A July 2012 QSR Magazine article reported on a Subway franchise in Kokomo, Indiana that is so eco-friendly, it will pay for itself in two and a half years. [Source] This restaurant put a lot of planning, purchasing and effort towards electronic controls that include an HVAC system that can auto-detect occupancy levels and adjust the thermostat accordingly, programmable light switches and daylight sensors.
Eco-restaurants are on the rise and customers are catching on. In a May 2010 study by Technomic for the Green Restaurant Association, it was found that out of 500 consumers surveyed, 79% were more likely to dine at a certified green restaurant over a non-certified green restaurant. [Source]
So what if you want to decrease your utility bill and create a more environmentally conscientious business, but your budget is only as big as a five-dollar foot long?
It’s true, the high-tech gadgetry and consulting costs have some hefty dollar signs that go along with them. Although the initial investment is geared to pay off in the long-term, sometimes it’s just not an option right now. However, the steps to becoming a certified green restaurant are not as troubling as one may assume.
Green Planning for Every Budget
Companies such as the Green Restaurant Association, also called Dine Green, are strictly in the business of helping businesses become greener. These green planners will evaluate a restaurant and consult with the owner on the changes that need to happen for certification.
The focus of eco-consultant groups is to do the following:
- Increase utility efficiency, including water
- Reduce waste
- Implement a full-scale recycling program
- Incorporate eco-friendly disposables
- Reduce polluting chemical use
- Bring in a partial to fully sustainable food program
If you are interested in jump-starting a green initiative in your restaurant, consider implementing the following practices:
- Take the first steps of going green in your commercial kitchen and get an energy assessment to learn how your daily habits may be contributing to non-green behavior. Many utility and waste management companies will assist their customers in setting up assessments (and in many areas it’s free!)
- Educate yourself and your staff on energy saving practices for your commercial kitchen.
- Look for ways to save water in your restaurant and learn how to reduce excessive water use.
- Use eco-friendly cleaning products in your kitchen and take harmful chemicals out of your daily routine.
- Reduce waste and set up a restaurant composting program and a restaurant recycling program. You can take it a step further and set up a cooking oil recycling program as well. In many communities, there are companies who will supply the equipment and pick up service for recycling cooking oil. See where you can recycle just about anything on the site Earth911.
Start a greener initiative in your restaurant and advertise to your customers on your eco-achievements. Consider applying for a recognized green certification for added recognition and validation of your accomplishments.