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National Restaurant Association - Restaurateur McKerrow: Green is good

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Restaurateur McKerrow: Green is good

Going green at your restaurant doesn't have to be expensive and could even end up saving you money in the long run, says Atlanta-based restaurateur George McKerrow Jr.

"There is a real cost benefit," McKerrow, a former National Restaurant Association board member, said. "You can save money and learn new ways to do business that are more in tune with being part of a sustained community. It seems to me more people want to do it, but the more nervous they are [about the economy] the more likely they are to abandon their environmental efforts. They think it costs more or is hard to do. But we say do what you can and just pick up the trash and change the light bulbs when they burn out if you can't do anything else. It doesn't have to be ... glamorous. You don't have to go out and build a LEED-certified or totally sustainable restaurant. But every little bit does help."

McKerrow, who co-founded the Ted's Montana Grill dinnerhouse chain in 2002 with entrepreneur and environmentalist Ted Turner, and founded the LongHorn Steakhouse chain that was acquired by Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants Inc. in 2007, said he has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in water and energy costs by converting the lighting at his restaurants and installing more efficient equipment in the kitchens and bathrooms.

"We've been most successful with lighting, water and trash," he said. "We've been selective about the installation of modern lighting. We're using less electricity, which is good because it's not such a drain on the old-fashioned power grid we have here. And it's good for our pocketbook. We're also using water wisely; we've installed low-flow valves [on faucets] and waterless toilets. And we're composting everything we can."

McKerrow advised fellow restaurateurs to be smart about implementing green improvements, particularly during tough times.

"Look, everyone is trying to pinch pennies in this tough economy," he said. "Just do things wisely and do them at whatever level you can. Every one of us can recycle or use different light bulbs. You can do it over time."


Read more about McKerrow's take on sustainability in an upcoming issue of Washington Report (member log-in required) at http://www.restaurant.org/washingtonreport


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