Foodservice operations looking to save money are now investigating ways to curb energy costs while at the same time doing the environment a favor, too.
BlueRock Energy, formed in 2003, offers electricity and natural gas supplies to foodservice outlets either with guaranteed savings or fixed prices. In addition, they provide customers options to choose 25%, 50%, or 100% of their annual consumption in clean renewable energy that comes from 100% New York State generated sources. Sources include wind, biomass, and hydro.
According to Phil Van Horne, president and CEO of BlueRock, “We can customize an energy supply solution to meet the unique needs of restaurants, offering more flexibility and choice than is available with the regulated utility.”
Some customers are primarily focused on reducing costs, while others “may be looking for budget certainty,” Van Horne says, “and some may want some combination of the two. We have the ability to offer the customer whatever they need.”
“We are a small family owned restaurant,” says Luanne Theodorakakos, of Spiros, a restaurant in Rochester, known for its gyros, burgers, and meatloaf. “And typically, our bills for gas and electric were $2000 a month, which, I'm sorry that's ridiculous.”
Theodorakakos notes that a BlueRock Energy sales consultant came to see her, “and he said, “I can save you money.” I said, “We've been told that before, and he said, let me show you, and he did, and I'll tell you what, we signed. Our bill has never gone over $1200, in the heat of summer or the cold of winter. And that’s a real savings for any restaurant.”
Theodorakakos says the restaurant saw real savings in electricity. “We use more electric than gas here, for some reason. We’re an old building. But we’re now saving $1,000 a month.”
Theodorakakos notes that in the summer, the cost of air conditioning is higher than people realize. “Combine that with refrigeration, freezers and the gas use – which is more obvious because you see the grills on – and behind the scenes is a lot of electricity use,” she says.
As for utilities, BlueRock Energy works with them to provide electricity and gas to Spiro’s. “The host utility continues to provide the delivery service. They own the gas pipes and they own the electric wires, so they have the physical service part of the business,” says Van Horne. “What we do is supply the energy, in this case, the electricity.”
Van Horne explains that small business customers, who use a lot of energy, like many restaurants, come to his company to see how they can use it more efficiently. “We look into the business of each restaurant operator or the food service operator to find out what is it that makes them unique and different and what makes their energy needs different?”
As anyone in the food industry knows, the restaurant business is a very competitive one. “There are many restaurants in Luanne’s area that would like to increase the traffic in their dining room. As we help restaurants like Spiro’s cut their costs, it allows Luanne and other business owners to provide a better experience, better food, and better service to their customers as they are able to spend their valuable dollars somewhere else, other than for a traditional utility, which may or may not offer what she individually wants,” says Van Horne.
Van Horne says the company’s programs for gas parallel what it does in electricity. “We have a variety of products for those who want gas and some of those are designed with guaranteed savings. In writing. Many of our competitors won't do that but we do.”
Another specialty BlueRock offers is providing fixed prices to customers who want to manage their budgets going forward. Some customers use both offerings.
Van Horne says the company is continually working with its sales reps, who he calls consultants, to stay up-to-date with the latest market conditions and the latest technology. “We do whatever it takes for our consultants to be able to provide the best possible service to our customers.”
BlueRock is particularly proud of the green energy it offers. “We believe very strongly in a ‘buy local’ philosophy, and so one of the things we do for our customers who are looking for a green energy supply is supply 100% of our renewable energy from New York State. Contrast that with our competitors who are primarily buying wind-generated power from the Midwest.”
Theodorakakos points out that any increase in food costs alone can push her budget through the roof. “We're in an area where we can't jack our prices up, we have to keep them relatively low. Keeping our expenses as low as we can is the goal, and if we can do that with energy, we’re ahead of the game.”