Why I Care About Energy in My Quick Service Restaurant
Posted by Roger Deslauriers
My brother-in-law and I have owned a dozen Dunkin Donuts locations in Massachusetts and Florida; it’s a business that my father started back in 1959 and it has been part of our family ever since. I’d like to address some of the most common questions I get about our business’ commitment to green.
Why do you care about energy?
Our history with green technologies dates back to 2009 when we became the first fast food restaurant in the country to be partially powered by solar energy.
I believed then (as I believe now) that the greening of businesses is the wave of the future. We’ve always prided ourselves on being innovative. Right now the environment is at the forefront, so we strive to stay ahead with green technologies and energy-saving solutions.
Additionally, we are part of our community; we owe it to our families and those we serve to be good stewards of the environment.
As a relatively small expense on the P&L why do you think other owners should care about energy?
Investing in green solutions is good for the planet and good for business. While energy seems like a small expense item I believe what my dear father always told me, “You take care of the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves.”
Some of our larger capital investments were made feasible by favorable tax incentives and rebates offered by the state of Massachusetts that allowed us to recoup 30 percent of our planning and installation expenses.
At the end of the day, however, being eco-friendly isn’t about government mandates, it’s about doing what’s best for business, while serving up a fresh cup of green to our discerning customers.
What energy-saving steps have you implemented that have been successful — or not – and why did they succeed or fail?
Our philosophy is that if it’s green and we can make it pencil we’ll try it. As a result we’ve invested in a wide range of green technologies over the years. Here are some of the things we’ve tried and the types of results we’ve seen:
- LED lights for the parking lots, we also replaced all of our indoor fluorescent lighting with LED, including the lights in the donut cases, which saves on both electricity consumption and maintenance.
- Motion-sensor lights, which can save up to 35 percent of energy used for lighting.
- Dyson hand dryers, which use about 60 percent less electricity than standard dryers and are better for customers’ skin.
- Water control systems, including automatic faucets and tankless water systems, which save 36,000 gallons of water annually.
- Solar, since 2009 we’ve outfitted stores with solar panels that offset 10 percent of actual consumption.
- Green DCV, this is one thing we tried that did not live up to expectations. A unit was installed to reduce air conditioner usage by monitoring carbon dioxide levels and then opening vents to allow the carbon dioxide to escape and fresh air to come in, with the goal of reducing the need for air conditioning. The DCV system appears to have been designed for a much larger building than the typical Dunkin’ Donuts.
What has been the most valuable thing you’ve changed or learned about your store operations as a result of PlotWatt?
Plotwatt has enabled us to work with our employees on equipment startup, which is extremely critical as this determines what electric rate we will pay throughout the day.
Owners and managers cannot be in the shop at all hours, but Plotwatt is there 24/7 monitoring our operations. PlotWatt notifies us if:
- Equipment is left on when the shop closes.
- Temperature settings change.
- Employees are following proper startup procedures.
- Equipment malfunctions or is at risk to break down.
What is your top energy goal for this year?
We have done everything we can as owners to equip our stores with energy-saving equipment. Our top energy goal this year is to rigorously follow Plotwatt’s guidelines to optimize our startup and shutdown procedures. We’re relying on Plotwatt to help us get to that next level.
What is your top business goal for this year?
Our top business goal is the same every year: Try to make money, which is harder and harder to do as our costs continue to rise, especially taxes, insurance and regulations that increase payroll and employee benefit costs. As a result we have to try to find every nickel’s worth of savings we can.
Roger Deslauiers began working in his father’s Dunkin’ Donuts at the age of 13, washing floors and cleaning toilets. He worked as the night-shift baker through college and then he and his brother-in-law, Richard Demers, became Dunkin Donut franchisees in 1985; they have been partners ever since.