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Red Robin Slices Energy Costs with LED Retrofits

<p>Small to medium-sized businesses can realize big savings with lighting retrofits, as a Red Robin franchisee learned.</p>

Three years ago, lighting manufacturer Eco-story supplied corporate Red Robin restaurants with 10,000 LED lamps, enabling the company to save $600,000 in electricity costs a year.

This past February, the Ansara Restaurant Group Inc., a Red Robin franchisee, worked with Eco-story to install 3,500 LED lamps in its 22 restaurants and now expects to save more than $117,000 a year, said Eco-story co-founder Bill Stauffer.

The project is an example of how companies of all sizes can save energy costs with lighting retrofits -- an idea that's dawning on more Americans every year. The concept has caught on in the residential sector as well, as a study released today by EcoAlign on the adoption of energy efficient lighting shows.

Increasing efficiency and reducing utility bills with greener lighting is something small businesses and consumers as well as large companies can do, said EcoAlign CEO Jamie Wimberly, expanding on findings of his firm's latest EcoPinion study. And in a retail space, regardless of size, "the whole experience is about lighting," Wimberly said.

A company-owned Red Robin with Eco-story lighting. Stauffer, whose firm's target market is retail stores, restaurants and hotels, would agree.

Typically, a casual dining restaurant spends $5,000 to $6,000 a month on electricity for lighting. "What we've tried to convince small businesses is (to) think about what they spend a year on electricity for lighting, and if they could cut that by 90 percent, think about what a competitive advantage that could give," Stauffer said. "Small businesses shouldn't think there's nothing they can do."

The return on investment for lighting retrofits can be swift.

Stauffer said his company strives for payback periods of less than a year. The projected ROI for Ansara, a family-owned based in Farmington Hills, Mich., is 10 months, he said. The majority of Ansara's Red Robins will receive rebates from their utility companies, and the rebates for more than half the stores receiving them will cover 50 percent of lamp and installation costs, Stauffer added.

The LED par 20, par 30 and par 38 lamps installed in Ansara's restaurants -- and in some instances for exterior applications -- are expected to save more than 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, Eco-story estimates. "We worked closely with Ansara to ensure they had a customized product that fit their need for high quality light and also offered energy savings," Stauffer said.

Founded in Portland, Maine, in 2007, Eco-story's clients include Timberland. In 2009, the outdoor footwear and apparel retailer chose Eco-story for a customized retrofit of track lighting in 50 stores. Within 10 months of the installation, Timberland had saved $100,000 in electricity costs, according to Eco-story. Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz talked about his company's sustainability strategies at GreenBiz Group's recent State of Green Business Forum in Washington, D.C.

Top image CC licensed by Wikimedia user Jwinters. Inset image courtesy of Eco-story.

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