Dunkin’ Donut franchise owner and operator Roger Deslauriers was skeptical when he heard that installing planet-friendly technology could cut his utility bills. To him, utility bills were a fixed expense. Energy costs could only go up, he thought, which would eventually lead to raising prices on donuts, coffee and sandwiches.
Now after several months of being a guinea pig for going “green” in his Dunkin’ shops, Deslauriers is not just an advocate; he is a champion for solar panels and sun-blocking glass as well as efficient lighting, hand dryers, ovens and coffee makers.
A recent survey of his customers in three Massachusetts shops also showed widespread approval of the energy-saving measures. More than three-fourths of the customers said they would shop again at Dunkin’ Donuts because of the green measures.
Deslauriers is not only planning to install the energy-saving equipment in his Florida shops after the hurricane season, he is also considering erecting an energy-producing windmill at his Rehoboth, MA shop. “I only do things that make sense,” Deslauriers said.
Deslauriers’ shops join several other fast food restaurants, coffee shops and casual dining restaurants that are experimenting with going green. McDonalds is building its first green restaurants. A handful of McDonalds are adding lamps that use light-emitting diodes, energy-efficient appliances and heating and cooling systems, daylight-harvesting technologies, sustainable and recycled materials, low-flow toilets and recycling bins.
Starbucks has set a goal of having all new company-owned stores be green-certified beginning next year. According to its announcements, the coffee chain has set eco-friendly goals for all new company-owned stores that 50 percent of each store’s energy will come from renewable sources, and that they will be 25 percent more energy efficient. It will replace all stores’ incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs and ensure that 100 percents of its cup supply is reusable or recyclable within five years.
Other restaurant chains and their franchisees that reportedly have joined in the green movement include Denny’s Corp., Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Subway. With about 250,000 fast-food restaurants in the U.S., the fast-food industry could give the market for energy-saving technologies a huge boost.
The catalyst for Deslauriers’ decision to go green was Art Krebs, CEO of Construction Art and a DDIFO Gold Sponsor for the upcoming DDIFO Members Meeting. Krebs had been the construction manager on Deslauriers’ shops in Florida. Then Krebs opened his own company, which focused on installing energy-saving equipment.
In what he describes as a pilot project that was launched in January, Krebs persuaded Deslauriers to install a menu of energy-saving technologies, including most notably solar panels on three Dunkin’ shops in Massachusetts. He also installed other conservation measures that included automatic faucets, which can save up to 70% on water use; motion-sensitive lighting, which saves 35% of the energy used for lighting; and energy-efficient Dyson hand dryers, which use about 60% less electricity than standard electric hand dryers.
Now that the summer (admittedly an unusually cool summer) is nearing an end, the results of the pilot program are in. The results are a reduction of 24 to 30 percent in utility costs. Krebs, who is tracking the savings and investment closely on the three stores, reports that electric costs on average for the stores dropped from $249.74 a day in 2008 before the energy-saving technologies were installed to $209.34 per day in 2009. That is a savings of about $40 a day or $1,200 per month.
To Deslauriers, the improvements made sense because of the incentives that the federal government and some utility companies are giving for businesses that install energy-efficiency equipment.
In Massachusetts, the utility, National Grid, repays businesses one third of the costs of installing the equipment. And it pays within 70 days. The federal government is also paying businesses to install solar-power generating equipment and other energy-saving technologies. Plus Deslauriers said the equipment can be depreciated at an accelerated rate.
Krebs estimates that the payback for the investment in the equipment is less than five years. And the life expectancy of the equipment is 20 to 25 years.
Not every Dunkin’ store is the same. And the mix of what equipment an owner chooses to buy will determine how much savings there is, Krebs said. Thus, the results will vary.
The investments including solar panels can run $200,000 and up, Krebs said. He is working with several banks which have readily approved loans for energy-saving equipment because of the savings in utilities costs, he said.
“Utility costs are not usually a controllable expense,” Deslauriers said. But he estimates that his return on the investment in energy-saving equipment is about 13%. “Where else can you get a return today of 13%,” he said.
Saving money on utilities also allows the shops to keep their prices from rising as fast, Deslauriers said. “I am very happy,” he said.
Krebs said there are five areas within Dunkin’ shops where major energy efficiencies can be achieved. The primary areas of savings are in installing more efficient ovens, coffee makers and other large pieces of equipment, improved heating and air-conditioning systems, more efficient lighting, small equipment like the hand dryers and in reduced water consumption. He also advocates installing a system to reduce the carbon dioxide in the stores’ air. That alone will save $1 per square per year, he said.
But the green-building program is more than just about dollars and cents. When Krebs surveyed customers at the three shops in Massachusetts, almost every customer (97%) said they were pleased that the shops have installed energy-saving features. And 77% of the customers said the installation of green technologies will encourage them to come back to the shops.
Krebs also believes that going green will have a positive impact on Dunkin’ employees. “If they feel like they are doing something positive for the environment, and they will stay longer,” Krebs said.
“Everyone has a conscience, but most of us can’t do anything about helping the environment,” Krebs said. “So if they think by shopping or working at Dunkin’ they can help the planet, they will do it.”
Related articles at ddifo.org: For Dunkin’ Donuts’, it’s time to make shops green