The early conversations we had was we wanted it to be something we were proud of and something more than making money.
B-Corp was not something husband and wife team Martin and Melissa Goffin had even heard of when they first opened Red Gum BBQ in 2013 after Martin Goffin “fell in love” with barbecue cooking on visits to his wife’s family in the United States.
The Goffins started out cooking for family and friends, then operated through market stalls and pop up locations until eventually they opened the doors to their restaurant in Red Hill in 2017 in an old truck mechanics’ shed.
“Neither of us had any real hospitality experience nor had we owned a business but I am not one to shy away from an adventure,” Melissa Goffin says.
From the start, the Goffins wanted Red Gum BBQ to be a values driven business, which led them to the B-Corp certification.
“The early conversations we had was we wanted it to be something we were proud of and something more than making money,” says Melissa Goffin. “We wanted to buy free range and grass fed and be as conscious as we could about animal welfare.”
It took the Goffins around six months to achieve the certification with “a lot of different back and forth” to support the application and documentation.
Red Gum BBQ is one of 258 B-Corp certified businesses in Australia and 3,153 globally.
However, the number of B-Corp restaurants is set to grow with around 80 restaurants and food services businesses in the ‘pipeline’ for accreditation in Australia, says Gaya Subramaniam, a spokesperson for B-Lab, the non-profit organisation which coordinates B-Corp certification.
“The hospitality and food and service industry have significant amounts of turnover of staff,” Subramaniam says. “When you’re building a business that is focussed on ensuring there are mechanisms and programs in place to ensure their wellbeing, this translates into both attracting and retaining staff for the long haul.”
Even Jamie Oliver is on board the B-Corp movement, with the celebrity chef announcing earlier this year he will turn the remainder of his restaurant empire into B-Corp certified businesses.
“The thing that excited me about B-Corp was it spoke to a holistic approach to ethical practices in business,” Melissa Goffin says. “We wanted to be more than just environmentally conscious but to do good work with employees and be a good place for people to work and to represent the restaurant industry differently than what you often hear, which is that it takes advantage of employees.”
With restaurants under increasing scrutiny for underpayment of staff Melissa Goffin says B-Corp offers an ethical way forward.
“It is part of a much larger conversation going on in the world that all businesses, if they know what is right, are moving in that direction of being more socially conscious and responsible,” she says. “It does provide us that blueprint of how we can do things better.”
Red Gum BBQ employs 45 staff and turned over more than $3 million last year and the Goffins have their sights set on further growth.
“The vision for the business has always been extending the BBQ brand across the country with more restaurants,” Melissa Goffin says. “We are starting small but we have a great foundation.”
Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne