Last June, Marriott International created a sustainable seafood program in order to make all of its full-service hotels around the world become at least 75 percent certified sustainable by the end of 2011.

The program, called Future Fish, makes Marriott the first global hotel chain to implement a policy of this kind, and it is now two-thirds of the way through program rollout.

Designed to teach the hotel food and beverage staff which fish are endangered and which sustainable options are available, Marriott is on track to reach or exceed its goals, says Brad Nelson, vice president of culinary and corporate chef, Marriott International.

“Serving sustainable food has always been important to Marriott; this program is evolving and we have to start with goals that are reachable,” he says of the 75 percent sustainable goal. “There is not the supply to be 100 percent globally sustainable at this time, but this is just the start.”

Marriott is also working to pilot a ‘scorecard’ of seafood deliveries to establish a by-property rating of the seafood purchases' sustainability.

At JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes, Orlando, Florida, all seafood purchased at the Citron and Primo restaurants is sustainable when the option for a sustainable item is available, according to executive chef Chris Brown, who has worked closely with the program, making purchasing and menu decisions with his team for the Orlando location. 

“For total seafood purchases, we are approximately 80 percent compliant due to some products not having a sustainable offering as of yet,” he says.

While the most challenging aspect in implementing a program like this on a global scale has been cost management, Brown says, sourcing compliant seafood has not been difficult at this Marriott because its purveyors offer sustainable options.

The Future Fish program, which was built to be cost-neutral, took about two years to create before the June 2010 launch.  “We had to build a pilot and work with individual chefs before rolling it out to all of our hotels,” Nelson explains. 

Both the back-of-the-house and the front have received substantial training. “For our cooks it is very important to keep track of sustainable and non-sustainable seafood,” Brown says.

“For the front-of-house staff, it is important to be knowledgeable about each and every item so they may educate the guest as to why they should support the sustainability effort and what the Future Fish program is exactly.”

The changing availability of sustainable products throughout the year also requires chefs to be flexible with menu changes in order to make sure that options maintain the standards set by the Future Fish program and stay true to what the guests are looking for. While most restaurants change their menu about four times a year, Marriott changes it at least that many times, Brown says.

Sustainable options are proving more popular than others on the menu with diners, he has observed.

“Each [option] has a story that links the customer to the chef who prepared the item, to the fisherman who caught or harvested the fish,” he says. “Guests are looking for that more and more.”

Diners can expect to see little to none of what Marriott calls The Big Three’—blue fin tuna, Chilean sea bass, and shark fin. Wreck fish, which can be most closely compared to haddock, Brown explains, is now more apparent on Marriott menus.

Brown, with the purchasing manager and the culinary management team, schedules tastings with purveyors to determine quality before placing seafood on the menus.

“It is important to be responsible with our purchasing but I must ensure that the sustainable products taste superior as well.”  

Marriott International is also working with San Francisco-based Clean Fish to offer hotels guidance in finding sustainable seafood.

“Many major hospitality groups are examining their buying choices and looking for ways to become more sustainable,” says Alisha Lumea, spokesperson for the company that connects fishermen and farmers with chefs and consumers.

“But Marriott was the first to make such a bold step forward with the Future Fish program. We've seen tremendous enthusiasm from Marriott chefs across the country.”

By Amy Sung

Industry News, Philanthropy