By Matt Ellis
Green Elite is still a relatively new term for Dunkin’ Donuts. When Dunkin’ Brands launched its Green Initiative in late 2014, it identified two levels of green achievement. Green Elite is the top tier, “where stores reach beyond requirements, and achieve additional suggested sustainable goals,” a press release stated.
While it may not be the first topic to come up at a RAC or DAC meeting, the idea of transitioning existing Dunkin’ shops into more sustainable and environmentally friendly ones is starting to be viewed as a responsible, viable and – in some cases – cost neutral proposition within the franchisee community.
To achieve DD Green status, a franchisee must incorporate a number of sustainable practices and/or products into the restaurant’s design and construction. There are five categories: Site development, store efficiency, healthy indoors, sustainable operations, and innovation and Community. Strategies for each are scored according to a Dunkin’ audit. A Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant that receives 12 points earns DD Green status; if it receives 20, the shop earns Green Elite status.
The latest Green Elite Dunkin’ shop to open is situated in an east coast community that has long been known as a spark of innovation. West Orange, New Jersey is where Thomas Alva Edison had his laboratories and his family home. Today, the Thomas Education National Historical Park welcomes visitors to the place “where modern America was invented.” It is also the childhood home of Adam Goldman, who operates a network of five Dunkin’ Donuts shops.
Three years ago, Goldman bought an existing Dunkin’ Donuts across from the South Mountain Recreation Complex, which features the Turtle Back Zoo, an ice rink and a mini-golf course. He loved the general location, but not the exact spot on which the shop was situated.
“There was limited space and not enough parking and no drive-thru,” says Goldman. So, when the chance came up to move down the block, Goldman grabbed the opportunity and decided it would be worth building a sustainable shop that would qualify as DD Green. He also chose Dunkin’s new Jazz Brew store design – a more sophisticated and expensive motif intended to create a cozy and comfortable ambiance for guests who choose to enjoy their beverages and snacks while surfing the web and listening to soft jazz music.
“I began working with my architect, who is LEED certified,” Goldman says referring to the U.S. Green Building Council’s designation for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. “We began investigating the options for sustainability, while reviewing Dunkin’ Brands’ Green Achievement program.”
Charting the green course
Goldman credits hi Dunkin’ Brands construction manager, Tony Foranello, for identifying sustainable practices and products that would work for the East Orange shop and help Goldman achieve Green Elite status.
“One of the ways we satisfied the local planning board, which had to approve our move, was to demonstrate how the new shop would not only satisfy Dunkin’ Brands’ checklist, but also the township’s goals of making its businesses more sustainable,” Goldman says.
With Foranello’s guidance, Goldman identified the sustainable elements he wanted for his new shop, keeping in mind that Dunkin’ Brands called for products and practices that would help improve the energy efficiency and sustainability of a Dunkin’ restaurant.
“We looked for items with fastest ROI and the best impact,” says Goldman. “We wanted to determine how to use the money we were investing for a much better return.”
Inside Goldman’s new shop the kitchen hoods are outfitted with an automatic temperature control system; low-flow faucets and other water-saving fixtures help control water use. There are LED lights and high-efficiency HVAC units to reduce energy use. Outside he established an outdoor garden with indigenous plantings watered with a drip irrigation system. These elements helped Goldman achieve the 12 points needed for DD Green status.
To take the project over the top, Goldman installed three sustainable components he believes establishes his new shop as a model Green Elite franchise. They are: an aerobic digester, a charging station for electric vehicles and a sustainable electric fireplace which uses water and lights to give a warming effect. When it was all tallied, the new West Orange Jazz Brew drive-thru had received 29 points.
A “cost-neutral” approach to waste
Measuring 48 inches by 30 inches, the Eco-Safe Digester eliminates food waste by utilizing mechanical and biological treatments to convert food waste into greywater which can be flushed into a municipal sewage system. Virtually all food waste goes into the digester including coffee grinds, reducing the amount of trash that employees have to bag and bring outside to a dumpster. The Eco-Safe can handle up to 2400 pounds of waste per day.
“There is less garbage and what remains is a lot lighter for the crew to carry out,” Goldman says. “Plus, it means I don’t have to have the dumpster emptied as often which reduces my costs as well as the amount f solid waste we put into the landfill.”
Frank E. Celli, CEO of BioHitech America, which makes a full line of digesters including the Eco-Safe model, says Dunkin’ Brands piloted the product in Massachusetts before another New Jersey franchisee – Bill Mulholland – became the first to use it in a live restaurant. According to celli, Mulholland realized a 60 percent drop in waste fees.
“Our experience with (Dunkin’ Brands) and the franchisees we have dealt with thus far has been a positive one and we look forward to working with additional franchisees to help with their sustainability efforts,” says Celli. “As more regulations are passed throughout the U.S., our Eco-Safe Digester will provide a way for store owners to become compliant without it costing them significantly more money than what is already being spent on waste and janitorial services.”
Goldman calls the Eco-Digester “cost neutral.”
Charge your batteries at Dunkin’
DD Green Achievement is made up of five stages. The final of those is known as “Innovation and Community.” According to Dunkin’ Brands, that stage “is about advancing sustainability goals by installing renewable energy or electric vehicle charging stations, or by coming up with a whole new sustainable innovation.” In West Orange, which is home to many affluent people and is a bedroom community to New York City, electric vehicles are catching on. Goldman says his community’s interest in alternative vehicles prompted him to include a charging station at his new Dunkin’ Donuts.”
“I am hoping that there will be a growing need for vehicle charging stations in the future.” West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi says. “This location on the heavily trafficked Northfield Avenue is certainly a convenient location for owners of electric cars.”
A Dunkin’ Donuts is a great place for electric car owners to come in and charge their batteries. Customers can enjoy a cup of coffee and browse their mobile phones or tablets while they wait 30 minutes for their cars to charge.
Mayor Parisi says he anticipates more business owners will follow Goldman’s lead and add charging stations to their properties.
One of the ways restaurants create ambiance is with a fireplace. Most restaurants opt for gas fireplaces, but they give off heat. That was the dilemma Goldman faced when he envisioned a fireplace jazzing up his new Jazz Brew environment.
“We wanted to warm the atmosphere without affecting the environment,” says Goldman. “The solution was this Canadian company that uses water vapor to create a mist and LED lights to illuminate the mist so it looks like a flame. It gives off not heat and creates no pollution.”
The Opti-myst 1000 by Dimplex gives the appearance of an open flame but is safe to the touch. And, it is designed with sustainability in mind.
Heather Sakai, a representative with Dimplex says the product is “One hundred percent efficient and, unlike its gas and wood competition, will not generate carbon monoxide nor does it release airborne particles.”
Goldman cleared the Opti-myst fireplace with Dunkin’ Brands ahead of time to be sure it was tasteful and met brand standards. This was the first Dunkin’ shop to install the fireplace. Sakai says the company had not targeted Dunkin’ or the QSR segment but, “We do our best to present our products to the hospitality industry when the design concept focus is to create warm and inviting spaces.”
A green impression
The West Orange Dunkin’ Donuts Green Elite store opened right after Thanksgiving. As a franchisee whose brief Dunkin’ career has been entirely in the county where he – and his wife – grew up, Goldman has had the chance to forge a more personal connection between his business and his community. Like a proud papa, he posts regularly on Facebook about the new shop, discussing its many green benefits.
“The community loves that we are green. We’ll get 2500 views for a Facebook post within two hours. People here are loyal to Dunkin’ Donuts,” he says.
Going green and earning “elite” status has helped Goldman give to his community and he’s confident it will help him significantly lower his expenses while lowering his environmental footprint.
“It’s the right time and the right place for this. It’s a good balance between what’s goof the environment and what’s good for business,” Goldman says.
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