Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No showing of the green? Seriously??

Proponents of the green movement probably relished yesterday’s disclosure that Carl’s Jr. had opened its first eco-friendly restaurant, a prototype studded with such advances as a rain-capture system, a high-tech smoke eater, and even a perch for a local hawk. But they likely missed today’s more significant announcement, from 26-unit Granite City Food & Brewery.

The regional brewpub chain trumpeted the opening of its latest outlet with all the reserve of a parent whose second grader just made the honor roll. “Highly detailed” and “contemporary décor” that make the place veritably buzz! A “fun and family-friendly dining atmosphere,” apparently for those who’d rather not vibrate during dinner!! Set in Carmel, IN, “one of the top ten places to live in the Midwest,” with “excellent schools, safe neighborhoods, an award-winning public library and an expanded park system” !!!

The description went on and on—without a mention of a single green feature. No LED lights in the parking lot. No motion-sensor-based light switches in the bathroom. No high-efficiency equipment in the kitchen, or flooring recycled from waste materials. Heck, not even a low-flow pre-rinse valve at the dish station, which would’ve set the facility back about $80.

How can a chain open a restaurant today that doesn’t incorporate at least the most fundamental devices and processes for conserving energy and water and cutting waste?

I’m picking on Granite, but it’s no different than almost every other restaurant chain that recently announced the opening of a new branch, from Chick-fil-A to Max & Erma’s.

Perhaps those restaurants really have green touches. If so, and the operator or franchisor merely isn’t crowing about it in their announcements, a public relations boon is being squandered. If not, they’re ignoring the genetic engineering that’s underway in the industry. A green gene is fast becoming a part of restaurants’ DNA. To ignore that is to risk being a freak, and having to fix the problem down the road with a potentially costly rehab.

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