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Mario Batali to Institute 'Straws Upon Request' Policy

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Babbo, NYC
Babbo, NYC
Photo: Daniel Krieger
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

In an effort to decrease their plastic waste, all the 15+ restaurants in chef Mario Batali's Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group will be instituting a "straws on request policy." A press release from B&BHG explains that the restaurants will only provide straws to customers who ask for them. Instead of plastic, straws will be "paper or compostable" and beverage stirrers have already been replaced with bamboo stirrers. According to the restaurant group's director of food safety and sustainability Elizabeth Meltz, the "restaurant group alone could remove a quarter of a million straws and stirrers from the waste stream in a given year." The policy will go into effect in August. More details are in the press release below.

Of course, not giving customers straws should be a way of lowering the restaurants' costs. According to Joe Bastianich's 2012 memoir Restaurant Man, the restaurant business is all about the little things:

My dad taught me ... you have to appear to be generous, but you have to be inherently a cheap fuck to make it work. He taught me how to make money —it's a nickel-and-dime business, and you make dollars by accumulating nickels. If you try to make dollars by grabbing dollars, you'll never survive.

Being ultra cost-conscious is part of his and Batali's DNA: "Walking into the restaurant every day, you're basically looking for opportunities to make money. And how do you make money? By stopping money from going out the front door." Or, in this case, by not giving people things they didn't order. It's a great day when ecological concerns line up with the Restaurant Man penny-pinching philosophy. Here's the press release:


July 30th, 2013 – New York City - This summer, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group (B&BHG) is helping to further reduce plastic pollution and continue its efforts in pioneering and maintaining environmentally responsible standards for its restaurants. Beginning in August, every B&BHG property worldwide will participate in a brand new "straws upon request" policy.

The move was inspired by B&BHG's Las Vegas Culinary Director, Jason Neve, who took notice of a straw-free campaign to reduce plastic waste. Astounded by the sheer volume of waste that plastic straws create, he asked if there was something our restaurants could do to help reduce the amount of plastic that enters the waste stream.

Elizabeth Meltz, Director of Food Safety and Sustainability for B&BHG, took Jason's idea and ran with it. "I did a quick audit and discovered that our restaurant group alone could remove a quarter of a million straws and stirrers from the waste stream in a given year." Further research revealed that every day 500 million straws are used in America alone. "So if we institute a 'straws upon request' policy we could take out a small chunk from that total."

To that end, plastic straws in our restaurants will be replaced with paper or compostable straws and will only be served upon request. Plastic drink stirrers have been completely replaced by bamboo stirrers.

"I love this initiative for so many reasons," says Mario Batali: "it reduces plastic in our waste stream without compromising the customer experience. If you want a straw, you can still get one!"

'Straws upon request' is another step in B&BHG's groundbreaking initiatives that have led the restaurants to become green certified™. Other efforts include composting, a no bottled water policy, sustainable purchasing practices and more. "While other restaurants may stop at the required number of steps to attain this goal, we thought outside the box on this one," says Meltz. "You don't get bonus points for eliminating straws, but our team loves the challenge of being one step ahead and doing more than the minimum."

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