Eating out this month may have seemed a little different (for the better!), thanks to the second run of Impossible Foods’ Earth Month Campaign.
It’s always great news when the city chooses to go a little greener. While Hong Kong may still be a way away before warranting bragging rights for sustainability habits, initiatives like Impossible Foods are taking advantage of April’s ‘Earth Month’ designation to champion some better alternatives.
One of which is the reduced reliance on animal agriculture, which has been widely linked as the direct cause for climate change and the very reason for Impossible Foods’ existence. In its first Earth Month campaign run, Impossible Foods was successful in reducing Hong Kong’s environmental footprint by impressive figures: 140,049 square meters of land (around 537 tennis courts), 1,749,318 litres of water (3.4 million 500ml water bottles) and 63,787kg of CO2 equivalents (more than 304,866km driven in a car).
For this Impossible Foods Earth Month, around 170 restaurants across the city will count themselves as dedicated patrons; a piece of feel-good fact to know the city is still making strides to leave a little less impact on the environment. Limited-time, plant-based dishes will be served alongside beloved serves at favourite establishments, while for each order, an exclusive Impossible Earth Month pin or sticker will be given out to let partaking patrons be known, loud and proud.
“Following the success of our Earth Month Campaign last year, we are thrilled to see growing awareness of climate change with more and more restaurant brands signing up to participate.” commented Heidi Nam, the general manager at Impossible Foods Hong Kong. “This shows that there is betting understanding around the benefits of plant-based meat: for the planet and consumers. As a planet-first company, we are proud to continue to showcase the significant environmental impact Hong Kongers can make with their diet: in restaurants and at home. Together, we can all help turn back the clock on climate change.” she finishes.
Of the popular crowd-favourite hangs — Beef & Liberty, Frites and Elephant Grounds — one brand, Eclipse Hospitality Group shares in detail its limited Earth Month menu, with its group general manager, Emma Sebrof, reflecting on the Group’s sustainable efforts so far. You may be familiar with Eclipse Group’s eateries, dotted around the lively neighbourhoods of the city including Café Siam, for a delicious spot of authentic Thai cuisine and buzzy Mexican spot Coyote Bar & Grill.
Hi Emma, how are you? Can you give us a little bit of your background and position at Eclipse Group?
I joined Eclipse Group as General Manager of Caramba Mexican Cantina in 1998 and was fortunate to be part of the dynamic growth of what was then a young and fearless restaurant group at a time when the hospitality industry in Hong Kong was at its peak. It was a wild and exciting ride!
In the ten years I was with Eclipse we opened about twenty restaurants. My area of responsibility was SoHo, where Caramba was quickly joined by Boca Tapas and Wine Bar, the original McSorley’s Ale House and Havana Bar, all on Elgin Street. In 2008 I moved to Bangkok and worked with Eclipse’s sister company there to open our Coyote Mexican restaurants in Bangkok and Koh Samui.
In 2009 I relocated to Singapore where I managed the Irish pub group Gaelic Inns before taking the leap and opening my own restaurants Fandango Tapas & Wine Bar and Poppies Bistro. In 2015 I sold my businesses and joined Jamie’s Italian as Country Manager Singapore for three very exciting years, until the call to come back home to Hong Kong was too strong to resist.
I remember I sent twenty emails to everyone I knew in the hospitality industry here, looking for an opportunity, and the first reply I received was from my mentor of ten years, Clayton Parker, inviting me back. And so my return to Hong Kong was also my return to Eclipse Hospitality Group, and since 2017 I have been the Group General Manager But for me this is so much more than just a job; the Eclipse team have been my family for so many years, and it is a privilege to be back working with such a wonderful group of people, many of whom have been with the company even longer than me!
What does an average work day look like for you?
I like to start the day before sunrise and try to get in some sort of exercise before I start my workday. I am not always successful, but I have good intentions.
I alternate my days between working in our Head Office when most of my day is taken up with paperwork, and basing myself in one of the restaurants for the day. I take a corner table and schedule my meetings around lunch or dinner. It gives me a chance to stay in tune with the restaurant, taste the food, spend some quality time with the manager and staff, and I get to meet the customers who support our restaurants. This is when I get a chance to meet with suppliers and see what new products are in the market, and of course check up on the competition.
No doubt it has been a difficult year for restaurants, how has Eclipse Hospitality Group adapted?
Yes, it has been a very challenging year. We have been forced to make changes dictated by finances rather than by guest experience, which is always upsetting. Our restaurant services are streamlined, our menus less extravagant, and the selection of drinks available is smaller. Restaurants can no longer tie up tens of thousands of dollars in inventory when cash flow is so severely reduced.
The positive side of this is that as business picks up Eclipse Hospitality Group will be a lean, mean F&B machine, and I hope that our recovery to previous levels of business and, of course profitability, will be easier.
Can you share any interesting initiatives Eclipse has implemented during these times?
A lot of our focus went from dine-in business to food delivery. We opened two new kitchens in Wanchai and Kowloon Bay with our delivery partner Deliveroo. These kitchens were primarily focussed on our core brand Café Siam, but we built additional virtual brands as well, and some of those have been hugely successful for us. Thai concept ‘Bangkok Bangkok’ is a funky Thai street food brand positioned for individual diners or groups of diners for whom individual meals are preferable, such as corporate events or office lunches. This is very different to Cafe Siam which offers larger portions for a more family shared dining experience.
In Kowloon Bay we saw our virtual brand ‘Burger Squad; go from strength to strength and are now launching it in Wanchai and Happy Valley out of existing restaurant kitchens. These virtual brands are relatively low cost to set up, and it has given us a chance to try multiple new concepts with relatively little financial risk, and now we have some strong new brands that we can work on for the future.
How and why do you think eating habits have changed recently? What has Eclipse Group done to fit into these changes in preferences?
Eating habits have changed immensely in the past year. The global pandemic has made people more conscious about their health, and what they eat, and we see this reflected in the sales mix across our group. We definitely see growing consumer awareness and interest for vegan food or meat-free meals in Hong Kong over the past year.
Many people who love meat are making the change to a meat free diet as they are increasingly aware of the environmental and public health costs of continuing to consume it. These people still want to enjoy a delicious juicy burger but are mindful of the consequences to the environment. That is why we are very excited to introduce Impossible plant-based meat into our menu as it truly competes with animal meat through taste, nutrition, texture and versatility. Our diners can make food choices that align with their commitment to protect the planet without any sacrifice to the flavours they love.
Any sustainability milestones you guys are proud of?
We are thrilled to be joining Impossible Foods’ second Earth Month campaign by offering exclusive and limited time only dishes made with Impossible plant-based meat in all our restaurants. We hope to help Hong Kong consumers see the positive environmental impact they can make by simply choosing to eat these dishes over meat from animals.
In May, Impossible Foods will unveil the total sustainability impact across all participating restaurants in terms of the equivalent land footprint, water footprint and greenhouse gas emissions reduced with diners choosing dishes made with Impossible™ Meat. We can’t wait to see the results we collectively achieve by encouraging customers to choose these special Earth Month dishes at our restaurant outlets this month. We think this is a very meaningful campaign and we really like the idea that everyone can make a positive impact on the planet simply by choosing plant-based versions of the foods they love.
Why did Eclipse opt to participate in Impossible Foods Earth Month? Are the dishes new? How did you decide on the menu?
This is the second year that we have joined Impossible Foods’ Earth Month. As a hospitality group that supports green and sustainability initiatives, we share the same vision and mission as Impossible Foods to reduce our carbon footprint and turn back the clock on climate change. As an individual I am a big fan of Impossible Foods, and I am so excited that something I have been enjoying on a personal level for so long is now accessible to our customers, and in a way that is aligned with each of our restaurant menu concepts. Impossible™ Beef is so versatile that it can be used in any recipe that calls for ground beef, from the classic American burger to a Thai beef satay.
Throughout April, our customers can celebrate Earth Month by ordering our exclusive, limited time offer Impossible Earth Month dishes at Coyote Bar & Grill, McSorley’s Ale House, Cafe Siam and The Jockey, and receive limited edition Impossible swag!
Dishes you are most looking forward to in the upcoming Impossible Foods Earth Month offerings?
I’m amazed to see how our restaurant chefs are able to recreate our signature dishes with Impossible™ Beef. It is a perfect 1 to 1 replacement for ground meat from animals as it sizzles, cooks and tastes just the same!
● Impossible™ Beef Satay with Signature Peanut Sauce and Impossible™ Krapow from Cafe Siam
● Impossible™ Chili & Cheese Quesadilla and Impossible™ Tacos from Coyote Bar & Grill
● Classic Impossible™ Burger and Impossible™ Chili Cheese Fries from The Jockey and McSorley’s Ale House.
Can you share any upcoming new projects at the Eclipse?
Having already seen the popularity of Impossible™ Beef with our customers, we intend to make many more dishes available using this delicious meat. We already offer a meat free option of ‘tofu and mixed veggies’ for most dishes at Café Siam, so why not include an Impossible™ Meat option as well? The same applies to Coyote where we have vegetarian Burritos and Enchiladas. I think we will soon see Impossible™ Burritos on the menu there! Opportunities to eat a plant-based diet without compromising on what you eat and how it tastes are almost endless with Impossible™ Foods!
Café Siam, various locations including, 2-3/F, D’Aguilar Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2851 4803
Coyote Bar & Grill, various locations including, 114-120 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong, +852 2861 2221
McSorley’s Ale House, various locations including, 46 Stanton Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2385 5585