Green Donuts

- Ann Corvera () - October 19, 2008 - 12:00am

No one walks into a restaurant and asks, “Is this place environment friendly?” before placing an order. What does going green – and I don’t mean vegetables – have to do with satisfying your appetite? For a doughnut franchise, a lot.

It requires a great deal of initiative and commitment for any business to go down that lonely green road. But being environment friendly does make business sense, and Mister Donut is out to prove that with an initial two “green’d” outlets and more on the way. 

 “The objective of the shop design is to communicate deliciousness as well as comfort to customers and also to be environment friendly,” explains Alden Castañeda, vice president for corporate marketing of Mister Donut, which recently unveiled its two new “green’d” shops – first at SM Megamall, followed by the iconic Greenhills branch at the corner of the shopping center popular for its tiangge and pearl market.

Getting across Mister Donut’s eco-friendly message involves providing an ambience that shows a balance of customer comfort and sustainability, which means utilizing eco-friendly building materials, like those recycled from tetra packs and old furniture, as well as taking advantage of widely available energy-efficient lighting and water saving fixtures.

Mister Donut’s commitment extends to the tradition of bringing home pasalubong to loved ones, by switching to biodegradable eating paraphernalia in the form of its takeout boxes, bags and beverage cups. This, in turn, brings home the message of eco-friendliness, Castañeda says.

“When you walk into a shop, you just don’t say ‘Oh, this is environment-friendly.’ It’s subtle, not in-your-face. It’s really about using the right materials,” he notes.

Architect Joven Ignacio, a professor at the UP College of Architecture, lent his expertise on green architecture in designing Mister Donut’s first eco-friendly shops, which will serve as models for the eventual renovation of all the chain’s flagship stores and even its plant.

There are many challenges in a project that combines business and environmental sensibilities, as Mister Donut hopes its new stores will demonstrate how a restaurant can save valuable resources and still provide quality food and service.

For one thing, a restaurant gobbles up a huge amount of electricity, from cooking to lighting the premises with or without customers. To reduce energy costs, Ignacio worked out a computer simulation prior to construction of the Megamall shop on the restaurant’s lighting and temperature requirements. This assessed which parts of the store and which equipment use up more power and what can be done to address this in order to translate into savings. Then, the projected electrical load consumption for a year was calculated.

Adjusting the lighting aspect, of course, had to conform with “the look of Mister Donut and still complement the food’s appearance,” says Ignacio, explaining that some lights tend to kill or diminish color quality.

“We measured the illuminance and by international standards, you need something like 300 to 500 lux for restaurant ambience.”

Energy-efficient bulbs that last six to 10 times longer than regular bulbs and use a lot less electricity were installed with focus on areas where light is needed most. LED or light emitting diode strips were used in the display cases, metal halide directional lamps for the menu board and CFL or compact fluorescent lighting illuminate the dining and service areas, kitchen workstations and countertops.

Furthermore, Ignacio explains, “task lighting and reflectors are two items that help direct light, thus mirror panels cover the stretch of wall in the dining area.”

Still, nothing beats natural light and while mall restaurants are commonly enclosed, Ignacio says they had to make sure that natural light still find its way in, with a window fronting the Mister Donut entrance left undraped.

Castañeda projects the shop to get at least 10 to 20 percent in savings in energy consumption. Ignacio clarifies though that it may initially be difficult to peg an amount at this time because it would also depend on the volume of costumers that come in daily and dictates the usage of cooking equipment and lighting.

Human traffic of both customers and staff was also reviewed carefully to gain a better understanding of behavioral patterns, such as where a customer usually sits (mostly in the back or in the corner, according to Ignacio). Thus, not all lights in the dining area are turned on all the time, but there is always enough light to create the right ambience for customers.

It takes an innovative and responsible architect and designer and a client with an open mind for any green project to work. And in looking for more ways to keep costs down, Ignacio and his team also had to search for suppliers and contractors who share the same vision.

One such material is made from the common tetra pack, used to line its display case, countertop and some walls.

Used for service counter frames and also on the walls are Omniboards from shredded gemelina wood fibers with bamboo and rattan strips which can withstand termite infestation.

“We used these materials as opposed to using those that are difficult to regrow like hardwood made of mahogany, narra. These are plants that won’t take decades to regenerate,” Castañeda adds.

Most of the furniture, chairs and tables in the “Eco-Mister Donut prototype” uses recycled material.

“Renewability” is another important aspect so that a modular system was adopted “to make components of the restaurant easier for fit outs.”

Explains Ignacio, “It decreases your reno-vation costs because usually, everything has to be destroyed for renovation so there is a lot of wastage... so with this, you can just recycle.” 

Use of low volatile organic compound (VOC) paint now available in the market was likewise incorporated into the design of the shop. VOC chemicals are air pollutants, vaporizing significantly under normal conditions and entering the atmosphere.

Equipment with higher efficiency ratio producing the same effectiveness – as in air conditioning – are being used in the Mister Donut shop, to further the principle of energy conservation.

Both Castañeda and Ignacio highlight the importance of proper maintenance to reduce wastage and for this to be sustained, educating the staff is vital by training them on the basics of conservation, such as water usage especially during the summer months and plumbing maintenance.

Once you have your staff on your side, you can focus on eco-strategies that work, they say.

Finally, the eco-friendly initiative of Mister Donut considers the important part played by patrons, who are in fact willing participants in efforts to help the environment.

According to Castañeda, they initially received “qualitative feedback from consumers – and they all gave positive reviews.”

The shop has placed inserts of going green tips in napkin holders on dining tables. “It doesn’t necessarily communicate what we did with the shop but it helps consumers to be green advocates at home,” Castañeda says.

Going green is often misinterpreted as being expensive but, as both Castañeda and Ignacio note, there is the long-term impact to consider.

Although they did not divulge how much the renovation cost, Castañeda points out that it does not differ much from regular renovation using standard materials that are not eco-friendly and in the long run consume more electricity.

“It’s balanced off – you have materials that are expensive and some are less expensive,” he adds.

The management of SM malls, Castañeda says, “is very happy with what we are doing with our shop. They have visited us and are now trying also to push green, like for their supermarkets.”

Castañeda says the green path is part of Mister Donut’s long-range plans and following the cycle of renovation of four to five years, they will slowly but surely maintain their commitment to provide eco-friendly shops to patrons.

Asked if Mister Donut is the first restaurant to go green, Castañeda replies, “If ever we are the first, I hope we are not the only one taking this path.”

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