Written By Elan Okonsky
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 rising 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, but 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. McDonald’s is building its first green restaurants. A handful of McDonalds’ is 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 percent 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.
Roger Desiauriers, co-owner of the Dunkin’ Donuts on South Main Street in Attleboro, shows an energy-saving hand dryer. that works quickly and without heat. (Sun Chronicle photo by Martin Gavin)
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 that have readily approved loans for energy-saving equipment because of the savings in utility costs, he said.
“Utility costs are not usually a controllable expense,” Deslauriers mentioned. 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%?”
Saving money on utilities also allows the shops to keep their prices from rising as fast. Deslauriers said, “I am very happy.”
Krebs explains that 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 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.”
Taking your coffee green may just turn out to be the wave of the future.
With environmental concerns on everyone’s mind these days, one of the most frequented and visual coffee shop franchises in the area has become a leader in the “going green” revolution.
Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees and brothers-in-law Richard Demers and Roger Deslauriers, in business together since 1968, have taken the reigns of the eco-friendly revolution and made it their business not only to make the doughnuts but make them while easing the burden on the energy-strained planet.
Owners of Dunkin’ Donuts shops in Attleboro, Rehoboth, and Taunton, as well as stores in Florida, Demers, and Deslauriers have outfitted their stores with solar panels, tankless hot water systems, automatic faucets, and light switches and installed LED lights for their parking lots.
On Friday, Deslauriers not only unveiled his shop’s new status of meeting green demands at his South Main Street store but also celebrated his family’s 50 years in the business his father started as a franchise owner in 1959.
Art Krebs, CEO of Construction Art, the company responsible for getting the Dunkin’ Donuts shops “online” in the going green department, said that the solar panels provide about 8.9 kilowatts or about 10 percent of the store’s actual consumption. “The good thing is that not only are [Demers and Deslauriers] producing their electricity but at the end of the day because of the lifetime of that system, they will be actuating to planting about 5,000 trees. They are also reducing their carbon footprint by a huge amount.”
Krebs said the reason Demers and Deslauriers are doing it is to reduce costs “so the community will get some of the savings back from that. You can compare their prices with other stores and see they keep their prices low because of innovation to keep costs down.”
For anyone who has passed by or stopped in a Dunkin’ Donuts knows that it is one business that seems to constantly thrive, even in the midst of the current struggling economy. Drive-thru lines are always occupied, and the businesses are always catering to customers. So, with all this good fortune, why did Demers and Deslauriers see it necessary to invest in the greening of the planet?
“We’ve always prided ourselves in being innovative,” said Deslauriers. “We are part of our community. Right now, our environment is at the forefront of everything.” He used a train station metaphor to describe some of the reasoning behind his involvement in the green effort: “When the train leaves the station you can either be on the train or be at the station waving goodbye to the train.
“My brother-in-law, Richard, has always been a big proponent of the environment. He considers himself alike to Jimmy Carter. I mean he has the solar panels, water heaters. I’m a nuts and bolts guy. I majored in accounting and finance; Richard is a musician and a songwriter. I see the light going into the prism; Richard sees the bands of color.” Deslauriers said Demers charges him with tasks and he gets them done. Which is what lead him to contact Krebs.
Krebs has been involved with the “greening” of companies for some time, noting that the government has instituted guidelines for companies that aim to become “certifiably green” using a system of points to attain certification. That title is a difficult one to earn for existing businesses, said Krebs, because, to become certified, the business needs to be built from the ground up using “green” methods such as environmentally friendly construction materials.
“It’s difficult to retrofit a current building [to meet those standards],” said Deslauriers.
Krebs added that “this store is as green as you can get without certification.”
And as time passes, Krebs and his company will keep close tabs on the energy usage at these Dunkin’ Donuts shops via an electronic meter. A portion of those readings is broadcast on a flat screen monitor on the wall above a counter where customers pick up extra napkins or straws and condiments.
“There’s always room for improvement,” said Krebs. “So, a part of our follow-up is providing guidance and consulting as to how a business can maintain or improve and go forward.”
While the stores in Attleboro have gone according to plan in their transition, with Attleboro’s South Main Street store going online in February, the Rehoboth store struggled and only recently has powered up using solar panels due to town regulations. But Deslauriers said the business moved forward, despite having to jump through a few hoops.
“Some people have the vision and understand it, and go for it,” Krebs said. “Other people are just reluctant and never understand it.” And the return, Krebs said, is well worth it. “It’s certainly better than trying to invest in the market or real estate.”
Krebs adds that the simple installation of automatic faucets reduces energy consumption by as much as 70 percent. Good for the planet, and the business. And the hand dryers don’t use heat to dry as with other units since the latest technology uses air which seemingly peels away the moisture from the skin. And unlike conventional hand dryers, the new machine filters the air it uses. They too operate automatically and for a shorter period than the old dryers. It means both energy savings and a more sanitary environment.
Deslauriers said he believes the greening of businesses is the wave of the future, and all his shops, the current stores and any he may open, will strive to meet these demands. For Demers and Deslauriers, making the shops eco-friendly isn’t about government mandates, but about doing what’s best for the business, all the while accommodating the discerning customer, and serving up a fresh cup of green.
For consumers worried that businesses aren’t meeting the needs of the planet, Demers and Deslauriers have provided them with some comfort. They can feel at ease when stopping in at one of those shops.
Construction Art, a subsidiary of Krebs Ventures LLC, based out of Alton, Tennessee, can be reached at:
Phone: (888) 930-2255.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state’s development agency for renewable energy, provides programs for individuals, non-profits, and businesses. Visit them at www.masstech.org.
Credit: Wicked Local from the Taunton Daily Gazette
Credit: Attleboro Sun Chronicle