Independent beer bar puts sustainability first

In this series of case studies, we speak to local businesses to find out what practical steps they are taking to tackle climate change and how they are saving time and money in the process. We spoke with Mike Harris of The Strawberry Thief, an award-winning independent beer bar, located in the centre of Bristol.  

Hoping to provide their customers with a friendly and inclusive experience, The Strawberry Thief’s ethos is to have sustainability in mind with whatever they do.  

The environmental obstacles that owner Mike Harris encountered when he took over ownership in 2016 are not just unique to The Strawberry Thief, they are relevant to the hospitality industry as a whole. When your strategy is sustainability, but your business model and industry are notoriously unsustainable, how do you limit your impacts on the environment? 

What were their biggest impacts? 

Energy consumption - A busy bar needs power to operate from day to day.  

Water usage - Frequent cleaning of the bar and beer lines, use of toilets, taps and dishwashers meant weekly water usage was incredibly high.  

Food wastage – A catch 22 of having to order enough food to make everything on the menu; but then not knowing what your customers were going to order resulted in over ordering produce, which subsequently led to waste.  

Packaging waste - The Strawberry Thief sells over 50 different types of Belgian beer, as well as 20 local craft beers which come packaged in bottles, cans or cardboard. The primary selling point of the bar (beer) generates a lot of waste.  

What did they do to change this? 

“We went on a journey of sustainability; it was always going to be the core of what we do. We wanted to do everything with the least amount of impact. We didn’t want the sustainable element to just be a side project, we wanted it to run through absolutely everything we did.” 

Mike Harris  


  • Switched to 100% renewable energy which straight away knocks out all the carbon from electricity. 
  • Installed LED lighting inside through almost all the fittings. 
  • Refitted the kitchen with induction cooking appliances and energy efficient electric fryers and rational ovens. 


  • Sought help from a cleaning specialist to tailor their cleaning processes to their site rather than instructions from a standard manual. 
  • Installed water efficient glass and dishwashers. 


  • They are part of a Belgian bottle deposit scheme. This means they pay a deposit for the number of glass bottles they are delivered from their supplier. Once used they are then returned to Belgium to be refilled. Creating a circular cycle of their beer bottles. 
  • The locally produced craft beers that come in single use packaging are recycled of responsibly.  
  • They complete smaller food orders, frequently. Not only does this reduce food waste, but it means their food stock is fresher.  



When the team were trying to install LED lighting throughout the bar, they were unable to create the desired lighting effect despite trials and researching different types of bulbs. They had to put this on hold until earlier this year when they revisited this idea. The entire bar is scheduled to be fitted with LED bulbs next month (November 2021).  

“We are an independent business; we don’t have the purchasing power of corporate organisations. You can’t do it all and you certainly can’t do it all at once. It’s important to be mindful of the fact that sustainability is about going through a journey and there are bound to be setbacks on the way, but that shouldn’t put you off as everyone is learning about how to overcome this together.”  

Mike Harris 

Going the extra mile for staff 

The Strawberry Thief not only wanted to make their business sustainable for the environment, but also to improve the working conditions of their staff to make a positive difference to people and planet Although the hospitality industry isn’t best known for considering the needs of staff members, The Strawberry Thief introduced a number of working practices to reduce their staff turnover and encourage a positive working environment within hospitality. These include: 

  • All staff on national living wage irrespective of age, tips are shared equally amongst staff.  
  • Working week is capped at 40 hours 
  • Mental health support provided to all staff 
  • Management teams are given private healthcare 
  • Two consecutive days off for full time staff, including a weekend day


As well as running The Strawberry Thief, Mike is also an Innovation and Growth Specialist at Innovate UK EDGE, delivered by Business West in the South West, where he helps technology-led businesses achieve scale and grow.  Sustainability has been at the core of what he has done throughout his career, and it would seem that trend is continuing. For more guidance on how your business can begin to effectively tackle climate change, visit our Trading to net Zero Portal.

  • Trading to Net Zero

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