A surefire recipe for success

In the wake of another busy and successful Restaurant Week that surpassed many similar events nationwide, I reflect on the way forward for our restaurants and other businesses to stay on the front line of success. To continue to maintain our success, restaurants and other small businesses across Colorado need ways to reduce expenses, cut waste and keep an edge on the market. My own restaurant was built on a vision of commitment of being green, and after another successful Restaurant Week, I can say that energy efficiency and cutting waste are not only responsible but market competitive.

I decided when I opened my own restaurant 1515, in Denver to commit to running a restaurant that cut energy and food waste and increased efficiency in ways that helped create successful green business.. To do this right, I knew that to reduce waste, save energy, and build a restaurant that was economically successful would require new tools, resources and knowledge. In 2009, I joined Greener EatDenver restaurant coalition, met with waste reduction experts, and started using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

What I found is that there a slew of ways to reduce waste and energy that are also a great way to stay business competitive. For instance, I began to “Benchmark” my energy use. This is a standardized way to evaluate a building’s energy performance and compare it to similar structures. Energy is one of the biggest expenses of building ownership, and will be an even greater financial burden for owners in the future as energy prices continue to escalate. While we can’t control the cost of electricity, we do have some control over how much electricity our buildings consume.

Benchmarking provides owners a baseline for tracking progress toward improving building efficiency. It helps owners find cost-effective ways to improve building efficiency. Best of all, benchmarking can be done for free using the EPA’s online benchmarking tool – the Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

I decided to take advantage the Denver City rebate program, and replaced our older furnace with an Energy Star high efficiency (95%) Goodman 115K BTU furnace. We also changed all our light bulbs with the help of City and County of Denver Small Business Energy program with energy saving light bulbs; installed motion detectors in all our low use area like bathrooms; installed all low flush toilets. Insulations on the windows and doors were redone. With the help of Greener EatDenver we also installed a bike rack in front of the restaurant and added information in our web site for customers to use public transportation. Naturally all the changes cost money but, based on what I learned from benchmarking and other tools, the savings will outweigh the spending on both the short and long run.

Having found how much waste could be avoided using simple tools like benchmarking, I wanted to involve every business on these blocks to work together to save energy, cut waste, and go green. So emailed restaurants up and down the neighboring blocks and by the end of last year, several businesses in the neighboring blocks were working with me and each other to make improvements. The state may soon require energy benchmarking for all commercial buildings, so I’d recommend all my neighbors get a jumpstart on it. My motto today is “Getting Denver green, Block by Block”.

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