Thursday, July 03, 2008

Is there green in green?

The green movement has been a boon for puffins and wombats, but what’s it done for participating restaurants’ P&L’s? Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca used a rare public appearance earlier this week to divulge a few dollars-and-cents results for his brand.

The chain has snagged a fair amount of ink for what franchisees are doing with eco-friendly restaurants. The first wave—one unit in Florida, two in Oregon—did enough environmentally to earn a LEEDS (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certificate from the U.S. Green Building Council. It's the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for ecological effort, earned in this instance by the use of ceiling tiles made of recycled material and reliance on sunlight for much of the interior illumination, among other steps.

The first green Subway, in Florida, cost $10,000 to $15,000 more to build than a conventional unit, DeLuca said during the Food and Restaurant Industry Forum, an event co-hosted Monday on Wall Street by the National Restaurant Association and NASDAQ.

The “jury is still out” about what return the franchisee might see on that added investment, DeLuca said. But he voiced doubts that the payback will offset the cost differential.

The wildcard, he said, is the value of public appreciation. “Some customers do choose that store over others—customer appreciation could pay off in the long term,” he explained.

Headquarters has described the green Subways as labs, and not necessarily prototypes. Officials say the stores will be used to develop and refine eco-friendly processes and features that could become part of the chain’s specs. They’ve also indicated that the first three units will be monitored for at least a year to determine how Subway’s operations mesh with the green backdrop. They’ve described the tests in part as an attempt to realize new efficiencies

The Florida unit opened in November, and the first foot long was served up in the Oregon stores in December.


  1. Being "green" isn't necessarily about return on investment. It's about being a responsible world citizen. We should all do a better job personally and professionally, while thinking about our legacy to our children.

  2. As much as I think that this is a great idea, I don't see it having much overall help with public perception. Let's face it, Americans are some of the worst when it comes to waste.

    With all things equal, I would pick the "green" restaurant before the not "green" one. But in the long run, it is still about quality and value.