about it ever since I became a CEO a little over a year ago. At the time, our ambition was for one of our restaurants to become listed in the White Guide (Scandinavia’s leading restaurant guide), but being located in Gatten means that the customer base for a restaurant in that price range is limited. Instead we chose another path; a greener path with organic ingredients and sustainability at the heart of it. We launched a cooperation with Christian Bitz (nutritionist and author), who facilitated some workshops for our employees to provide us with new inspiration and ideas to build a new concept for our restaurants. We wanted to instil a sense of ownership among our employees.”
Magnus: “It was an eye-opener for us as chefs to break with the tradition of meat and foie gras, discovering that it is actually possible to make high-quality, delicious food with a greener footprint. The cooperation with Christian Bitz, who championed the idea of us working with organic ingredients, left us with a lot of new inspiration and ideas. This work was actually the precursor to our process of obtaining the Organic Cuisine Label.”
What surprised you the most?
Magnus: “The two things that surprised me the most were also the biggest challenges: costs and suppliers. For example, we have had to figure out how to cut down on meat because organic meat is more expensive. Bacon, for example, is no longer the star of our buffet. We’ve also been challenged by suppliers who are unable to supply us with the organic products we need, and they have also lacked an understanding of the importance of delivering the organic products statement on time so that we can report it in our accounts to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. It’s difficult for me to understand the lack of support from the suppliers, because we are not prepared to abandon our Organic Cuisine Label – it’s part of who we are and it’s here to stay.”
Which value does the Organic Cuisine Label add to your restaurants?
Mark: “The Organic Cuisine Label is an important part of our green transition. And we’re not done yet. So the label is part of the value chain, which is about becoming even greener and more sustainable over the next years. We’re changing the mindset of our management, employees and guests. The Organic Cuisine Label adds value for our guests and ensures them that they are served high-quality meals made with the best ingredients. In addition, the Organic Cuisine Label is of great branding value to our business – not only when attracting new talent, but especially in terms of attracting new customers such as local and national government institutions that require us to have the Organic Cuisine Label.”
Magnus: “Working in this way adds value to my work and it’s important to me to be working in a place where there is room to reflect and care, where it’s not all about financial value.”
How do your guests feel about you obtaining the Organic Cuisine Label?
Mark: “It’s still very new, so we haven’t really used it in our marketing yet, but we will. We believe that most of our customers will welcome it, and we still do adjust to our guests wishes. Going organic doesn’t mean that you have to change the menus entirely – we still serve crispy pork with parsley sauce if someone orders it. To us, going organic is a choice, and it should be for our guests too. It offers great branding value.”
Magnus: “Adjacent to the resort is a training centre for home furnishings retailer JYSK trainees, whom we cook for every day. They are all quite young, and we make an effort to tell them why the food is more vegetable-based here than it may be at home. The vast majority have welcomed the idea – especially the female trainees. To support the initiative, we have bought plates created by Christian Bitz to facilitate eating a green diet and becoming healthier. The plates are divided into different-sized sections guiding the youths on how much meat and vegetables they need.”
What is your best piece of advice for others?
Mark: “Just do it, but take your time. It’s a process and it requires a change of mindset among managers, employees and guests. And it’s important that going green is something you choose to do with your heart and then you have to be patient enough to wait for the long-term results. Remember to use Organic Denmark and other restaurants as sparring partners.”
Magnus: “Had I known what I know today, I would have contacted all suppliers early on to inform them about the process and our future expectations of them. The challenges we faced in relation to suppliers is the one thing that surprised me the most. So my advice would be to get the suppliers on board as early in the process as possible.”
Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort, Lars Larsens vej 1, Gatten in Farsø, Denmark
Bronze organic cuisine label.