Operating in the green

 
Oct. 16, 2006
David Yudkin dreams in shades of green — from an ecological perspective, that is. When he opened Hot Lips Pizza in the late 1980s, top of mind was how to minimize his store's "ecological footprint" while delivering gourmet pizzas.
 
"We've looked at ways we can be kind to the environment while operating as a profitable business," said Yudkin, who operates four stores in downtown Portland and Raleigh Hills, Ore., with wife and business partner, Jeana Edelman. "Over time, we've discovered new ways to save energy. And we've long considered operating successfully, with sustainability in mind, to be one and the same."
 
With high fuel

What's Important

Running a pizza operation consumes a large amount of electricity and fossil fuels, but operators are finding out how to slash their energy usage.

Simple changes such as switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and keeping HVAC filters clean make a difference.

Using energy-efficient equipment and choosing "green power" not only saves money, it sometimes qualifies operations for tax credits and grants.

prices and perpetual instability in the Middle East, Yudkin is one among many Americans who is increasingly concerned about the nation's energy situation (read also Passing on gas). A February 2006 Pew Research survey found that 58 percent of consumers rated "dealing with the nation's energy problem" a top priority, up from just 47 percent a year ago.
 
Though fuel prices have dipped and plateaued well below year-ago levels, energy-conscious pizza operators are taking a long-term approach to conservation, including 21-store Pagliacci Pizza based in Seattle.
 
"Call it corporate-social responsibility, call it sustainability; we think of it as just doing the right thing," said Matt Galvin, co-owner of Pagliacci, which started a conservation program two years ago.
 
Chain-wide, Pagliacci has engrafted a host of energy-saving procedures largely in response to employees who suggested recycling and other programs. Actions have included purchasing green power (power that uses renewable energy sources), as well as replacing inefficient lighting.
 
Saving energy, Galvin and Yudkin learned, reduces expenses. After Hot Lips employees began turning off equipment when not in use, energy consumption was cut in half.
 
Another direct benefit for going green is tax incentives and, in some cases, grants; operators may qualify for tax breaks when energy-efficient equipment is installed. Oregon, for example, sponsors the Oregon Business Energy Tax Credit program.
 
When Yudkin hired BetterBricks Advisors to determine what savings he could muster by going with an energy-efficient oven, the firm estimated that the cost premium for the oven was about $20,000 for an oven that was 40-percent more efficient. An energy-efficient pan washer cost $7,500, but was 65 percent more efficient than standard washers. In each case, Oregon tax credits and a grant awarded by the city of Portland lessened the financial burden.
 
Most major equipment manufacturers, including oven makers Lincoln, Middleby Marshall and Vulcan, offer energy-efficient lines.
 
In April 2006, Papa John's announced plans to replace all its current ovens with Middleby Marshall's new energy-efficient 770 WOW! model, which the manufacturer said will cut energy consumption 25 percent. Papa John's inked exclusive rights to the oven through 2008.
 
"We're finding it cuts bake times down by two minutes," said Bill Van Epps, president of Papa John's U.S. "We're very pleased with it so far, and a lot of our franchisees want the oven as well."
 
Federal tax credit is also applicable to businesses putting certain alternative-energy vehicles on the road. Drivers at Minneapolis-based Galaxy Pizza deliver pizzas in electric cars. Yudkin also uses electric cars.
 
Right lights
 
Another way operators can conserve energy include switching out incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs. Compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs) reduce heat, use 66 percent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs. CFLs burn cooler compared with incandescent bulbs; of the energy given off by incandescent bulbs, 90 percent is heat and only 10 percent is light.
 
"By changing out our light bulbs, we
Energy-wise Tips
 
Get energy-smart by implementing the following no-cost and low-cost energy tips:
 
* Close blinds or shades on sunny windows, but open windows to take advantage of natural ventilation when conditions permit, such as cool morning or evening hours.
 
* Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs.
 
* Use ceiling fans (preferably with the Energy Star label) which can help cool a building without greatly increasing electricity use.
 
* Save electricity and reduce waste heat by shutting off lights and shutting down ovens during non-peak times.
 
* If you have an attic, insulate it. Insulating an attic keeps outdoor heat from filtering through the roof and into the rest of the building.
 
* Use a programmable thermostat or timer. Such devices allow operators to adjust the temperature automatically based on operating hours. When cooling your restaurant, you can drop your energy bill by almost 3 percent for each degree you turn up the thermostat from 72 degrees.
 
* Dirty HVAC filters will increase energy use and can damage the units, leading to early failures. Filters should be checked every month and replaced as needed. Make sure exhaust hoods also are clean.
simultaneously reduced the amount of energy for lighting our places and for cooling our places," Yudkin said. "If you have 72 100-watt light bulbs, there's 7,200 watts being used, and most of that is heat with incandescents. With compact florescents, you reduce that heat output substantially and therefore reduce the demand on your HVAC for cooling."
 
Prices for CFLs have dropped considerably over the last five years. Bulbs that used to cost $8 to $10 now can be found for a buck. The city of Seattle funded the complete switch-out for all 21 Pagliacci locations.
 
"If you're building a new store, you should consider skylights if you're in a one-story building; use of indoor lights can be greatly reduced," Yudkin said. "Also consider the way light comes in the windows. Lighting that's installed near windows should be on a separate circuit, so that those lights can be controlled by a rheostat. During the day you can keep those lights on dim, and at night have your wait staff turn them up."
 
Lighting also can be placed strategically to accent presentation areas — such as for buffets or cafeteria-style serving areas — instead of lighting the entire front-of-the-house. Yudkin suggests ongoing energy-saving strategies such as keeping condensers and evaporators dust-free, and maintaining intact and clean cooler gasket seals.
 
Placement of walk-in coolers is another consideration. Hot Lips installed a multiuse cooler that can be accessed by self-serve customers, the wait staff, and the kitchen crew. The number of compressors is thereby reduced to the cooling needs of one unit.
 
Also keep a close eye on the dishroom. Operating the dishwasher with fully loaded racks yields optimal efficiency. Also check the water temperature to ensure the thermostat is set no higher than 140 F, the minimum needed for proper sanitation during wash and rinse cycles. Yudkin also heats his stores' water by using oven-generated heat.
 
"We've designed a system made of, typically, 60 feet of copper tubing that goes over my ovens," Yudkin said. "The tubing can wrap around any place where you're generating heat. Water is circulated through that tubing, catching the heat rising from the ovens and depositing into a hot water tank."
 
Public service statement
 
Becoming more "green" in word and deed can be beneficial with the public as well. A September 2006 Pew survey found that two-thirds of Americans say that decreasing America's dependence on oil from the Middle East is a very important step in preventing terrorism. So taking measures to conserve easily can be translated as patriotism and responsibility to customers.
 
Hot Lips, which owns its fleet of eight delivery vehicles, advertises use of its electric cars as friendly to the environment. Two of the eight vehicles are electric-powered, and others include gas-sipping Toyota Echos.
 
"When people see them on the street, the cars speak for themselves," Yudkin said. "They're distinct. Even when they're parked, they're in front of the stores, so there's your billboard."
 
Pagliacci encourages its customers to purchase green power, and it rewards those who do.
 
"One way we advertise our role is by giving a $15 gift card to any person in Seattle who signs up for green power, whether residential or business," Galvin said. "In turn, we've gotten a lot of publicity, a lot of great recognition. And not just from our customers. Our employees are excited about it, too."

Topics: Independent Operation , Operations Management


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