Joey Terrell, a franchise owner of 2 Denny’s locations discusses the different steps he took to lower his electric bills.
Ben Lack: Well, we’re here with Joey Terrell. He’s a franchise owner for Denny’s. Thanks so much for giving us some of your time.
Joey Terrell: Thank you. I enjoy the opportunity.
Ben Lack: What I want to talk to you about today is the types of energy consumption savings programs that you’ve implemented into your Denny’s. We’re here at the National Restaurant Association Conference, and I’m sure there’re a lot of franchise owners that really want to find ways to lower their energy bills. So talk to us about how long you’ve owned the Denny’s location and when you’ve finally decided that saving energy and saving money was part of what you needed to get done.
Joey Terrell: We own two Denny’s. We’ve had one Denny’s for almost twenty years, and we’ve been a franchisee for that long. Our second Denny’s in Joliet, we opened last year. We were in our location. We never thought we’d want to open another Denny’s, but then things changed at Denny’s. And we became very enthusiastic about it and decided that we wanted to do it again. But we wanted to find some other things that would help us with our return on investment so to speak. So we started looking at things. And I happened to be working in my restaurant one day, and a light bulb burned out over my head. A lot of people when they get a good idea a light bulb comes on. Mine, it burned out. And somebody had given me a CFL. This is about ten years ago when the CFL used to get an adapter and then you just plugged it in to the adapter. Well, you don’t have to do that anymore. You screw them in.
What we did then, we had a 100-watt bulbs at our restaurant. We had one hundred 100-watt bulbs. So what we did, we replaced this one light bulb with the CFL which was a 13-watt bulb. Well, you do the math. One hundred minus thirteen is eighty-seven. We looked and decided, “ Hey, I wonder if there’s as much light as we supposed to have.” And we looked and found out, yes, we actually had twenty percent more lumens in light than we had from a 100-watt bulb.
So we decided, “What the heck? Let’s do this.” Because I sat down, I did the math. And it was 100-watt bulb minus eighty-seven equals… Well, anyway, it ended up being $440 a month in electric savings. And that was just from one simple idea, replacing the light bulbs with CFLs. So I said, “Hey, I wonder what other low-hanging fruit there might be here.” It did cost us $3,500 to do the adapters, but you don’t need the adapters anymore. You just screw them in. So we wondered what other low-hanging fruit might we have there. And we started looking around, and we came across our aerators. And an aerator, if you have a faucet that drips water and it fills a coffee cup in a minute, it comes to 30,660 gallons of water a year. Here in Illinois, water costs us seven dollars per thousand gallons. So seven dollars times thirty is, you know, you do the math there. And it can be considerable. And that’s just from one leak in a restaurant. So leaking things is something we found out. But what we did, we replaced them with aerators.
I went around and place all the new aerators on them because that would stop the dripping and also control the flow of water. And six weeks later, I went back and almost all of them gone. Employees had taken them off. Customers had taken them off. But what we did is we came back and put on tamperable aerators, and for a dollar more, we think, six years later there still on.
Ben Lack: Well, I know that you guys are trying to get LEED certified your restaurants. So what other steps on the energy side have you had to take in order to make sure that you were going to be able to get your LEED certification?
Joey Terrell: Well, in Joliet, we looked around for a place to put our restaurant. We found a place in Joliet, Illinois. And the first thing, we were looking at three different sites in Joliet which is one of them. We went to the city and we said, “We’d like to do a restaurant here, and we want to do it as a LEED-Certified restaurant.” And they said, “Okay, well, you can do it, but you have to meet or exceed the standards that the city of Joliet has in place.” And so we told them we were going to do that. We got some information from our architect showing that we were going to save thirty percent of our water which, in a Denny’s, you use 1.3 million gallons of water a year. So we need to reduce our water usage by three hundred thousand gallons.
Well, we went in there with low-flow faucets, low-cut aerators, instant hot water system, all that kind of stuff. And we had our architect prepare the stuff and showed it to the city of Joliet. We ended up saving $25,000, thirty percent of the hook-up fees. The original hook-up fees were $65,000, but because we were conserving water, thirty percent of our total water and sewer – cost more to take the sewer away than it does to bring the water in – they told us they would take $25,000 off of our hook-up fees. And so it’s a good idea to, if you’re doing a green building, to ask the city if they can help you with something like that.
Ben Lack: So somebody is watching this interview right now. They own a couple of restaurants or franchise owner. What type of advice would you have them when they’re looking at trying to lower their energy consumption?
Joey Terrell: Good thing you asked me that. A friend of mine has a ten thousand square foot restaurant. He asked me if I could come over and take a look. He said, “My utility bill is killing me. Can you come and take a look and see what you find?” And we went and looked at his things, just because he was a friend of mine. He bought me a pizza. And I looked around. And the first thing I did, I walked in, I said, “You got these 150-watt flood bulbs in the ceiling. They’re killing you. You’ve got maybe three, four hundred.” And what he did was he found an alternative which was recommended by the lighting people. You know, I can’t make that recommendation because I don’t understand it myself. But he went in and did something similar to what we did, replacing 150-watt flood-bulb with a 25-watt CFL, 20-watt CFL or something like that. And immediately he saw the savings, considerable savings. I think he told me it was almost two thousand dollars a month.
Ben Lack: So what type of return did you get when you…
Joey Terrell: Well, the return had cost him about two thousand dollars to relamp all of his bulbs.
Ben Lack: So he was making that money back in less than year.
Joey Terrell: Yeah, he made it back in a month. That’s a good a thing. One of the things that’s really a surprise to me is a white reflective roof. A lot of people don’t even think of that. You take on an eighty-degree day, the temperature of a black roof is a hundred and twenty six degrees while the temperature on a white roof is eighty degrees. You have to cool that same air no matter how hot it is to seventy-two degrees for the comfort of your customers. So wouldn’t it make more sense to be on a white roof?
Ben Lack: And is it just white paint?
Joey Terrell: Well, there’s a white elasticizer. White paint probably wouldn’t last very long on a roof. But I did see it at a local Lowes or Home Depot. It’s like sixteen dollars. It’s enough to cover the three hundred, four hundred square feet. So you figure out the math there yourself. It’s not that hard. Then instead of coating it with tar, go over that with the plasticize stuff. You could also do it the other way, and go to those companies like Dura-Last and a couple of others as we did in our Joliet store. We have a white roof and found it’s similar to Dura-Last. And it’s highly reflective, and it’s a real good idea. We also put in skylights. Now the return on investment is really hard to justify there, but one thing that we do know and we’ve really seen it – it’s quite amazing – people prefer to be in natural daylight than being cooped up inside of a building. So that’s a positive, having the skylights. Skylights were made nearby in Illinois by the Amish, and they’re the experts on energy efficiency. They are so helpful to us. We had some little bitty things, the installation of them, and they helped us so much. They really did a good job for us.
Ben Lack: Well, Joey, thanks for giving us some of your time. Your fantastic testimonial for other franchise owners out there.
Joey Terrell: One good thing is to contact greenerrestaurants.com. If you’re looking to buy appliances, use your Energy Star. Look for that Energy Star seal before you make your purchase, and Fishnick, fishnick.com. That was the source that we originally went to ten years ago when we first started looking for sources of being green.
Ben Lack: Well, Joey, thanks again and look forward to talking to you soon.
Joey Terrell: Thank you very much, Ben.