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GOING FOR THE GREEN

Fort Lauderdale, FL-based Pizza Fusion is a small chain that�™s targeting the same customers as Wild Oats and Whole Foods: people who back up their belief in organic, natural and sustainable foods by spending readily at businesses that adhere to those beliefs. Founded in 2006, the chain, which offers organic, all-natural pizza and will even deliver it via a hybrid vehicle, is on a fast track for growth. Its first two stores (in Fort Lauderdale and Deerfield Beach, FL) did so well that the company has been able to garner commitments for 18 more, including units scheduled to go into Aspen, Las Vegas and a handful of big Northeast cities.

It�™s the next generation of Pizza Fusion stores—those in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, set to open later this year, and Philadelphia, scheduled for early 2008—that will make news on the environmental front. Pizza Fusion has announced it will build these stores according to the LEED standards set forth by the United States Green Building Council. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality. Meeting these standards means greater building costs up front and lower operating costs long-term, plus an eco-friendly marketing halo that�™s in place from day one.

"We�™re proud to adopt LEED certification into our green business model," says Michael Gordon, co-founder of Pizza Fusion. "It will prove beneficial in our endless pursuit to further minimize our ecological footprint. Additionally, the energy efficiency of this industry standard �™green�™ design will provide an excellent return on investment to our franchisees by reducing operational expenses associated with power consumption."

Among the LEED-related items going into the new units are solar panels that will provide power to stores. Also, Pizza Fusion will eliminate the use of water heaters and (in its northern climate stores) air heating units by recycling heat from their ovens to warm water and the restaurants themselves. Other eco-friendly items to be installed are: counter tops made from 100 percent recycled detergent bottles

  • a 120-square-foot glass wall made entirely of reused soda bottles
  • bamboo flooring
  • 30 percent recaptured industrial concrete
  • ceiling panels made from 74 percent recycled aluminum cans and 24 percent post-industrial materials
  • USG gypsum board made from pre-used drywall
  • bamboo veneer face covering for fixtures
  • ceiling baffles made from recycled composite board
  • low-voltage and low-heat lighting
  • seat cushions made from soybean oil.

"A lot of companies seem to be hopping on the environmental bandwagon for the marketing value of it," says John Garra, AIA, of Square One Architecture. "Pizza Fusion�™s concern is genuine."

We don�™t know whether Donald Trump�™s concern is as genuine as Pizza Fusion�™s seems to be. But his newest and largest restaurant venture will also be built to LEED standards. Titled "Trump on the Ocean," it�™s a restaurant and banquet hall that will be located in Jones Beach State Park on Long Island. He�™s going green at the request of the State of New York�™s Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commission. "Jones Beach is a rare jewel, and we will do everything we can to keep it beautiful and ecofriendly in addition to building the best facility of its kind anywhere in the world," Trump said when the deal was announced.

The 1,400-person capacity building will also meet the standards of New York State�™s "Green Building Initiative" for energy efficiency. The state gave Trump a 40-year lease on the choice five-acre piece of oceanfront property, but retained the right to approve all designs. When complete, the facility, which will replace the now-demolished Boardwalk Restaurant, will offer indoor and outdoor dining and is expected to be a popular venue for large banquets, weddings and other gatherings.

But what if you�™re not building a new place? Can you gain the benefits of going green, marketing and otherwise, with a retrofit?

A survey conducted by equipment manufacturer Enodis says that not only can operators do so; they already are. The company conducted an online survey of restaurant operators in which it asked them to identify the categories of energy-efficient products they had purchased over the last two years. Eighty-six percent responded they had purchased some form of energy-saving food or beverage equipment during that period.

The most frequent purchase was an energy-saving ice machine; 31 percent of respondents had bought one during the past two years. Other frequently purchased items were warewashing gear (18 percent), food preparation equipment (14 percent), cooking equipment (nine percent) and refrigeration (nine percent).

A broader survey, conducted by the National Restaurant Association, found that slightly more than half of all operators had purchased energy-saving equipment in the past two years. Refrigeration and HVAC gear were the most-frequently purchased categories in this survey, although plenty of respondents mentioned kitchen equipment, too.

The upshot is that a large number of restaurant operators are going green incrementally, primarily to become more energy efficient. If you�™re one of them, should you make your customers aware that you are? If Live Earth is any indication, it couldn�™t hurt. The green movement has long been assumed to be the province of the hemp-clad tree huggers or what might be described as the save-the-whales demographic. But the audiences that showed up at the multiple Live Earth venues were mainstream consumers—the party hearty crowd, although they might now drive a hybrid vehicle to get to the party. They�™re just the kind of customers any full-service operator wants to attract. You�™ll want to keep your eye on whether they will more readily give their business to restaurants that have gone green.

TAGS: Management
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