Friday the 13th may be an unlucky day to many, but to Bart Potenza and Joy Pierson of Candle Restaurants, it was the day that started it all. They won the NY lottery, and their vision of owning an all vegetarian cafe shifted from a dream to reality. I had the honor of speaking with Candle Restaurants co-owners, Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza, about the evolution of their restaurant group, their commitment to sustainability, and advice they have for others.
It is clear that Joy and Bart have always been ahead of the curve in the food scene. In addition to owning the first Certified Green Restaurant ® in New York City, they opened an all vegan restaurant long before it became trendy. When Candle 79 opened, it was the first all vegan fine dining establishment in the country. They now operate three Certified Green Restaurants® in NYC: Candle Cafe, Candle Cafe West, and Candle 79. As Joy puts it, “We’ve always been really wanting to make a difference and trying whatever it took.”
Candle Restaurants are completely vegan, but their commitment to sustainability goes beyond the dishes being served. Not only have they made huge efforts to source sustainable food, but they have also taken numerous environmental steps in the other GRA environmental categories: disposables, energy, furnishing & building, chemicals and pollution, waste, and water.
Some of Candle Restaurants’ most notable steps are:
- Full scale recycling and composting programs, which divert 90% of their waste from the landfill
- Not purchasing or using any Styrofoam™ products
- Using Energy Star qualified equipment, which can be 30-40% more efficient than traditional models
- Purchasing CFL, T8, and LED light bulbs
- Purchasing sustainable building & furniture materials
- Installing high efficiency pre-rinse sprayers and faucet aerators that save thousands of gallons of water each year
- Purchasing napkins, menus, paper towels, and bath tissue that contain post-consumer waste
According to a new study by Forbes.com, millennials spend 44% of their food dollars dining away from home. When asked if they think millennials value their GRA certification, both Bart and Joy affirmed that they do. Joy went on to say that, “Millennials are going to have to take this movement to the next level. Our planet depends on it.” Additionally, the co-owners were proud to say that they have served four generations of customers. Many parents are bringing their children to eat at Candle Restaurants, but now “we get, what’s even more exciting, kids bringing the parents in,” says Joy. She added that, “it takes a village” and we will all need to lend a hand to see a more environmentally sustainable future.
Bart provided one last piece of advice: “Every little bit matters is what I say to people a lot. People don’t think they make a difference just because they are saving a plastic bag or something, but it adds up.” We believe this is an important concept that speaks directly to the mission of the Green Restaurant Association.
Dine green by heading to Candle Restaurants for delicious vegan food and sustainable spirits at their eco bar! To learn more about Candle Restaurants, visit their websites here: http://www.candlecafe.com & http://www.candle79.com.