Arby’s Magnificent Makeover

Peter Cryan, Arby’s Director, Equipment R&D & New Technologies, reached out to me in May to find out if we’d like to report on the chain’s remarkable initiatives to save 15% in energy by 2015. That goal was met, Arby’s won awards, and the chain’s on track to up the ante to 20% reduction by ’20.

The list he sent me of attention-grabbing “teasers”—changes in equipment and operations resulting in millions of dollars in savings—turned out to be the tip of the iceberg of what the 52-year-old chain has accomplished over the past six years. Energy is just one part of the story; the chain is saving labor and improving food quality, too. I sent Janice Cha, one of our senior contributing editors, to interview Cryan, Frank Inoa, Senior Director of Operations Engineering, and others at the chain’s flagship store and HQ in Atlanta, and you can read the full story starting on page 36.

Many things struck me about Arby’s endeavor that I believe are important takeaways. First, the chain started out slowly. Nothing was a top-down mandate; the architects of the plan began by recommending a few actions that were simple for corporate stores to execute. The actions cost operators nothing and would deliver solid savings that the chain could actually track and report on—eventually, and especially—to the chain’s 2,300 franchisees. Among the initial steps: creating stickers to place on equipment to remind operators when to turn pieces on and off, turning water heaters down by 10°F and hiring Ecova (which already handled utility bill paying) to take care of finding, filing for and delivering utility rebates to the restaurants—for equipment they were already using or could easily add.

Once those savings started to resonate, the chain added more and more energy-reducing suggestions and operational best practices to the list and the savings continued to accumulate. Thanks to Powerhouse Dynamics and its SiteSage software, adopted in ’13, Arby’s is able monitor and report on just about any building or equipment function, from temperatures to water usage and lighting schedules and, most importantly, show the amount saved with each best practice. The end result: a really compelling reason for franchisees to get onboard with the program. As Inoa says: “If we didn’t have a way to track energy savings, the changes wouldn’t last.” Now it’s part of the culture, ingrained for good.

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