Amidst current discussions about the impending ban on Styrofoam, Thalia Lyn, Chief Executive Officer of local fast food chain Island Grill, says the company has been Styrofoam free for a year now. In sharing the Island Grill story with budding entrepreneurs at the recently held Lunch ‘n’ Learn event hosted by Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, Lyn encouraged them to take care of the environment.
Lyn explained that her family was the engine behind the decision to go green as well as provide additional healthy options on the menu. “My son has been revamping everything to make us more environmentally friendly. This is our green world. This is how we want to be – green countries and blue seas. We want to be supporting farmers and going organic as best we can even though it’s hard. My son said we have to do what is right for our health and young people are more conscious about that they put into their bodies. We have to move away from the sodas and concentrate more on juices. So he came up with the name ‘Veggie Boostaah’ and designed the cup. Our beverage sales more than doubled,” she said.
Lyn says the company is a major supporter of local farmers and ensures that vegetables on the menu are bought locally. “The aim is to move towards less sugar in drinks. Our ‘Veggie Boostaah’ includes four green vegetables – string beans, pak choy, cucumber, calaloo with a touch of ginger. The only added sugar is from pineapple juice and that type of sugar is better than the processed types,” she added.
However, Lyn says the company’s ‘Soupah Food’ promotion didn’t work. “We wanted to offer rice alternatives so we came up with ground provisions and it created such a furor. Some Jamaicans don’t understand the difference between good carbs and bad carbs,” she said.
According to Lyn, Island Grill ceased using Styrofoam cups for soup about a year ago and the company has garnered goodwill as a result. “All of a sudden it’s topical but businesses should have known, because the government has been talking about it. And we are not saying that more time should not be given. But we have to comply. We have to protect our island. From 2014 we had started looking at proper packaging because we were using a lot of plastic and people love the plastic. After we had moved from Styrofoam to the plastic black bottom with the clear top and people could see their food, the sales really went up,” she said.
However, Island Grill’s initial move from plastic to boxes drew the ire of some customers who complained that the company was going backwards instead of forwards. “We had so much push-back but the staff did well. People didn’t like it because they said the flaps were in the way and the boxes kept opening up so we had to fix that. The boxes were more expensive but we knew it was the right thing to do. If you look at our boxes, you will see “Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica” because we are also trying to promote how you dispose of your garbage. I’m very passionate about it and we are quite proud of it,” she said.
Lyn also shared 7 entrepreneurship lessons he has learnt: (1) Do something you love, (2), Put in the hard work, (3) Surround yourself with the right people, (4) Keep your calm, (5) Take risks, (6) Stay curious and (7) Give back.